In While Europe Slept, American Bruce Bawer describes how he moved to the Netherlands because of its vaunted tolerance for alternative lifestyles, only to find Islamist gangs attacking gays on Amsterdam streets. Three years after the book's publication, new evidence illuminates European Muslims' attitudes toward homosexuality and the challenges they pose.
A survey by Dalia Mogahed's Gallup Center for Muslim Studies asked Muslims and non-Muslims in Britain, France, and Germany about their views on a number of issues, including whether they believe that homosexual acts are "morally acceptable or morally wrong":
The French public is more likely than any other population polled to view homosexuality (78%) as morally acceptable. As points of comparison, 68% of Germans and 58% of Britons believe homosexuality is morally acceptable. Among European Muslim populations surveyed, the acceptability of homosexuality is highest among French Muslims (35%) and lowest among British Muslims (0%).
The uniformity of the UK sample does stand out; has there ever been a poll in which everyone offered the same opinion on a controversial topic? However, the finding that Muslims are more critical than their non-Muslim counterparts is no surprise. Nor is it a grave concern on its own. Believing that others suffer punishment in the afterlife is very different than sending them there to face it. The problem is that, rather than "loving the sinner and hating the sin," some Muslim preachers cross the line by failing to condemn violence against gays — or even promoting it.
For example, Bawer notes that in November 2007, "the deputy chairman of Norway's Islamic Council, Asghar Ali, refused to reject the death penalty for gays. When Senaid Kobilica, the head of the Islamic Council (which represents 60,000 Muslims), was asked where he stood on the question, he replied that he couldn't give a definitive answer until he got a ruling from the European Fatwa Council." Nine months later he was still waiting.
In addition, there have been explicit justifications of violence against gays across Europe, including the UK. During a 2008 investigation of British mosques, "a female reporter infiltrated women's study circles. In one, a preacher using the name Umm Amira told followers: 'We are not going to be like animals … or to be like the homosexuals, God save us from that, you understand? We have to take the judgment; the judgment is to kill them.'" Extremist cleric Anjem Choudary also voiced support for the stoning of homosexuals in March 2009.
Islamic leaders who excuse or even advocate anti-gay violence can turn Muslims' negative views of homosexuals, as documented by the Gallup survey, into a powder keg. It is these radical imams whom European governments must target. Are they ready and willing to do so? Bruce Bawer provides this discomfiting clue: the aforementioned Asghar Ali, who could not bring himself to renounce the execution of gays, sat "on the board of … the largest and most influential association within Norway's ruling Labor Party."