Recently, much has been made of the Pope's controversial statements that Britain's equality laws forbidding discrimination against homosexuals (on the basis that, you know, they are human beings, too) "violate natural law" and must be opposed by the Catholic Church.
As an atheist myself, I abhor this kind of medieval mentality that sees what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes as even worth thinking about, let alone as grounds for differing treatment. However, it is useful to compare the pope's recent comments with attitudes towards homosexuals in the Islamic world.
Reliance of the Traveler is a classic Islamic legal manual, which has been endorsed as a reliable guide to Sunni orthodoxy by Cairo's Al Azhar University, the highest institution of Islamic learning in the world - and the closest equivalent in Islam to the Vatican. In its discussion of what to do with one who commits "sodomy or fornication", the manual states explicitly that "If the offender is someone with the capacity to remain chaste, then he or she is stoned to death." It quotes the Prophet Muhammad as saying: "Kill the one who sodomizes and the one who lets it be done to him."
Recently, a Muslim leader was very critical of the gay lifestyle, just as the pope has been. However, taking it much further than Pope Benedict, Mustafa Muhammad, President of the Islamic Council of Jamaica, says he agrees with sharia law's prescription of death for homosexuals. Muhammad said: "It is illegal and in the Sharia law the punishment is death. If you follow Christianity it is a crime in the sight of God. He destroyed a whole city because of this thing. It is an ungodly practice and I apologise to no one for this."
Last year, an Iraqi Muslim group were responsible for the deaths of at least 130 gays who were tracked down via the Internet. Such murders would surely have been supported by Iraq's "moderate" Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who issues the following ruling on the Arabic part of his website:
Q: What is the judgment on sodomy and lesbianism?
A: Forbidden. Those involved in the act should be punished. In fact, sodomites should be killed in the worst manner possible.
An article in Spiegel Online this past September noted that "In most Islamic countries, gay men and women are ostracized, persecuted and in some cases even murdered." It adds: "More than 30 Islamic countries have laws on the books that prohibit homosexuality and make it a criminal offense. In most cases punishment ranges from floggings to life imprisonment. In Mauritania, Bangladesh, Yemen, parts of Nigeria and Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Iran convicted homosexuals can also be sentenced to death." The reason for this is that "Islamists are now a dominant cultural force in many of these countries."
Finally, Islam Q & A, a mainstream Muslim website that issues rulings in response to curious Muslim questioners, and claims to do so via "only authentic, scholarly sources based on the Quran and sunnah, and other reliable contemporary scholarly opinions", also teaches openly that homosexuals should be executed:
The Sahaabah [the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad] were unanimously agreed on the executing of homosexuals, but they differed as to how they were to be executed.
Some of them, such as Abu Bakr al-Siddeeq and ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib (may Allaah be pleased with them) thought that they should be burned to death. Some of them, such as Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) thought that they should be thrown from a tall building followed by stoning. Some of them thought that they should be stoned to death, which was narrated from both ‘Ali and Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with them).
In summary, there is a world of difference between the pope's backwards but completely non-violent opposition to homosexuality, and the atmosphere of fear and death which is experienced by gays living under Islam. Even many gay human rights activists (with the noble exception of Bruce Bawer) remain completely silent about Islamic persecution of gays while they chastise the Pope for every anti-gay statement he makes.
A change of mentalities is needed. Political correctness must be cast aside. No one, whether Christian, Muslim or atheist, should allow homosexuals to continue to suffer as they currently suffer under the yoke of Islam. Regardless of theological differences, let all those who find the murder of anyone for their sexual orientation abhorrent unite in the name of universal human rights.