Is the Death Penalty for Homosexuality not Newsworthy?

That a chaplain for Muslim students at Vanderbilt can publicly say that he accepts the Islamic teaching that homosexuals should be put to death is un-newsworthy compared to some vandal spray-painting “Muslims go home” on the wall of a mosque shows the bias of Tennessee newspapers that covered the latter event, but not the former.

A couple of the major newspapers in Tennessee treat opposition to the homosexual political agenda as demonstrative of “intolerance,” “divisiveness,” and “homophobia.” Conservative opposition to that agenda is effectively seen and portrayed as damnable and, of course, newsworthy. But their treatment of a recent situation in Nashville lays bare the bias of traditional news media … not to mention the irrationality of those who saw nothing about which to be concerned.

At the end of last month, the Muslim Students Association at Vanderbilt University hosted an event sponsored by the university’s Project Dialogue committee. The topic was “Common Ground: Being Muslim in the Military.”

One of the panelists, Awadh A. Binhazim, is an unpaid adjunct professor of Islam at Vanderbilt’s Divinity School (according to the university’s webpage) and serves as the chaplain for Muslim students at the university. During the question and answer time, a student member of Vanderbilt’s chapter of Youth for Western Civilization asked the question: “Under Islamic law is it punishable by death if you are homosexual?”

The answer was, “Yes. It is punishable by death.” Moreover, at the beginning of the exchange about Islamic teaching regarding the death penalty for homosexual activity, the professor said, “I don’t have a choice as a Muslim to accept or reject teachings. I go with what Islam teaches.”

Where’s the Usual Alarm and Outrage?

Now you would think this would be alarming. Out and About, a Nashville-based news publication of interest primarily to the homosexual community, wrote an article about it as did Nashville’s City Paper. But both articles seemed to be more concerned about the Professor’s relationship with Vanderbilt and whether the University should be “tagged” with the Professor’s comments than it was about the comment itself.

And while I could have missed it, I never saw an editorial in any major newspaper in Tennessee editorializing about the subject. I have no doubt that had I said that practicing homosexuals deserved the death penalty, I would have been lampooned and editorialized all across the state, maybe even the country, ironically when such a comment would be clearly contrary to the teaching of virtually all Christian denominations in the world today.

But this professor’s statement is not contrary to current Muslim teachings, to Islamic law. In fact, in Saudi Arabia and Iran several thousands of homosexuals have been put to death because they follow Islamic law on this point.

And noteworthy by its omission was any attempt by the professor to qualify his statement with something like, “But that is the teaching of Muslim extremists” or “I personally do not believe that.” No. He said that he has no “choice … to accept or reject teachings” of Islam, but “must go with what Islam teaches.”

More Offended by the Question than the ‘Theoretical Response’

Oh, I know some will say, “yeah, but the Old Testament law of the Hebrews called for the death penalty for homosexuality.” But that is a diversion; it is not a comparison of the current understanding of the treatment to be given homosexuals by one religion to the current understanding of such treatment by another religion. Such comments reflect an apparent desire to be blind to the reality of what the Muslim professor said.

In fact, the Rev. Gary White, interim Director of Religious Life at Vanderbilt, and other students seemed offended by the question and thought it irrelevant to the topic. Rev. White even referred to the answer as a “theoretical response” and said, “Our students have no reason to be afraid or fear him at all.”

If he weren’t trying to be serious, I’d think he was trying to be funny. When those who believe as Professor Binhazim take over this country, as Islam teaches should be done (actually, it’s not just us, but the whole world), he’ll wish he’d taken the statement literally, not theoretically. Paraphrasing the Rev. Niemoller’s comments about the Nazis coming for him after he remained silent about what they were doing, “Reverend, when the Islamic Clerics following Sharia law come looking for the infidels, you’ll be one of them … and not just ‘theoretically.’ ”

I remember in 1980, sitting in the Student Center at UTC and having a practicing Muslim student tell me he would kill “me right then and there, but the time and situation was not right.” This is serious stuff. Faithful Muslims are like the professor; moderates who would not agree are considered apostate by the faithful.

But the irrationality doesn’t stop here. Some couldn’t even see the relevancy of the question to the topic, even after it was explained to them. As the student who asked the question explained to a fellow student who condemned him for asking the question: “If I was a homosexual in the military, I would want to know if the religion of the person fighting next to me demands my death. That would be significant to me.” Sadly, the fellow student still didn’t see the relevancy.

How Modern Liberals Define ‘Hate’

But back to the question of bias. While this was not newsworthy to our state’s major newspapers, the Tennessean found it newsworthy that someone had spray-painted “Muslims go home” on an outside wall of the mosque. Vandalism happens all the time, but you see, what made this a big to-do was that this was a possible “hate crime” that the police and the federal government are looking into. But apparently saying as a teacher of one’s religion you follow what your religion teaches and it teaches death to homosexuals is not very hateful.

Now, I am not dismissing the fact that spray-painting something on another person’s property is wrong.  But that act of vandalism, when compared to a teacher of Islam in our state saying that he agrees with Islam that homosexuals should be put to death … come on, no news story? No editorial? I guess believing such a thing and stating it publicly isn’t very hateful, as modern liberals now define the term.

Give me a break, will you? Particularly the next time I oppose some piece of legislation like ENDA (the acronym for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) that would force para-church ministries and religious schools to hire people whose behavior is contrary to their religious teaching.

Surely that’s not as newsworthy or as homophobic by comparison as believing homosexuals should be put to death … even if only “theoretically.”