Homophobia from New Imam at Downtown Islamic Center

BY PAUL SCHINDLER | A Muslim leader who recently came to the fore in the controversial effort to build an Islamic cultural center just blocks from the site of the World Trade Center made incendiary statements about homosexuality in a series of video lectures he produced in 2007, according to a report by NY1 News.

“An enormously overwhelming percentage of people struggle with homosexual feeling because of some form of violent emotional or sexual abuse at some point in their life. Again, not necessarily in their childhood,” Imam Shaykh Abdallah Adhami stated in one of his seven video lectures, according to the cable news outlet. “A small, tiny percentage of people are born with a natural inclination they cannot explain. You find this in the animal kingdom on some level as well.”

Gay City News’ sister publication, Downtown Express, reported that Adhami’s appointment came as tensions grew between Sharif El-Gamal, chief executive officer of SoHo Properties and the president of Park51, as the project is known, and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who had been the public face of the proposed Islamic center as nationwide controversy over the development raged prior to last November’s elections.

Downtown Express reported that Adhami, born in Washington, studied architecture at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute and did post-doctoral work on the legal, ethical, and spiritual meaning of shari’ah law texts. For the past 20 years, he has led prayers at a nearby downtown mosque.

The NY1 story said that a Park51 spokesman declined comment on Adhami’s statements about homosexuality.

Longtime gay rights activist David Mixner, who was among the earliest advisers on LGBT issues to former President Bill Clinton, told the news channel, “It's not a new statement, it's been made repeatedly by people who practice homophobia as a way of life. It's also unfortunately not limited to one religion.”

Parvez Sharma, an out gay Muslim filmmaker who examined gay life in Islamic communities worldwide in his 2007 film “A Jihad for Love,” told NY1 that Adhami’s remarks were not as bad as those he’s heard from many Muslim leaders.

“I don't agree with the imam, but I think what he said is progress,” said Sharma. “Usually, from the Muslim orthodoxy, you are prepared to listen to very strong words of condemnation.”

This reporter was also interviewed for the NY1 story.