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Open Access Publications from the University of California

“We’ve Never Talked About It”: Muslim American Attitudes Towards Homosexuality

  • Author(s): Alnagar, Hala
  • Advisor(s): Van Dyke, Nella
  • et al.

This study seeks to fill the gap in the literature on attitudes towards homosexuality, and more specifically, to do this from the perspective of Muslim Americans rather than the usual Christian viewpoint. While analyzing the experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) individuals is important, to have a comprehensive understanding of different forms of homophobia, one must explore the attitude formation of non-LGBTQ individuals. Studies on attitudes towards LGBTQ issues tend to be scarce, but in the literature that does exist, it is common for religion to play a role in predicting whether attitudes are negative or positive. Using 21 in-depth interviews with self-identified Muslim Americans, this study seeks to understand how college-aged Muslim Americans navigate and express their attitudes towards same-sex relationships. I found that Muslim Americans fall in line with the literature on Christian attitudes towards homosexuality in the following ways: 1) adhering to traditional gender beliefs tends to predict negative attitudes and 2) heightened exposure to LGBTQ individuals results in more positive attitudes. However, I found that Muslim Americans are more unique in ways than they are similar: 1) higher levels of religious practice among Muslim Americans do not have a positive relationship with negative attitudes towards same-sex relationships, 2) they do not fall neatly into attribution theory’s notion that one’s belief in the cause of homosexuality would predict their attitudes towards it, and 3) despite little to no discussion of homosexuality within Muslim communities in comparison to Christian communities, my participants were similar to one another in their negotiation practices and ideologies regarding homosexuality.

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