A respected Mangochi sheikh, Mdala Ali Tambuli, has spoken out strongly in favour of gay rights, saying homosexuals need love and understanding from religious leaders and society.
Tambuli told Nation on Sunday recently that religious leaders and communities in the country should accept men who have sex with other men (MSMs) or those who are in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) relationships because these people are human beings too just like other sinners.
“As religious leaders, we are saying nowhere in the Bible or the Koran is it written that homosexuality is supposed to be there or promoted. On the other hand, what we are saying is that people who are practising this are supposed to be served on three things: to be given love, get protection and also we have to look after them because they are human beings and are totally entitled to all human rights,” he said.
Tambuli was speaking in Blantyre on the sidelines of a workshop for religious leaders on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRH&R) with special focus on minority rights.
Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) organised the workshop in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) as well as Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with or affected by HIV and Aids (Manelera+).
The workshop was funded by Aids-Fondet (AF), a Danish charity.
Argued Tambuli, who also condemned homophobia against gays: “MSMs and LGBTIs have to be taken care of because they are sinners just like those who practise witchcraft, are womanisers or sex workers. If we protect these other sinners, why can’t we do the same for MSMs or LGBTIs?”
Tambuli’s liberal stance runs counter to what another Lilongwe sheikh, Twaha Said, of Chinsapo, who said last month that nothing would make him accept gays.
On his part, Ntcheu-based Bishop Moffat Litchapa of Zion Evangelical Church, who also attended the Blantyre workshop, agreed with Tambuli.
He said religious leaders must not promote hatred towards gays in communities, but should instead preach love.
Cedep executive director Gift Trapence and CHRR acting chief Timothy Mtambo said as minority rights defenders, their objective is not to recruit gays or promote homosexuality in the country.
Rather, they said, their role is to ensure that gays’ constitutionally guaranteed rights are safeguarded.
Globally, the debate around homosexuality has largely been framed around respective countries’ legal and regulatory frameworks, inherent cultural norms and traditions as well religion.
Various studies have consistently shown that personal religiosity and the cultural context are the major force behind people’s attitudes towards homosexuality.
Given that Malawi is a deeply conservative and religious society, individual religious beliefs—shaped by pastors and sheikhs—as well as affiliation, are crucial predictors of people’s perceptions towards gays.
For example, a 2012 Afrobarometer survey found that at least 95 percent of Malawians said they reject homosexuality because of religion.