A Ban on Conversion Therapy: How Can Muslims Respond?

A ban that prohibits access to counselling (secular or faith based) for individuals who chose, of their own volition, regardless of faith or background, an exploration of their potential in an opposite-sex relationship, is a breach of human right.

The UK government has announced that it will be consulting the public before a ban on so-called “conversion therapy”. This consultation is welcome as it offers a dialogue for the parties that may be adversely affected by perhaps a well-intentioned ban.

We fully recognise that no one should be coerced into doing anything against their will. However, the umbrella definition of conversion therapy is so expansive that it puts criminal activities like corrective rape in the same category as professional counselling.

Most of these criminal activities may already be outlawed under existing legislation, as the government mentioned in its response to the petition. Therefore, we are concerned as to what a ban on therapy would look like, a first in UK history.  

A ban that prohibits access to counselling (secular or faith-based) for individuals who chose, of their own volition, regardless of faith or background, an exploration of their potential in an opposite-sex relationship, is a breach of human right.

In the context of a secular society, I believe we should respect the LGBT community’s access to gay-affirmative (or other types of) therapy and denounce discrimination, violent or harmful practices against them. Equally, we respect people who of their own volition, seek talk therapies or counselling to explore their potential in an opposite-sex relationship. The choice to access such therapy should be left on the individual and not forced or banned by an external power or government.

According to Islam, there is no concept of sexual orientation or sexual identity that is fixed and decided at birth. The Qur’an does not use the words “heterosexual” or “homosexual”, taking them as identities, instead, the Qur’an speaks of sexual attractions or sexual behaviour.

Any sexual behaviour outside the marriage between man and woman is prohibited. Islam considers humans free to choose the model they live by and there is no obligation upon us to accept labels of “straight” or “LGBTQ”. Therefore, if a Muslim needs help with any sexual attraction that they feel is outside their values, we must provide them with the support they need. 

We uphold under the Equality Act (2010) that both sexual orientation and religion/belief are both protected characteristics. One sexual orientation should not be preferred over the other (as upheld in point 2 of the Memorandum of Conversion Therapy). Therefore, an individual seeking counselling with the viewpoint of increasing opposite-sex attraction, based on their religion, beliefs, or values should not be denied counselling. 

As with all other therapeutic practices, the client should be free to make that choice themselves. This is seen in the case of Otto v. City of Boca Raton in Florida, USA, where prohibiting therapists from engaging in counselling or any therapy with a goal of reducing a minor’s sexual or romantic attractions (at least to others of the same gender or sex), or changing a minor’s gender identity or expression, violated the First Amendment of freedom of speech.

We further have experienced censoring of speech, where the literature of this ideological viewpoint has been banned on Amazon solely as it opposes an ideological view. Books that promote a viewpoint that upholds same-sex attracted individuals exploring their potential in an opposite-sex relationship should not be banned based on a bias towards this ideology.

We ask that just as the government upholds gay affirmative therapy, the opposite ideology of therapy should be equally available so there is equality, regardless of our ideological viewpoint on sexuality. Please note that access to professional counselling is separate from seeking spiritual support from a faith leader. 

Banning support would only send these practices underground. We ask for better regulations and best practice by counselling/therapy bodies that protect the self-determination of clients and prevent harm as opposed to banning access to a therapeutic choice or favouring one sexuality over the other.

I pray that the government takes a balanced view of this matter and doesn’t inadvertently harm the sexually diverse community and engages with those who benefited from such counselling, instead of favouring one ideology over the other. 

I welcome any individual who may be affected by this legislation to contact us at Strong Support.

WATCH: Ali from Strong Support on the TMV Podcast in 2019

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