Dr. Salman al-Ouda, a leading cleric in Saudi Arabia, rendered a judgment on homosexuality that has “provoked controversy in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East,” according to Middle East Eye. He said homosexuality is a sin, but it does not require criminal punishment.
“Even though homosexuality is considered a sin in all the Semitic holy books, it does not require any punishment in this world,” Ouda explained, during an interview with a Swedish newspaper.
“One of the fundamentals of Islam is man’s freedom to act as he wants, but one must also take the consequences,” he added.
“Homosexuals are not deviating from Islam. Homosexuality is a grave sin, but those who say that homosexuals deviate from Islam are the real deviators,” Ouda maintained.
However, he said Islam does not “encourage individuals who have same-sex attraction to show their feelings in public,” and he evidently remains confident that homosexual conduct would be punished “after death.”
Further muddying the waters, Middle East Eye reports that Ouda has been accused of homophobia in the past (along with Holocaust denial).
In the course of recognizing Ouda as one of ten “voices for change in Saudi Arabia” in 2012, the Christian Science Monitor quoted him saying, “it’s impossible one day within an Islamic system to have a debate on homosexuality… since it is religiously forbidden.”
Pushing back against his declaration that homosexuality does not require punishment, one Saudi citizen said on Twitter, “According to Sharia law, homosexuals should be killed. How can you say homosexuality should not be punishable, Sheikh?”
Another Twitter critic quoted by the Jerusalem Post said, “Five days ago a delegation of the American Congress signed a document against gays’ execution in Saudi Arabia. What is your explanation?” This is a reference to a letter from several dozen members of Congress to Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S., criticizing the Saudi government for “the use of torture and capital punishment against the LGBTQ community.” In essence, the Saudi citizen quoted was accusing Ouda of knuckling under to pressure from the U.S. to lighten up on punishing homosexuals.
CarbonatedTV calls Ouda’s comments on homosexuality “shocking,” given that the influential cleric spoke only a month after Saudi authorities “called for executions for people who come out online.” Merely flying a rainbow flag over his house got one Saudi doctor arrested, despite his claim that he did not realize the rainbow flag was a gay symbol.