A Vanderbilt University student has spurred an interesting debate about rigid adherence to Islamic law and its application in modern society. Devin Saucier, a junior philosophy and political science student, attended a university forum on "What it means to be Muslim" on January 25.
The program was part of the university's "Project Dialogue" program, which operates this year with the theme "Civility and Justice for Whom?" During a question and answer period, Saucier asked Vanderbilt Muslim Chaplain Awadh A. Binhazim whether he accepts the tenet that homosexuality was punishable by death under Islamic law.
"I don't have a choice as a Muslim to accept or reject teachings," Binhazim said. "I go with what Islam teaches."
He tried to cast the edict as in sync with other faiths which consider homosexuality "an unacceptable way of life." (See the exchange here.) Saucier refocused, however, asking
"Under Islamic law, is it punishable by death if you are a homosexual?"
Binhazim's answer? "Yes."
Vanderbilt issued a statement Monday distancing itself from Binhazim, who is not paid for his service as chaplain or as an adjunct professor in pathology.The university took no position on Binhazim's actual response:
"No view expressed at a Project Dialogue or similar campus forum should be construed as being endorsed by Vanderbilt. The university is dedicated to the free exchange of ideas. It is the belief of the university community that free discussion of ideas can lead to resolution and reconciliation."
Saucier chronicled his motivation and the event here. He saw the event as "ripe grounds for me to expose the gullibility of leftists who grovel at the altars of tolerance and acceptance." In a subsequent comment, he indicated his motivation was merely to shine a light on the rigid adherence to Islamic law:
"I have no intention of getting him fired or taking any such action against him. I am a big supporter of the First Amendment which guarantees his right to express his religious views."
Queerty, a website on gay issues, isn't as accommodating. It asks a fair question:
"Not limiting the free speech of its chaplains is a fantastic policy, and one we support at any school. But what would happen if a visiting chaplain came along and said his religion called for the extermination of Jews? Would Vanderbilt be letting him return to campus?"