Muslims and churchmen have leapt to the defense of a female Muslim politician who came under fire for defending same-sex relationships in the Philippines.
Nariman “Ina” Ambolodto said she understands that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, but noted that Philippine society can no longer ignore the prevalence of same-sex unions.
“Even if Islam teaches that a man is for a woman and a woman is for a man, we have to recognize and respect same-sex relationships,” she said.
Ambolodto, an assistant secretary for Muslim affairs in President Benigno Aquino’s government and who is running for senator in May, is a Catholic-educated Muslim and a scholar in the Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of the Philippines.
Her controversial statement came in response to comments made by former Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, who was widely criticized for saying gay people were “worse than animals.”
Ambolodto said she knew that the teachings of her religion and the Catholic Church run counter to her call for protection for same-sex relationships.
But she said the “only recourse the government could do is to enact a law that respects the couple’s right to be together as a couple, and protect each person’s rights, including property rights.”
Her comments sparked an angry backlash from Muslims online, with many saying they would not back her in the coming elections.
“She will definitely not win,” said Abdul Manap Yasin Barua.
Another one called Ambolodto “ignorant” about the teachings of Islam.
However, other Muslims defended her with one online user saying “there is nothing wrong with being respectful.”
“Islam preaches respect, even the rights of animals we are to respect as Muslims,” said another said on social media.
“Their being [lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgender] is a thing they have to deal with Allah, the owner of the day of judgment,” another said.
Muslim author Norodin Alonto Lucman also attacked those who accused Ambolodto of being anti-Islam.
“Islam does not discriminate against gays,” he said. “It exhorts Muslims to reach out to their souls and be productive and responsible to human society, just like any other faithful Christian.”
Lucman said same-sex marriage is an issue that requires congressional approval and legislation.
“We are better off as a nation keeping this issue quietly and under wraps than force a national debate which most people are ignorant of, including uninformed Muslims,” he said.
A Catholic priest also defended Ambolodto.
“Her stance is respectful, which is fundamentally human,” said Oblate Father Eliseo Mercado.
“It does not mean agreeing. Many of us also respect them but still believing in the fundamentals of our faith. We do not judge them, that belongs to God,” said Mercado, one of the country’s respected expert on Islam.
Ambolodto stressed that she is not promoting same-sex marriages.
“What I want is for the government to protect those who are in a relationship, their rights, their welfare,” she said. “The government should not turn a blind eye to this concern.” | Jefry Tupas for Ucan