A high-ranking official of an Islamic faith organization has been forced to resign after attending her gay son’s wedding.
Earlier this month, Siddika Jessa, secretary general of NASIMCO (the Organization of North American Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Communities), celebrated her son Ali Reza’s marriage to his long-time partner in Vancouver.
Soon after, though, she was attacked on social media and a petition calling for her resignation received nearly 1,000 signatures in four days. “It is indisputable that the Secretary General took part in the same-sex wedding of her son,” it read. “The wedding was celebrated openly and proudly, with #AliandPaul2017 hashtag on social media.”
“This sin was not done in private, but rather was publicly celebrated and promoted,” it continued. “It goes against the legitimate majority interpretations of Jafari fiqh,” referring to the school of religious law that most Shia Muslims subscribe to.
In response, NASIMCO released a statement on July 12 that it rejected claims it “condones and advocates for behavior that is considered to be un-Islamic.” The group claimed to be looking into the matter and would address it “in an appropriate and timely manner.”
That same day, Jessa resigned in an open letter, indicating she was being forced to step down, and fiercely defended both her son and her decision to support him.
“Today, as a Muslim and a devoted mother who has had the privilege to serve our community institutions, I am being forced to resign by NASIMCO,” she wrote, “for the sole reason that my son has married a man, which I would like to point out is legal in Canada.”
She revealed that her own feelings about homosexuality have changed since her son first came out to her: “Ten years ago, when my son Ali Reza was 20 years old, he came to [my husband] Firoz and me and told us that he was gay. We were shocked, devastated, and heartbroken.”
Eventually, she added, “When he chose Paul, we agreed to support him to settle down. It has been a painful and challenging journey that only a mother can understand.”
Although it’s been a difficult road, Jessa and her husband say they’re glad they’ve prioritized their son’s wellbeing.
“For us, this is about standing up for Ali’s God-given right to live a life that would not be filled with the burden of religious guilt and compounded by communal scorn and societal shame,” she wrote. “The guilt and the scorn could potentially drown anyone and effect the human character. Many turn to drugs and alcohol (social vices) and some commit suicide. We chose not to have that for our son. We wanted him to be the best human being possible.”
She added, “I did this as a mother who carried Ali Reza in my womb for nine months and nurtured him. How could I, as a mother, discriminate against my own son, and if my God is so just, then how could I not take on this value of justice and act on it?”
The petition condemning Jessa also called for the resignation of NASIMCO’s president, Mohammad A Dewji, claiming he knew about the wedding ahead of time should have publicly condemned it.
Yesterday, NASIMCO announced that Dewji had resigned, along with NASIMCO’s vice-president, Sukaina Sumar-Ebrahim.
Earlier this month, news of a gay Muslim man getting married in the U.K. also sparked controversy, with the couple receiving death threats.
Note: Images from the wedding have been removed at the request of the family.