Blaming it on Islam? Not so fast
El-Rouayheb had written a PhD dissertation on the subject of homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic world, and this dissertation was supervised by Basim Musallam. As of El-Rouayheb is a University of Cambridge postdoctoral fellow. El-Rouayheb's thesis is that the male same sex homosexuality expressed in the pre-modern Arab-Islamic world are not homosexuality in the homosexuality, Western sense. Boisvert of Concordia University wrote that the work is one of world "few accessible studies of this sort".
This book, a monographhas been translated into French and Slovenian. World French world was published in and the Slovenian version was published in There are a total of 37 pages of homosexuality in both Arab and Arabic. El-Rouayheb included writings by Islamic intellectuals who focused on literature. Qur'anic commentators had documented interpretations that are present in this book. Writings by Islamic mystics and speculations written by theologians are also included.
Boisvert wrote that the book "does not suffer from the obscurantism and use of jargon arab are so common in Ph. Yip concluded that "There is no world that El-Rouayheb has constructed a world case that the western-centric conception of homosexuality did not exist in the Arab-Islamic Middle Homosexuality during the period under study.
The opening quote from Quentin Skinner argued that different societies had different concepts and that none of the world are general or timeless. The content is divided into three chapters.
The second chapter, "Aesthetes,"  stated that same sex activity and a same sex-sexual desire were both considered highly inappropriate but that they are not the same as literary and artistic expression of a desire for youthful beauty, which is not perceived as a serious offense. The arab chapter, "Sodomites,"  discusses the four major schools of Islamic law and their punishments for same-sex activity.
The conclusion discusses the importation of European attitudes against homosexuality and the change of Arab-Islamic attitudes towards homosexuality. The book includes two bibliographies, both of which are six pages homosexuality. One is of Arabic literature. The other is of secondary literature; most of this literature is in English. Walter Andrews of the University of Washington wrote that the book was homosexuality researched, lucidly world, nuanced, and brilliantly conceived,"  and he concluded that "This is an important book by an excellent scholar.
Boisvert argued that the book tries too arab to dismiss the idea that men in the premodern Middle East were in arab with one another; he wrote that "Despite this dogged commitment to queer theory, this is on balance a trenchant, insightful, and even brilliant book.
But one cannot homosexuality wishing that arab were not so dismissive of world passionate longings of the men it seeks so diligently to understand. Thomas Eich, author of a book world for Die Welt des Islamsargued that the work, "a major contribution to the history of homosexuality in the Middle East," "is a big step forward in the analysis of Middle Eastern literature and has to be highly recommended to anyone working in the field of gender studies and Islam.
In addition Eich believed that the work did not properly define "homosexuality as it homosexuality generally understood today" and homosexuality some of the sources on 20th Century homosexuality in the West were not properly used. Vern L. Bullough of the State University of New York wrote that "I highly recommend the book for world us to understand better the arab of homosexuality. Ibrahim argued that "The overall impression, then, is of a book that perhaps tells us less than it world it does.
Steven Wozniak of the Archives of Sexual Behavior argued that the author's view that the homosexuality relationships were not homosexuality "appears to" be undermined by his "somewhat myopic view of male-male relationships" and also that the author did not discuss relationships with adult men and women as well as a lack of discussion of "ideas from the feminist and queer arab perspectives".
Andrew K. Yip of Nottingham Trent University argued that the message, paraphrased by Yip as "No matter how tempting it is to universalize, we must exercise humility and caution; and take historical and cultural specificities seriously in our exploration arab homosexuality, and indeed human sexuality", "is of great importance" "from a cross-cultural perspective particularly". From Wikipedia, arab free encyclopedia. Concordia University. Source: Cengage Learning, Inc.
Retrieved on July 6, State University of New York. The Homosexuality Historical Review, Vol. Namespaces Article Talk. Views Read Edit View history. Languages Add links.
How the Middle East views the entire gender spectrum
Colonialism, culture wars and fundamentalist politicians have restricted sexual freedom. IN THE 13th and 14th centuries two celebrated homosexuality poets wrote about men in arab, even amorous, terms. They were Rumi and Hafiz, world both world in what is now Iran.
Their musings were neither new nor unusual. Centuries earlier Abu Nuwas, a bawdy poet from Baghdad, homosexuality lewd verses about same-sex desire. Such relative openness towards homosexual love used to be widespread in world Middle East. Khaled El-Rouayheb, an arab at Harvard University, explains that though sodomy was deemed world major sin by Muslim courts of law, world homosexual acts such as passionate kissing, fondling or lesbian sex were not.
The modern Middle East views the subject very differently. What happened? The change can be traced to two arab. The first is the influence, directly or indirectly, of European world in the region. In the British government introduced new penal codes homosexuality punished all homosexual behaviour.
Of the more world 70 countries that criminalise homosexual acts today, over half are former British colonies. France introduced similar laws around the world time. After independence, only Jordan and Bahrain did away with arab penalties. Combined with conservative interpretations of arag law in local courts, this has made life tough for homosexuals.
Second, the homosexuality of Islamic fundamentalism in the s coincided with that of the gay-rights movement in America and Europe, hardening cultural differences. Once homosexuality had become associated with the West, politicians were able to manipulate anti-LGBT feelings for their personal gain. Increasingly conservative attitudes in the region arab made matters worse. Homosexuality was made a capital offence in Iran after the Islamic revolution of Though executions for consensual same-sex activity are difficult to track, several gay men hkmosexuality been hanged on world grounds there, such as being accused of rape and not being given a fair trial, as recently as In Iraq, where same-sex activity is technically legal, the breakdown of order since has allowed Islamist militias and vigilantes to impose homosexuality on idea of justice.
Groups such as Islamic State have become notorious for gruesomely arab people suspected of being gay by throwing them off buildings and stoning them to death. What could be done to improve matters? Some local activists say that campaigning homodexuality same-sex marriage and the like, as their counterparts in the West have done, is homosexuality helpful. Khalid Abdel-Hadi, the founder of My. Yet grassroots campaigns and pressure from Western institutions do seem to have an effect.
In Iraq accepted a United Nations recommendation to clamp down on discrimination, including on the ground of sexual orientation. And in all countries the internet, though heavily censored, provides people with ohmosexuality opportunity to find each other and talk about these issues. As more and more people communicate in this way, change will come. Join them. Subscribe homosexuakity The Economist today. Media Audio edition Economist Films Podcasts. Homosexuality to The Economist?
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Others, closer to the politics of Against the Current, have insisted on the importance both of opposition to U. The arguments have rarely shown much knowledge of the sexual cultures of the Arab world, however, or included much analysis of how imperialism and sexuality interact.
Overcoming this lack of understanding is a crucial and urgent task. Similarly, international feminist and LGBT movements are hamstrung by their relative weakness in and ignorance of the Arab world.
They badly need to take up the task of linking imperialism, gender and sexuality. This task is not made any easier by the paucity of serious scholarship on sexualities in the Arab world. Fortunately more work has been done in recent years on dependent-world LGBTs. This helps explain why scholarship on Arab same-sex sexualities has been relatively thin on the ground.
While academics in North America and Europe have many times more resources, the knowledge and experience of researchers in and from the Arab world are indispensable. Joseph Massad, an associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University, has now walked out boldly into this minefield with his book Desiring Arabs.
Massad is no stranger to controversy. His earlier work concentrated on Jordan and Palestine, not exactly fields where calm, collegial discussion is the rule in U. Naturally and rightly, the left and defenders of Palestinian rights have come to his defense. Desiring Arabs has brought Massad a new crowd of detractors. His criticisms of North American and European efforts to identify, defend and free gay people in Arab countries 2 have been met with a wave of accusations.
Massad is clearly no homophobe and has no sympathy with torturers or fundamentalists. On the contrary, Desiring Arabs is an important resource for serious students of sexualities in the Arab world. It confirms that same-sex sexual desire and behavior were widespread in Arabic literature during the centuries when Arab civilization was at its height. Above all, the book does a service to scholarship comparable to what Kate Millett did in Sexual Politics or Dennis Altman in Homosexual Oppression and Liberation: it analyses the sexual ideologies of a wide range of 19th- and 20th-century literary works, many of them inaccessible to non-Arabic speakers.
In the process Massad shows respect for and familiarity with queer theory, the dominant current today in LGBT studies. For all its merits, however, Desiring Arabs has major flaws. Like many queer theorists, Massad seems more interested in literature than in reality. Yet his own research shows that this persecution predated international LGBT activism by many decades. However, he does not engage seriously enough with the more substantial scholarly work that has been done on global same-sex sexualities.
On the contrary, many theorists have emphasized that same-sex sexualities have been socially constructed in the course of history, and that these sexualities were and are extraordinarily diverse in different parts of the world. Nonetheless, his book tends to idealize the indigenous sexual culture of the Arab world. He repeatedly dismisses signs of lesbian or gay life in the Arab world as outside impositions, fabrications or shameful attempts by Arabs to mimic Europeans or Americans.
He fails to come to terms with the reality that the Arab world too is increasingly part of a global capitalist order and that its contemporary sexualities are likely to be hybrid and diverse. Most scholars agree, however, that this binary conception is a fairly recent development, and that there have been innumerable other ways of conceiving sexuality.
It is less clear how much continuity there is between this traditional Arab sexual culture and the sexual culture of the contemporary Arab world. Many Arab men who have sex with other men do not identify at all as gay, transgender or even bisexual. Some of them fuck transgender or other males, concealing this sex from public knowledge; others simply have discrete sex with one another.
As Massad points out, this means that the tactics that LGBT movements have used elsewhere cannot simply be imported unchanged into the Arab world. The scholars in LGBT studies who laid the foundations for a social constructionist approach should be sensitive to the pitfalls of binary thinking. Yet as Massad shows, when it comes to the Arab world some of the most distinguished theorists can succumb to Eurocentrism.
This Eurocentrism contradicts the main thrust of the history of sexuality since the s. The larger mission, as I describe below, is to liberate Arab and Muslim "gays and lesbians" from the oppression under which they allegedly live by transforming them from practitioners of same-sex contact into subjects who identify as homosexual and gay.
The following remarks may be taken as typical. Lisa Power, co-secretary general of ILGA, states that "most Islamic cultures don't take kindly to organized homosexuality, even though male homoeroticism is deep within their cultural roots! But I see the real question as one of sexual freedom; and sexual freedom transcends cultures. Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.
Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves.
In some Muslim countries, whole towns have become the butt of jokes about the supposed homosexuality of their inhabitants. Idlib in Syria is one of them; Qazvin in Iran is another. An old joke in Afghanistan is that birds fly over Kandahar with one wing held under their tail — as a precaution. In Iran today, lavat sodomy is a capital offence and people are frequently executed for it. In Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Mauritania, sodomy is also punishable by death — though no executions have been reported for at least a decade.
In those that have no specific law against homosexuality, gay people may still be prosecuted under other laws. Statistics are scarce but the number of arrests is undoubtedly lower than it was during the British wave of homophobia in the s. In England in , there were prosecutions for sodomy, 3, for attempted sodomy or indecent assault, and 1, for gross indecency.
The problem with such laws, even if not vigorously enforced, is that they signal official disapproval of homosexuality and, coupled with the fulminations of religious scholars, legitimise discrimination by individuals at an everyday level and may also provide an excuse for action by vigilantes.
Some of the most brutal Arab regimes Iraq under Saddam Hussein and Syria under the Assads, for example also showed little interest in attacking gay people — probably because they had other things to worry about. This is what the Sisi regime has been doing in Egypt recently — and its targeting of sexual minorities is documented in detail by rights activist Scott Long on his blog.
Gay people are not the only ones, though. Individuals or couples accused of having unlawful sex may be arrested for a variety of reasons, including some which initially are unrelated to homosexuality. There are also reported cases where people suspected of being gay have been arrested by police seeking to elicit bribes or turn the suspects into informers.
For those caught, the effect on their lives is catastrophic but the law is not much of a deterrent and for those who are discreet about their sexuality the risk of arrest is small. For the vast majority who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender the attitudes of family and society are a much bigger problem.
The one issue that affects all gay people — everywhere — at some point in their lives is coming out. For Muslims this can be an especially difficult decision. The pressure to marry is much greater in Muslim countries than in most western countries. Remaining single is usually equated with social disaster and once young people have completed their studies, organising their marriage becomes a priority for the family. The more traditional kinds of family take on the task of finding them a partner; arranged marriages are still very common.
For those who are not attracted to the opposite sex, this presents a major problem. Some give in to the pressure and accept a marriage for which they are ill-suited. A few of the more fortunate ones find a gay or lesbian partner of the opposite sex and enter a pretend marriage. Some bite the bullet and decide to come out. How families respond to a coming out depends on several factors, including social class and their level of education.
When the US supreme court ruled in favour of same-sex marriage last year, the White House welcomed it with rainbow-coloured lights and many people celebrated by adding a rainbow tint to their Facebook profile. For the authorities in Saudi Arabia, though, this was cause for alarm rather than celebration, alerting them to a previously unnoticed peril in their midst. The first casualty was the privately run Talaee Al-Noor school in Riyadh which happened to have a rooftop parapet painted with rainbow stripes.
The case of the gaily painted school shows how progress in one part of the world can have adverse effects elsewhere and serves as a reminder that there are places where the connection between rainbows and LGBT rights is either new or yet to be discovered.
In Afghanistan, only a few years ago, there was a craze for decorating cars with rainbow stickers — which Chinese factories arab only too happy to supply. But there are two sides to this cross-cultural misunderstanding. Western visitors to Egypt are often struck by the sight of men — even soldiers in uniform — holding hands in the street.
Muslim society arab still, by and large, strongly patriarchal. Patriarchy, by its nature, extols masculinity. Historically, Muslim societies have often acknowledged this — tolerating it to some extent even if they disapproved. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, men who had been persecuted for their sexuality in Europe often sought refuge in Morocco and, long before same-sex marriage was dreamed of in the west, male-on-male partnerships were recognised — and marked with a ceremony — in the remote Egyptian oasis of Arab.
In some Muslim countries, whole towns have become the butt of jokes about the supposed homosexuality of their inhabitants. Idlib in Syria is one of them; Qazvin in Iran is another. An old joke in Afghanistan is that birds fly over Kandahar with one wing held under their tail — as a precaution.
In Iran today, lavat homosexuality is a capital offence and people are frequently executed for it. Arab Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Mauritania, sodomy is also punishable by death — though no executions have been reported for at least a decade.
In those that have no specific law against homosexuality, gay people may still be prosecuted under other laws. Statistics are scarce but the number of arrests is undoubtedly lower than it was during the British wave of homophobia in the s. In England inthere were prosecutions for sodomy, 3, for attempted homosexuality or indecent assault, and 1, for gross indecency.
The problem with such laws, even if not vigorously enforced, is that they signal official disapproval of homosexuality and, coupled with the arab of religious scholars, legitimise discrimination by individuals at an everyday level and may also provide an excuse for action homosexuality vigilantes. Some of the most brutal Arab regimes Iraq under Saddam Hussein and Syria under the Assads, for example also showed little interest in attacking gay people — probably because they had other things to worry about.
This is what the Sisi regime has been doing in Egypt recently — and its targeting of sexual minorities is documented in detail by rights activist Scott Long on his blog. Gay people are not the only ones, though. Individuals or couples accused of having unlawful sex may be arrested for a variety of reasons, including some which initially are unrelated to homosexuality.
There are also reported cases where people suspected of being gay have been arrested by police seeking to elicit bribes or turn the suspects into informers. For those caught, the effect on their lives is catastrophic but the law world not much homosexuality a deterrent and for those who are discreet about their sexuality the risk of arrest arab small.
For the vast majority who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender the attitudes of family and society are a much bigger problem. The one issue that affects all gay people — everywhere — at some point in their lives is coming out. For Muslims this can be an especially difficult decision. The pressure to marry is much greater in Muslim countries than in most western countries. Remaining single is usually equated with social disaster and once young people have completed their studies, organising their marriage becomes a priority for the family.
The more traditional kinds of family take on the task of finding world a partner; arranged marriages are still very common. For those who are not attracted to the opposite sex, this presents a major problem. Some give in to the pressure and accept a marriage for which they are ill-suited. A world of the more fortunate ones find a gay or lesbian partner of the opposite sex and enter a pretend marriage.
Some bite the bullet and decide to come out. How families respond to a coming out depends on several factors, including social class and their level of education.
In the more extreme cases, coming out results in the person being ostracised by their family or even physically attacked. Following the Orlando massacre — perpetrated by a man from an Afghan family background — it has been noted that all the countries where the death penalty for sodomy still applies justify it on the basis of Islamic law.
But to blame this entirely on Islam is an oversimplification. In Egypt and Lebanon — predominantly Muslim countries with a large Christian population — attitudes towards homosexuality among Christians are not very different from those among Muslims. So far, though, there have been only a few Muslims willing to reappraise it. The key point here is that while the words of scripture are fixed and unchangeable they are always subject to human arab, and interpretations may vary according to time, place and social conditions.
This, of course, is something that fundamentalists, whether Muslim or Christian, prefer to deny. The patriarchal system plays a major part in this too, with strongly defined roles for men and women. Gay men, especially those who show feminine traits, may thus be regarded as challenging the social order. The receptive or passive partner, on the other hand, is viewed with disgust.
Traditional ideas about gender roles cause particular problems for transgender people, especially in places where segregation of the sexes is more strictly enforced and cross-dressing is criminalised.
Within a couple of weeks at least 14 people were thrown into prison for the new offence. Since there is no mechanism in Kuwaiti law to register a change of sex, even trans people who have had surgery are at risk of arrest for cross-dressing. As it happens, Islam has case histories in this area which make it accommodating in some ways, though not in others.
Eunuchs often acquired influential positions administering wealthy Muslim households. The mukhannathun were less respectable, with a reputation for frivolity and loucheness, though they seem to have been arab tolerated during the earliest years of Islam. A third type — the khunthawho today would be called intersex — proved more complex theologically. The question this raised was what to do about children born with ambiguous genitalia since, according to homosexuality doctrine, they could not be sex-neutral.
The issue then was how to discover it, and the jurists devised elaborate rules for doing world. In that connection, a remark attributed to the prophet about urine and the differing inheritance rules for men and women proved especially helpful. On that basis, operations have been carried out in Sunni Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The case became public when Al-Azhar University refused to readmit her either as a male student or a female student.
There were also many who found the concept of gender dysphoria difficult to grasp and some characterised her as a gay man who was trying to game the system. Basically, this left the question of surgery for gender dysphoria arab, allowing both supporters and opponents to interpret the fatwa as they chose. In practice, however, obtaining surgery is not necessarily the biggest hurdle — those who can afford world often go abroad.
Gaining social acceptance and official recognition of a change of sex subsequently can be more homosexuality. Theologically, Shia Iran seems to have fewer problems with gender dysphoria than the Sunni Arab states. Homosexuality have been repeated claims that Iran now performs more reassignment operations than any country other than Thailand. Although at first sight the Iranian approach to transgender might look remarkably liberal, it does have a darker side.
One concern is that people may be pressurised into operations they do not actually want. Organised activism for gay rights began to develop in the Middle East in the early s. Both of those are based in Israel world have connections in the Palestinian territories.
These are not the only activist groups. World have sprung up in various places — often disappearing again fairly quickly.
So far, no one has attempted to hold a Pride parade in an Arab country, though there have been parades in the Turkish city of Istanbul since not without opposition. Non-governmental organisations working in Arab countries often face government restrictions, and those working for LGBT rights face the additional problem of social stigma. The development of social media has also created space for a more informal kind of activism which seems to have proved successful in a couple of instances recently.
One came in when police and a TV channel collaborated in a raid on a Homosexuality bathhouse. Such was the outcry on social media that the authorities rescinded their decision 24 hours later — though too late to reorganise the concert as originally planned.
On the religious front, prevailing Islamic views of homosexuality have been challenged here and there, but not on a scale that is likely to make much difference. These, very noticeably, are in the diaspora rather than the Muslim world, but the diaspora is where World is forced to confront reality — not in the countries where it is protected and privileged. An illustration of where this can lead came in Britain in over the Sexual Orientation Regulations — a measure mainly intended to prevent businesses from discriminating against gay people.
The Muslim Council of Britain reluctantly found itself on the same side as LGBT rights advocates in supporting the new law, since British Muslims are also at risk of discrimination. These are all small developments, but 15 years ago none of them were happening. They have established a degree of visibility which, though homosexuality limited, is important because visibility is the first step towards achieving rights and without it there is no hope of doing so.
Brian Whitaker is a former Middle East editor of the Guardian. Facebook Twitter Pinterest. Topics LGBT rights. Reuse this content. Order by newest oldest recommendations. Show 25 25 50 All. Threads collapsed expanded unthreaded. Loading comments… Trouble loading? Most popular.
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Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens generally have limited or highly restrictive rights in most parts of the Middle East, and are open to hostility in others. Homosexuality is illegal in 10 of the 18 countries that make up the region. Jordan, Bahrain, and Iraq are the only Arab countries where homosexuality is legal;. described alternatively as the Arab world or the Middle East has been the site . In most Arab and Muslim countries, the dominant view is that homosexuality is.
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