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Gays, Islamists, and The Arab Spring: What Would A Revolutionary Do?

[Mix and Match Flag; Image from unknown archive] [Mix and Match Flag; Image from unknown archive]

This past May, the blogger behind the “Gay Girl in Damascus” site responded to an alarmist front-page article by CNN International on the future of LGBT rights in the wake of the Arab Spring. The crux of the blogger’s response centered on the ways in which gay rights rhetoric is being used to undermine the revolutions sweeping the region and with them, the first tangible possibilities of democracy in states that have suffered under decades of brutal authoritarian rule. In the past few days, news has spread like wildfire that Amina Arraf, the blogger mentioned at the beginning of this article, is in fact a fabrication. Arraf, a self-described out Syrian-American Muslim lesbian living in Damascus, rose to meteoric stardom in the West after she posted an incredulous story entitled “May Father the Hero”, in which she claimed that an eloquent and firm speech delivered by her father shamed the Syrian secret police into not arresting her. The post got little circulation in the Arab world, with many immediately suspecting that the story was contrived. Meanwhile, Amina was hailed by none other than the Huffington Post as a “heroine of the Syrian revolution”. The combination of her sexual identity, her good looks, her impeccable English, her “moderate” muslimness, and her fantastical (and often sexual) autobiographical posts proved too potent a mix. Amina was a “honeytrap for Western liberals”, as one twitterer put it. Something palatable that they could identify with, the perfect half-white poster child of a brown revolution. While her narratives about her life as a gay woman in Syria and about being a gay Muslim captured the imagination of the west, it was her more overtly political polemics that attracted the attention of readers in the Arab world (and particularly the progressive queers among them), posts like Thanks, but No Thanks Mr. Obama and Pinkwashing Assad. One can come to many conclusions about what the unraveling Amina story actually means, but for our purposes what it demonstrates is the growing fracture between the very real, lived concerns of people living in the region and the selective, sensationalist focus of the Western media on issues in which they can see themselves reflected in, one of which is the lives of “gay Arabs” and “gay Muslims.” After worrying about “stability” in the Arab world and attempts at characterizing the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt as Islamist-inspired, Western media has turned to questioning the fate of Arab gays under would-be Arab democracies. Implicit in this question is the idea that Arab queers have fared better under Arab authoritarianism and that, given a choice, Arab queers would prefer to be under a regime that oppresses them politically but “allows” for a minimum of sexual freedom rather than be under a government that grants them political rights and might be more socially conservative.

The “gay issue” is becoming an increasingly hot topic in Western media coverage of the Arab world. In fact, beginning with the spate of gay killings in US occupied Iraq, the status of non-normative sexualities has perhaps been enfolded within a discourse that highlights the plight of “women” in Arab/Muslim countries, and the ideological, material, and military mobilization that such a discourse licenses. The already mentioned CNN article is one of several devoted to the issue of what will happen to “the gays” after the revolutions, in addition to spates of comments on many other pieces analyzing what the revolutions may mean. A critical reader might ask what lies behind this interest in gays? Where did it come from and what kinds of discourses and practices is it contributing to? What assumptions does this conversation make as to international practices of sexuality and politics, and what silences about other forms of oppression is this anxiety over the status of gay Arabs in Arab democracies implicated in?

When commentators, politicians, and journalists pose questions as to the potentially dangerous aspect of regime change in the Arab world, they are pointing to the possibility that Islamist governments may be formed in Tunisia, Egypt, or Syria. American and European fears of Islamists are certainly not because they represent a threat to personal freedoms (just look at the record of personal freedoms in Saudi Arabia, America's strongest Arab ally) but because Western powers are afraid of what an Islamist-inspired foreign policy might look like. Simply put, the fear is that Islamist governments may realign themselves against the US/Israel camp, although, looking again to Saudi Arabia, there is little evidence to suggest that Islamism is inherently at odds with the foreign policy objectives of the United States and of Israel. In this way, gay Arabs are only the latest fodder used to fan the flames of Islamophobia in political, media, and public discourse. The idea is that Islamist governments are inherently intolerant of non-normative sexual behavior, and that that intolerance is unacceptable to the international community today. This statement, in turn, rests upon several assumptions: 1) Secular authoritarian regimes have been the protectors of women and gays in the Arab world, and 2) The international community, via the discourse of human rights, can cherry pick injustices and politicize them within a liberal discourse of tolerance. Under the twinned discourses of “tolerance” and “Islamophobia”, a state’s treatment of its gays and its women is used as a marker for “backwardness” or “civilization”. As Wendy Brown reminds us, the use of human rights abuses to justify the War on Terror speaks this violent logic; that those who are intolerant do not deserve to be tolerated [by those who both set the standard and are tasked with upholding it, when it suits them]. Homophobia within Palestine, for example, which is bizarrely presented as unique and exceptional, becomes a justification for why Palestinians are less deserving of justice, equality and a state than the liberal, tolerant and democratic Israelis.It is significant that populations such as gays, women, and Christians are being harnessed to promote fear of what will emerge post Assad, for example. In part, we should not be surprised; if the pinkwashing campaign has taught us anything, it is that Israel, by promoting itself as the protector of gay Palestinians, successfully cleaves human rights from political engagement and uses the ideological capital of “tolerance” to promote itself as a protector of freedom in a sea of intolerant, backwards, and dangerous Arabs/Palestinians. One could ask, as one Palestinian queer activist is fond of saying, is there a secret doorway in the apartheid wall visible only to gay Palestinians? In the context of the Arab Spring, this separation of human and political rights accomplishes many of the same objectives. It posits the Assad, Mubarak, or Ben Ali regime as preferable in terms of human and minority rights to the Islamist governments that may follow them. And it renders the political rights and will of all Arabs, gay and straight, male and female, old and young, citizens and non-citizens, Christian and Muslim and Jewish, a prospect that we, the secular and the liberal, should be weary of.

A focus on the dangers that Islamists pose to minority and sexual rights discourages people from asking serious questions about the structural issues that will determine the outcome of these post-revolutionary societies. The CNN article warning of the future of LGBT rights in the wake of the Arab Spring seems to say, ‘Instead of questioning the role of the US-allied Egyptian military, the IMF's renewed interest in Egypt, or the architecture of political oppression still in place in Egypt, we should be worried about the crazy Muslims’. With little exception, the response of gay activists from the region and abroad in articles such as the ones by CNN and AP as well as in online forums such as Twitter and Facebook has been to bolster the fears promulgated by the US and the EU about the “Islamist threat” with no real or substantive understanding of what is actually taking place in post-revolutionary Tunisia and Egypt. Statements such as “gays might become the sacrificial lambs of the Arab Spring” or fearmongering about a possible “Islamist takeover” not only reinforce infantilizing and racist Euro-Americandiscourses about Arabs and Muslims, but also betray a simplistic and naïve analysis of the political and social developments taking place in the region.

After decades of just a handful of legal political parties in Tunisia (some of which were actually supportive of Ben Ali), the country’s political landscape now has 81. There has always been a strong secular political culture in Tunisia among liberals, intellectuals, and elites not unlike French laicite. Yet, a great deal of concern is focused on the Islamist Nahda party, modeled after Turkey’s AKP. Who has actually asked about the opinions, positions, and support base of the other 80 political parties? Of course, the Nahda party is powerful, but so can be coalitions of the more liberal and secular parties. There is no clear hegemony over the country’s political landscape. Unlike Egypt, Tunisia’s transitional council is civilian and truly multiparty, bringing members of the political center, the right, the left, the radical left, and the Islamists together at the same table. Such a politically credible coalition is unprecedented in the region’s history. If this productive engagement between seculars and Islamists in Tunisia breaks down, it will further throw the country into a polarized stalemate. History tells us that if put on the defensive, the most radical and conservative aspects of the Nahda party as well as more marginal Salafist groups may rise to the surface. A knee jerk fear of Islamists, partly propelled by an increasingly local and international Islamophobic secularism,  glosses over the dense realities of these countries. This Reductionism, in the midst of historic transition, dangerously narrows the parameters of the debate.

In Egypt, it is the US-funded military that is in control of the process by which the constitution of Egypt will be drafted, and without the time and space to form proper political parties and reform electoral laws, that process as it stands gives the Brotherhood an advantage as the most well organized and oldest political body. It is the military that is restricting freedom of speech and association. It is the military that is arresting people, torturing them, and trying them in military tribunals. In Egypt, it is the military, not the Muslim Brotherhood, that is playing the morality card by accusing protestors of illicit sex, prostitution, doing drugs. The military has also forced female protestors into undergoing virginity tests (what, perhaps, one could call medical rape). The Brotherhood is curiously silent on these abuses, and refused to join the recent demonstrations in Tahrir to protest violations committed with impunity by the Egyptian army. In all of the journalistic articles about the future of gay people in Egypt, not one has even alluded to the threat posed by the army, which now looks increasingly like it may strike a deal (if it hasn’t already) with the Brotherhood. Not one has spoken about the regressive, homophobic and anti-feminist platforms of other secular parties, or the calls by some civil society organizations for the military to rule with an even stronger fist. The struggle between progressives and Islamists that may ensue will be a civilian one. For now, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces is attempting to hijack the Egyptian revolution by force of arms, torture, and military tribunals, yet when it comes to gays and women, the Western press insists on placing them in a boxing ring with Islamists, as if their fate is somehow separate from that of the nation as a whole. The myopia that results from an alarmist focus on Islam as the enemy of freedom has blinded us from recognizing that a boot on our necks is a boot on our necks, whether it belongs to someone wearing a suit, a military uniform, or a turban.

Islamists are social conservatives. But that does not mean that they are necessarily unapproachable or irrational. Furthermore, gay Arabs cannot be cut out of the fabric of their societies; they are Arab, they are Muslim, Christian, conservative and progressive, soldiers and civilians, communists and capitalists, sexist and feminist, classist and revolutionary, and both oppressors and the oppressed. Islamist discourses are not ossified and stuck in the 16th century, as most Western commentators assume. They are plural, responsive, dynamic, and they represent the point of view of a large and diverse public. In recent months, there have been several statements circulated by Islamists in Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, and other places, specifically denouncing gay marriage. These khutbas said nothing of homosexuality itself, but focused, laser-like, on gay marriage. In Lebanon, the real issue at stake had nothing to do with homosexuality. Rather the “danger” being discussed was the possibility of a civil marriage law that would allow Muslims and Christians and Jews to marry each other inside Lebanon. Gay marriage was used as an illustration of the “dangers” that were sure to enter Lebanon via a civil marriage law. One can hear the same paradoxical silence on gay people twinned with vitriolic opposition to gay marriage in thousands of Churches across the United States. Such opposition to gay marriage within Islamist groups and within the khutbas of mosques does not, in fact, irrevocably foreclose discussions on queer and sexuality-related issues with Islamists and their supporters. In fact, when a Sheikh uses the prospect of gay marriage, rather than the existence of gay people or the practice of gay sex, as a tertiary illustration (not the substance) of the dangers of secularism, we may be hearing evidence of the multiple successes of Arab gay rights movements.

Is there a possibility of a backlash against gay, minority, and women's rights in the Arab region? Undoubtedly. In times of rapid social and political change it is often the realms of gender and sexuality that become the battlefields in which broader social anxieties are made manifest. But that backlash doesn’t have to happen. The answer is not to marginalize Islamists or fear them, but to work towards building truly participatory (politically, socially, and crucially, economically) democratic societies that will safeguard individual and collective freedoms. These would be states in which the impartial rule of law prevails, in which institutions are strong and independent, and where the human and political rights of all citizens (gay and straight, male and female, atheist and Islamist) and residents are fiercely protected by the state regardless of who is in government at the time.

We are in the midst of a transformative moment in the region’s history. It is incumbent upon us, as Arab queers, progressives, and individuals seeking to build more just and equitable societies to understand not only what is happening in the region, but also how easily gay rights can be transformed into political bargaining chip that is less emancipatory than at first glance. We should pause and think of the networks of capital, interest, and political inequality that travel with gay rights discourses and institutions from the centers of global power to its peripheries. Let us not forget how we, as queers and as women, were used as justifications for invasions (Afghanistan), the promotion of democracy at the barrel of a gun (Iraq), and military occupation (Palestine). We must learn, again, to refuse to allow parts of our personhood (sexuality, gender) to be mobilized at the expense of other parts of our personhood (the Palestinian, the Arab, the working class). We must refuse this fragmentation and self-alienation. For years, progressive queer activists have been pushing back against the use of gay rights and the mobilization of the international gay rights community to promote Israel as a liberal democracy. Such state promoted discourse seeks to obfuscate the realities of occupation, apartheid, land theft and demolitions, displacement, and racism increasingly enshrined in Israeli law. We should be attuned to the danger of a similar discourse, one which attempts to create an arbitrary and fabricated separation between human rights and "politics" and raises one above the other, being used to promote anxiety about gay and human rights in the Arab world in the event that political rights are granted to all Arabs. Gays, like women, are becoming a readily deployable tool in service of geopolitical interests that are oppressive and anti-emancipatory. As people concerned with fighting all forms, and all networks of injustice, we must not allow that to happen.

21 comments for "Gays, Islamists, and The Arab Spring: What Would A Revolutionary Do?"

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Timely and powerful analysis. First rate!

Paul Amar wrote on June 11, 2011 at 05:53 PM
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This must be translated to arabic - for the Arab gays who are not fluent in english - it is a Must.

Thanks Maya and R.M for brining this in such coherent way.

Nisreen M. wrote on June 11, 2011 at 06:39 PM
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Quote: "Let us not forget how we, as queers and as women, were used as justifications for invasions (Afghanistan), the promotion of democracy at the barrel of a gun (Iraq), and military occupation (Palestine). We must learn, again, to refuse to allow parts of our personhood" OK, let's die already and sacrifice our lives for the racist homophobic society :) Mmm, so now we are the ones to cause problems... I find that article disturbing and does harm more than it helps us. Oops, "non-normative sexualities"? So, I'm an abnormal, then? I violate nature, right? So, we must be slaughtered without mercy, correct? Be careful what you speak, because you are indirectly reinforcing that stance! Literally, reading that article I was deeply hurt. Are we the ones to blame here! Were you suggesting that we, the LGBTQI, speak out, identifiably as LGBTQI, to the homophobic society? Are you talking to suicidals? Also, since when did any LGBTQI justified wars and occupation? That article is very unjustly prejudiced against us, even if you claim to be one of us :) Note: I mean by "us", the LGBTQI community. Heterosexual females aren't included.

Oppressed wrote on June 12, 2011 at 02:45 AM
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Hello Everyone

Peace be unto you.

Everyone is free to believe, imagine and perceive whatever sh/e likes. BUT do not superimpose any personal perception on Islam. Not all that Muslims do / did is Islamic. Certainly "Our Islam" can be anything, but Islam is the Islam of the holey Qur'an. Read it from there only. Read it in context. If you like it, fine. If not, leave it without messing about it.

Out of scores, here is just one instance in this context (from the Holy Qu'ran):

026.161 Behold, their brother Lut said to them: "Will ye not fear (God)?

026.162 "I am to you an apostle worthy of all trust.

026.163 "So fear God and obey me.

026.164 "No reward do I ask of you for it: my reward is only from the lord of the

Worlds.

026.165 "Of all the creatures in the world, will ye approach males,

026.166 "And leave those whom God has created for you to be your mates? Nay, ye

are a people transgressing (all limits)!"

026.167 They said: "If thou desist not, O Lut! thou wilt assuredly be cast out!"

026.168 He said: "I do detest your doings."

026.169 "O my Lord! deliver me and my family from such things as they do!"

026.170 So We delivered him and his family,- all

026.171 Except an old woman who lingered behind.

026.172 But the rest We destroyed utterly.

026.173 We rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): and evil was the shower

on those who were admonished (but heeded not)!

026.174 Verily in this is a Sign: but most of them do not believe.

026.175 And verily thy Lord is He, the Exalted in Might Most Merciful.

Bashir Kashmiri 12 June 2011 08:52

Bashir Kashmiri wrote on June 12, 2011 at 02:55 AM
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This article is a surprising apologia for the prevailing official retrograde positions of Islam. Yes, the Koran is the source, and it is hostile to Jews, Christians, nonbelievers, women, and gays. That is the sad reality. As progressive, freedom-loving, gay-supporting people why make apologies for an ideology that is hostile. One may argue whether or not Islam is hostile to freedom (I personally think it is fundamentally hostile to freedom), but how can anybody with intelligence and honesty, argue that Islamism is not? Islamism is not tolerant of an open shared society. It will continue to push, by violence or by whatever means, relentlessly, until sharia is imposed on all. It has no interest in dialogue, openness, and compromise. Do not be naive and fail to see the gross intolerance in your heedless, headlong push for tolerance. Totalitarianism is worse than authoritarianism. The latter can be thrown off with time, the former is far more frightening and persistent.

Red Baron wrote on June 12, 2011 at 01:49 PM
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@Red Baron. It is indeed very difficult to defend Islam when it comes to certain issues that the progressive community talk about.

But the problem with your approach and many like you who drip venom against Islam is that they single it out and are not intellectually honest enough to include Christianity and Judaism, and other religions, in the same breath.

All monotheist religions are problematic when it comes to many such issues--however much apologists--like you or others--try to absolve them.

Do you have the courage to step up and say it?

samir M. wrote on June 12, 2011 at 03:07 PM
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"Oppressed" and "Red Baron": those are deeply unfair readings of Maya's and R.M.'s essay. Please go back and read more carefully what they are saying about the use and abuse of pro-gay and pro-woman rhetoric in different quarters, and about the complexity of forming political alliances in the contexts they are talking about.

Andrew wrote on June 12, 2011 at 04:15 PM
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If every single person worried about how good their own conduct is, and stopped concerning themselves with how others choose to live their private lives, the world would be a happier place. The Arab spring is not a LGBT issue. It's an excuse for the West to intervene and impose itself on others, while robbing the East of it's natural resources. It's up to the populations of the Arab world to decide to fight against their regimes or not. They should determine their fate, not the West. To use LGBT as a propaganda tool is just cynical.

Heather wrote on June 12, 2011 at 06:10 PM
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@Red Baron: Nobody is arguing for Islamism in this article. Likewise, I haven't heard of a serious push for an Islamic caliphate or "Islamism" as a political ideology in revolutionary MENA countries. The best the West can scare up for examples are AKP-type analogues. Perhaps the problem the authors of this article are discussing is not so much related to Islam as it is to Western distortions of what Arab (and Muslim) self-determination is supposed to look like.

Taryn wrote on June 12, 2011 at 07:38 PM
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If the Christian West can make democracy work then the Muslim Middle East can too. To claim otherwise is simply racist.

Tom wrote on June 12, 2011 at 09:13 PM
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@kashmiri,I'm not really sure I understand the point of your quotation from the qur'an. Is it that in all those pages, only one alludes (and abstractly--and condones the "giving" of women over to men) to homosexual acts, or is the point to highlight the fact that the qur'an does condemn homosexual acts? Regardless, the Qur'an is not unique in this regard. All monotheistic and some pan-theistic religions share this point of view. Indeed, one does not have to even turn to religion to see examples of this condemnation.

@opressed. Im sorry if u misunderstood us to be saying that homosexuals are somehow abnormal. that is definately not what we are saying. Instead, we are suggesting that gay rights discourses are being used to promote other, anti-freedom agendas, such as a "fear" of Arab democracy or the idea that Israel wants to "save" Palestinian gays.

maya wrote on June 13, 2011 at 05:25 PM
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I would love to see a piece by the authors critiquing the appropriation of Muslim-queer-female identities by straight white American males. I was thinking of writing something myself on it but you seem much more versed on the material.

Taryn wrote on June 14, 2011 at 06:43 PM
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I would love to see a piece by the authors critiquing the appropriation of Muslim-queer-female identities by straight white American males. I was thinking of writing something myself on it but you seem much more versed on the material.

Taryn wrote on June 14, 2011 at 07:01 PM
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How we 'we queers' used for "the promotion of democracy at the barrel of a gun" in Iraq?!? Please tell me because I must be missing something ...

Paul Canning wrote on June 17, 2011 at 12:00 PM
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Dear Paul,

I am surprised that this is news to you. In the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, the language of minority rights, specifically women's rights, were partly used as justification for the invasion. It is quite worrisome that an esteemed activist such as yourself who regularly saves the third world gays isn't aware of this. That same logic is applied to queers. For example: A couple of years ago, Israeli officials stated in Haaretz that since the nuclear issue doesn't seem to be working in isolating Iran enough, they will be reaching out to the global LGBT community and leverage Iran's treatment of it's LGBT population to garner up support for further isolation and possibly military action.

R.M. wrote on June 18, 2011 at 05:42 AM
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I agree with some points in the article and think it's a solid analysis. However, an oft-repeated point among progressive women and LGBTs in the Middle East (and some scholars in the West) that the War in Afghanistan and Iraq were somehow justified by the lack of women's rights and LGBT right there is false. This claim is repeated without much backing to it. The war in Afghanistan did not need any justification in the US following the 9/11 attacks. The US public was eager to strike back at someone, anyone. Following the invasion of Afghanistan, the issue of women's rights became more prominent, but it was never used as a justification prior to the war - having Bin Laden in Afghanistan was enough of a justification that satisfied the overwhelming majority of Americans.

The second argument, that women's/LGBT rights were used as a justification for the Iraq War is also false. If you look at statements by Bush administration officials prior to the war (people like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, Tenet and Wolfowitz), all of them revolved around national security and the supposed nuclear weapons/ BW/CW possessed by Saddam's regime, as well as the flimsy al-Qaeda-Saddam connection (to a lesser extent). The Bush admin knew full well Americans are not going to back a war for someone else's human rights - the American public needed to be scared into backing this war by presenting a viable threat - weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. Only when the US got into Iraq and found 0 of the original reasons/pretext for the war did it start to talk about human rights under Saddam's rule (the focus was never on gay rights until the killings began, and even then, the argument that was used was about how gays were better under Saddam, not the other way around).

Liz wrote on June 18, 2011 at 08:12 PM
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@Liz,

Your first point is incorrect. The US and Bush Administration had long used Afghani women as "poster children" for the invasion and sustained occupation. See Laura Bush's tireless efforts to "lift the veil" on Afghani women, as well as the infamous Time magazine cover of the Afghani woman with her nose cut off, the Afghani woman shot decades years after her refugee photo was originally taken, the Afghani women in burkhas, etc.

manyfesto wrote on June 20, 2011 at 11:04 PM
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The claim that LGBT rights were better under Saddam a) is somewhat obscene seeing as how the rights of ALL Iraqis were better under Saddam and b) is used to justify occupation, same as in Afghanistan.

Tom wrote on June 23, 2011 at 07:22 AM
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What a facile argument justified by invented claims that reflect two things:

1: projections by the author rather than reality. 2: insular academic discourse completely disconnected from realities in the region.

In re the former, a few quotes:

1: "Arraf rose to meteoric stardom": hello? meteoric stardom?" comment: Lady Gaga is stardom, a few passing notices about Arraf is the tiniest blip in today's media universe. A silly exaggeration does nothing to support an argument, rather it exposes its vacuity.

2: "Western media has turned to questioning the fate of Arab gays under would-be Arab democracies. Implicit in this question is the idea that Arab queers have fared better under Arab authoritarianism and that, given a choice, Arab queers would prefer to be under a regime that oppresses them politically but “allows” for a minimum of sexual freedom rather than be under a government that grants them political rights and might be more socially conservative."

comment: could we at least have a quote justifying these absolutely fantastic inventions? I'm guessing there must have been an odd commentator or two somewhere who mentioned these things, but the idea that the "Western media" is focusing on this could only be believed by someone who doesn't read the Western media. Nor have I read anyone saying Arab queers prefer authoritarianism...perhaps, again, there's been an oddball here or there, but I'd love to read the substantive quotes from major Western media organizations making that argument.

Gosh, I could keep picking apart the baseless assumptions in this piece, but who has the time?

The irony is that these authors use this to justify a critique of pinkwashing and liberal human rights. In this, who do they echo but Arraf herself? Or, more precisely, they echo Tom McMaster in his critiques of pinkwashing and, to quote, 'liberal Orientalism.'

What we see in both this article and in Tom McMaster's sock-puppetry is the insular, disconnected discourse of Western academia and its belly-gazing preoccupations. I have no idea who Mikdashi and "R.M." are, but it's pretty obvious that just like Tom McMaster they are Western trained academics as their concerns and language track, precisely, the concerns of a small sub-set of Western academics who spend most their time talking to each other. These concerns are in direct opposition with peoples in the streets in many parts of the Arab world making claims for rights. At some point, Western academics should have something to offer to explain those claims, rather than finding excuses to dismiss them.

AX wrote on June 29, 2011 at 09:47 PM
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It's sad that people use activism against homophobia as a way to promote other -isms. However, it's not unique to just the Middle East. The Black Power movements was criticized a lot for having sexist underpinnings, the gay liberation movement was criticized for being trans-phobic, and so on. In all these cases these attacks were used to delegitimize the struggles being fought for that need fighting. However, we shouldn't entirely ignore these criticisms either. The belief that the Black Power movements would eventually help women of color as well if no on said anything might have fallen short. What we know is this-- Trickle-down rights, like trickle-down economics, is a failed system that will never provide rights for all. I think that what this means is that we have to criticize these movements for what they leave out (ie the Arab Spring exclusion of pro-gay movements to a certain extent) but not let these criticisms undermine the important revolutionary work being done within these uprisings. There will always be an invisible remainder of some group getting left out... but that doesn't mean we shouldn't also rally around the groups mobilizing so long as we remember to form coalitions in our activism against all forms of oppression.

Also, lets not forget, just because dolphins are extremely patriarchal and basically gang rape female dolphins repeatedly that this is NOT an excuse for over-fishing and killing dolphins. Same with the Arab Spring, even if there's some homophobic backlash it doesn't mean we shouldn't support these uprisings... so long as we're aware they aren't the perfect utopia. As in the case of all revolutions, none are ever complete but are always in the process of becoming.

jl schatz professor of english at binghamton university

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sailorferrets wrote on July 08, 2011 at 02:07 PM
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I have lived for almost 12 years in 4 different Muslim countries and I can assure all people that there is no place for easier sex in this world. There is also no place in thei world where gays and other minorities are so much persecuted and abused. All this in the name of a religion! Now I live in the US and sex became to me something normal while in the Muslim countries I was almost like "adicted" to it.

Mohamed the killer wrote on January 14, 2012 at 06:29 AM

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