An article published this week on the Arab Internet site Al-Bawaba stood out amidst the site’s usual contents. The article touched on homosexuality in the Muslim world, or to be precise, in the Muslim world of Internet. A study of the matter revealed there are at least dozens of sites that deal with issues pertaining to the gay community in the Middle East. Through them, one can make contact, correspond and even meet for the purpose of sexual relations.
Such opportunities — prospects that could not have been conceived in the past — have increased tenfold thanks to the Internet,
An illustration of this is “The Bitouniyya Children” by Sa’id Khalil Abu Rish, a book published last year about the author’s childhood during the thirties in the Palestinian village of Bitouniyya. He writes about youths who found relief for their homosexual desires in ruins outside the village. The need to escape the village was totally logical, and needs no clarification.
That was life in a small village near Jerusalem in the thirties, but even today the Muslim world is not prepared to accept homosexuality. An article in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masaa on May 14th 2001, demonstrates this. “These are socially ill people in need of intensive social therapy and a study of their circumstances,” said Dr. ‘Isa Karim, deputy head of the National Center for Criminal and Social Research in Embaba [Cairo neighborhood]. “Each of them has faced a crisis in his life that he was unable to solve, so he creates private pleasures to escape from his frustration of being unable to face this problem,” he added.
The interview with Karim was conducted while 54 homosexual men were being tried in Egypt, accused of “conspiring against the stability and security of Egypt”. The Egyptian press published their full names and professions, and tarnished their reputations nationwide.
A letter sent by an Egyptian man to a human rights organization, was published on the Internet site GayMiddleEast.com. It revealed the unique hardships of Egyptian homosexuals. This man had no connection to those on trial, but nevertheless he sounded terrified: “I have no idea how long I will be able to stay alive here [in Egypt],” he said. “My encounters with other gay men were always through the Egyptian chat room on a gay site. That was my only refuge. All the meetings were done in complete secrecy and under a lot of mental stress.” He added that the chat is not an option anymore, since through it some men were arrested. Undercover detectives would login to the chat and trap the gay participants. “I know that if I ever get arrested here for being gay, I will probably be raped to death in prison,” the Egyptian said.
GayMiddleEast.com publishes articles and personal stories of homosexuals across the Middle East. A personal story written recently by an Iraqi clarifies there is no room for people like him in Muslim society. “I am sad because our society dictates to me that I must marry one of those beautiful girls in our university or neighborhood,” he wrote.
A website called Queer Jihad offers a vast array of articles on relevant topics, and also supports a conference room via Yahoo. The web manager explains the reasons it was established. “Queer Jihad is the queer Muslim struggle for acceptance: first, the struggle to accept ourselves as being exactly the way Allah [God] has created us to be; and secondly, the struggle for understanding among Muslims in general.”
Indeed, one of the biggest problems homosexuals in the Muslim society face is whether their being gay deems them heretic.
In Saudi Arabia, a state in which the Islamic law rules, there is not much debate on the matter. Three people were executed three years ago after being charged with various crimes regarding homosexuality and pedophilia. The Saudi Interior Ministry issued an announcement in which it described sodomy and cross-dressing as “the extreme obscenity of homosexuality and imitating women.” The three were beheaded.
The Muslims’ holy scriptures, the Quran and the Hadith [traditions], written in the seventh and eighth centuries, when Islam first emerged, refer to homosexuality a number of times. Here are a few examples:
The Quranic chapter called ‘The Spider’: “And we [God] sent forth Lot to his people. He said to them: ‘You commit indecent acts that no other nation has committed before you. You lust after men and assault them on your highways. You turn your gatherings into orgies.’”
Another reference appears in the chapter called ‘The Heights’: “You commit the carnal act, in lust, with men instead of women. Truly you are an impious people.” ‘The Poets’ chapter also refers to the issue – “Will you fornicate with males and leave your wives whom God has created for you? Surely you are great transgressors.”
There is no doubt that the use of the Internet in the Arab world has given the Arab homosexual community options it did not have before. However, because Arab societies still perceive members of the gay community as perverts, they remain in their closets — living a lie, with no one to talk to except for their virtual friends.