Sunday, April 22, 2007

Homosexuals in the Kingdom

The monthly Magazine the Atlantic, ran a story by Nadya Labi in its May issue on homosexuality in Saudi Arabia, and how gay men and women in Saudi Arabia live their lives in a seemingly strict society and yet maintain a thriving homosexual culture and even running a beauty pageant of gay men.

The story, titled " the closet Kingdom" is startling in that it shows a stark picture of Saudi Arabia different from the one we are used to hear about in the media, which is normally a country that is very strict socially and religiously.
Remarkably enough, the writer interviewed many Saudi men who appeared to be shameless about their homosexuality and also Saudi women who engage in lesbian activities with other women though done in secrecy but did not seem to bother them however.
Yasser, a young gay Saudi was quoted saying that “ it is easier to be gay here than straight” Yasser was of course referring to the strict separation of sexes in the Kingdom therefore making easier for Saudi men to congregate and if they were homosexuals to engage in homosexual activities with other men.

Gay westerners, quoted in the story, described Saudi Arabia as “ Gay haven” a gay South African man remarked that even though South Africa allows gay marriage yet there are more gays in Saudi Arabia than South Africa”
That said however, the idea of being gay in an “ Arab” contest is different from the western idea of being gay. Gay in a western sense is a sort of identity, whereas in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries is more like a” behavior” not an identity.
Arab Gulfies are known in the Arab world, the story goes, for their inclination toward homosexual relations with men and boys.
Osama Fawzi, editor of Huston based Arab Times, the most popular Arab American paper in the US and who had lived in the United Arab Emirates in the seventies said when I spoke on the phone for this column that “homosexuality is not unusual in the gulf societies, in fact for any respectable wedding in the UAE the family must bring a band of gay boys to entertain the guests”
In the UAE they call a gay man “ Saroukh” said Mr. Fawzi. “Saroukh” means rocket.
Kuwait is another Gulf country where homosexuality and pedophiles are found almost everywhere. Last year a story made headlines when two gay Kuwaitis got married and threw a wedding party in Egypt.

Fuad Al-Hashem a well-known Kuwaiti columnist for the Al-Watan newspaper is perhaps the best-known openly homosexual Kuwaiti. Though Mr. Hashem was married and had a daughter but that did not seem to prevent him from having sexual encounters with other men according to a public statement he made a few years ago.
In Oman, another gulf country where having sex with boys and gay relationship is not unusual. Oman is well known for those types of activities according to Mr. Fawzi.
This is all sound very strange especially for the manly Arab culture that stresses manhood and valor but for the Saudi and Kuwaiti pedophiles, however, they would still consider themselves as machismo men and not gay men. This contradiction in the way being Gay in the Gulf Arab societies and Gay in the Western sense is diminishing because of Arab Gays exposure to Gay rights in western societies and for some there is a need to be recognized as gays and lesbians.

Yasmeen is another young Saudi female who has sexual relations with another women in her college, and who said this type of behavior is very common in all-girls Saudi schools and colleges.
But the writer of the story made critical errors in trying to show that the Islamic faith did not condemn this type of behavior in more strict and obvious terms.

This however does not mean that Islam endorses this type of behavior, which was not common in the desert society and the Arab tribes Islam was born into. Homosexuality therefore would fall under more general rules of vice and virtue laws such as adultery and extramarital relationships.
Lack of mentioning homosexuality and not having a pronounced and a clear punishment for it in the Islamic jurisprudence system as in the case of adultery between a heterosexual man and a woman, does not give license or imply that such relationships were condoned. Homosexuality was and still is uncommon in the Arab and Muslim world, despite its pocket existence as in the case of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

Abu Al-Nuwas (The Atlantic erroneously identified him as Aby Nuwaf) was a famous poet during the Abbasid era, in the eighth century and wrote long poems about Alcohol and the love of boys but that should not be taken, as a representative of something like a “gay culture” as the writer of The Atlantic seemed to insinuate. The writer Nadya Labi gives the meaning in her report that Gay relationships were common and prevalent in those days or that Islamic morality and value system was or still lenient when it comes to such behavior.

The report also missed the whole idea when the writer spoke of Saudi men looking at boys with lust and want as an evidence of gayness or homosexuality instead of treating the subject pedophiles preying upon their young victims.

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