Islam's Love-Hate Relationship with Homosexuality
By Serge Trifkovic
FrontPageMagazine.com | 1/24/2003
One in a series of excerpts adapted by Robert Locke from Dr. Serge Trifkovic’s new book
The Sword of the Prophet: A Politically-Incorrect Guide to Islam
“This sin, the impact of which makes one’s skin crawl, which words cannot describe, is evidence of perverted instincts, total collapse of shame and honor, and extreme filthiness of character and soul… The heavens, the Earth and the mountains tremble from the impact of this sin. The angels shudder as they anticipate the punishment of Allah to descend upon the people who commit this indescribable sin.” (1)
There are many sins in Islam that may fit this description, from idolatry, atheism, and apostasy, to drunkenness, adultery, and questioning the divine origin of the Koran. In this particular instance it refers to homosexuality, for which a death sentence remains on the statute books and is enforced in several Islamic countries.
In Saudi Arabia on April 16, 2001, five homosexuals were sentenced to 2,600 lashes and 6 years in prison, and four others to 2,400 lashes and 5 years’ imprisonment for “deviant sexual behavior.” Amnesty International subsequently reported that six men were executed on charges of deviant sexual behavior, some of which were related to their sexual orientation, but it was uncertain whether the six men who were executed were among the nine who were sentenced to flogging and imprisonment in April (2).
It is difficult to establish precisely the number of homosexuals that have been executed in Iran since the Islamic revolution in 1979, since not all sentences are widely publicized, but estimates range from several hundred to 4,000 (3). According to Amnesty International, at least three homosexual men and two lesbians were publicly beheaded in January 1990. The Islamic Penal Law Against Homosexuals, approved in July 1991 and ratified in November of that year, is simple. Article 110: “Punishment for sodomy is killing; the Sharia judge decides on how to carry out the killing.” Article 129: “Punishment for lesbianism is one hundred (100) lashes for each party.” Article 131: “If the act of lesbianism is repeated three times and punishment is enforced each time, the death sentence will be issued the fourth time.”
While the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, it regularly executed homosexuals. Islamic jurists in Kabul and Kandahar only differed on the method of killing. One group of scholars believed the condemned should be taken to the top of the highest building in the city and hurled to their deaths, while others advocated placing them in a pit next to a wall which was to be toppled on them, so that they are buried alive. Both methods were solidly grounded in authoritative tradition, and both were applied. At least five men convicted of sodomy by Afghanistan’s sharia courts had been “placed next to walls by Taliban officials and then buried under the rubble as the walls were toppled upon them.” In one such incident, three homosexuals were punished thus while Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar watched along with thousands of spectators. After the 30-minute waiting period, the three men were still alive, but two died the next day. What became of the third is unknown (4). The punishment by stoning is derived from the Koranic account of Sodom’s destruction by a “rain of stones,” which was itself the product of Mohammed’s misunderstanding of the Hebrew story of “fire and brimstone,” i.e. sulfur:
“We also (sent) Lut: he said to his people: “Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.” And his people gave no answer but this: they said, “drive them out of your city: these are indeed men who want to be clean and pure!” But We saved him and his family, except his wife: she was of those who lagged behind. And We rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): then see what was the end of those who indulged in sin and crime!” (5)
The Koranic claim that homosexuality was unknown before it first appeared in Sodom is a uniquely Islamic concept; so is the notion that its destruction was exclusively due to the homosexual practices of its inhabitants, a departure from the Hebrew Scriptures. In addition to the Koran many hadiths or authoritative traditional sayings mention liwat, (homosexual intercourse) e.g. “When a man mounts another man, the throne of God shakes,” and “Kill the one that is doing it and also kill the one that it is being done to (6).” Mohammed’s first successor Abu Bakr reportedly had a homosexual burned at the stake. The fourth caliph, Mohammed’s son-in-law Ali, ordered a sodomite thrown from the minaret of a mosque. Others he ordered to be stoned. One of the earliest and most authoritative commentators on the Koran, Ibn ‘Abbas (died 687) blended both approaches into a two-step execution in which “the sodomite should be thrown from the highest building in the town and then stoned.” Later it was decided that if no building were tall enough, the he could be shoved off a cliff. Regardless of the exact method,
“Moslem Jurists agree that, if proven of guilt, both of them should be killed. However, jurists differ on the methodology of capital punishment (7).”
There are seven countries in the world that carry the death penalty for homosexual acts, and all of them justify this punishment with sharia.
In Moslem nations, the suppression of liaison between men and women outside prearranged wedlock has produced frustrated sexual tension that has sought and found release in homosexual intercourse through the centuries. Those denied access to licit sexuality have sought and obtained outlets that have produced chronic contradiction between normative morality and social realities. Male and female prostitution and same-sex practices — including abuse of young boys by their older male relatives — have been rampant in Islamic societies from the medieval to the modern period. It should be emphasized that those societies stress a distinction between the sexual act itself, which was deemed acceptable, and emotional attachment, which was unpardonable:
“Sexual relations in Middle Eastern societies have historically articulated social hierarchies, that is, dominant and subordinate social positions: adult men on top; women, boys and slaves below (8).”
A Moslem who is the active partner in sexual relations with other men is not considered a “homosexual” (the word has no pre-modern Arabic equivalent); quite the contrary, his sexual domination of another man may even confer a status of hyper-masculinity. He may use other men as substitutes for women, and at the same time have great contempt for them. This depraved view of sex, common in mainstream Moslem societies, is commonly found in the West only in prisons. In all cases it is the presence of love, affection, or equality among sexual partners that is intolerable. Equality in sexual relations is unimaginable in Islam, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Sex in Islamic societies has never been about mutuality between partners, but about the adult male’s achievement of pleasure through domination.
Historically, this state of affairs was not concealed from Western observers who were fascinated, shocked, and often attracted by the outward appearances of rampant, barely concealed pederasty. By 1800, a European traveler to Egypt wrote:
“The inconceivable inclination which has dishonored the Greeks and Persians of antiquity constitutes the delight, or, more properly speaking the infamy of the Egyptians ... the contagion has seized the poor as well as the rich.”
The “contagion” in question was spelled out more bluntly by an earlier writer, Thomas Sherley, describing the Turks:
“For their Sodommerye they use it soe publiquely and impudentlye as an honest Christian woulde shame to companye his wyffe as they do with their buggeringe boys (9).”
A 17th century French visitor to the Middle East went so far as to claim that Moslems were bisexual by nature, and many male authors gave descriptions of “licentiousness” (lesbianism) among women in harems and bath houses. Homosexuality became known to the English as the “Persian” or “Turkish” vice.
This peculiar aspect of the Middle East has never entirely disappeared. The sight of men, even soldiers in uniform, strolling along a street hand in hand, strikes first-time visitors as extraordinary even today. The Moslem world enjoyed a reputation as a haven for sex with boys and men well into the twentieth century. The proclivities of many Western authors like Gustave Flaubert, Oscar Wilde, or Andre Gide, reflected the pederast and homosexual attractions of the Islamic world; the fascination continues in the “gay culture” of our own time:
But the bottom line - and it’s coming from a devout bottom - is that there’s still something extremely sensual and potent about the image of the Islamic male. You only have to compare the stiff, asexual frigidity of Bush and his bookmarmish wife with the moist-eyed, sensitive and soft-spoken quality of the bearded Bin Laden, feminine yet virile, with his multiple wives and vast progeny, to grasp the difference (10).
The author of this passage, a self-confessed promiscuous homosexual, has intuited something important, and dangerous. Excessively doting, downtrodden mothers fixated on their offspring, and aloof, mostly distant and domineering fathers, create preconditions for what is known in clinical psychology as the “lost object homosexuality,” as opposed to the pre-Oedipal polyformous homosexuality, which is “love for men.” The cry for the missing father, that emanates across the Moslem world into the endless void from a hundred thousand minarets five times each day, can never be answered. The hatred that motivates Bin Laden and his “feminine yet virile” followers is not the normal aggressiveness of the child for the father at the Oedipal stage, which can be mediated and managed, but hard-core psychotic homosexuality of the son abandoned by his father, a near-incurable condition that can lead to homicidal, delusional paranoia.
This condition is well known to the practitioners of clinical psychology and psychoanalysis in Great Britain, where thousands of sons of upper and upper-middle-class families end up in neo-Islamic establishments known as Public Schools. It is not too far-fetched to conclude that British Islamophilia under Disraeli and after was not merely due to the usual game of balancing the powers:
“I sometimes wonder if there is not some horrifying attraction, especially for English boys brought up in a public school, to the brutal manliness that regards sodomitic rape as an expression of virility. In any event, a series of Anglo-Saxon males who have gone in search of their manhood found it in Islamic culture: Sir Richard Burton, T.E. Lawrence, and Pasha Club are at the head of a large pack, whose rear is brought up by the academic camp-followers and foundation executives who find, in their defense of Islam, the excuse for their hatred of Jews (11).”
Men and women have been created different, and the recognition of those differences is essential in any society that does not want to follow the path of post-modern depravity. The denial of that difference is essential in the Faustian experiment to which the West is subjecting itself, and those who do not wish to partake in the proceedings may find Islam’s frank admission of difference between sexes alluring; but that is the lure of dementia as the cure for cancer. Islam has found the opposite extreme of the modern West’s bed-hopping unisex feminism, and has found it equally a source of opposite, though equally poisonous, pathologies. The traditional Western view, a balance between sexual equality and sexual difference, between freedom and restraint, is the best answer. Islam’s problem of homosexuality, a reflection of the deeper psychosis endemic to the Islamic world view, illustrates a problem that cannot be solved short of Islam’s thorough and comprehensive reform and revision.
1. Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Fawzan, The Evil Sin of Homosexuality http://www.islamweb.net/english/family/sociaffair/socaff-84.html
2. Associated Press, April 16, 2001.
4. Amnesty International report, May 1998
6. Further examples are listed at http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_isla.htm
8. Bruce Dunne, “Power and Sexuality in the Middle East,” Middle East Report, Spring 1998.
9. Brian Whitaker in The Guardian, November 19, 2001 http://www.guardian.co.uk/Print/0,3858,4302213,00.html
11. Th. Fleming, Chronicles (1999), op. cit.
Serge Trifkovic received his PhD from the University of Southampton in England and pursued postdoctoral research at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. His past journalistic outlets have included the BBC World Service, the Voice of America, CNN International, MSNBC, U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Times of London, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He is foreign affairs editor of Chronicles.
Homosexuality on trial in Egypt
Same-sex relationships are as common in the Middle East as in Europe, but the difference is public perceptions, writes Brian Whitaker
* Brian Whitaker
* Monday November 19 2001 13:51 GMT
* Article history
In 1800, a European traveller to Egypt wrote: "The inconceivable inclination which has dishonoured the Greeks and Persians of antiquity constitutes the delight, or, more properly speaking the infamy of the Egyptians ... the contagion has seized the poor as well as the rich."
The "contagion" in question was spelled out more bluntly by an earlier writer, Thomas Sherley, describing the Turks: "For their Sodommerye they use it soe publiquely and impudentlye as an honest Christian woulde shame to companye his wyffe as they do with their buggeringe boys".
A 17th century French visitor to the Middle East went so far as to claim that Muslims were bisexual by nature, and numerous male authors gave descriptions of "licentiousness" (i.e. lesbianism) among women in harems and bath houses that they could not possibly have witnessed.
In those days, homosexuality was known in Britain as the "Persian" or "Turkish" vice. That image of the Middle East has never entirely disappeared, and first-time visitors today are often struck by the sight of men, sometimes even soldiers in uniform, strolling along a street hand in hand.
The mistake here is to imagine that spoken language is the only gulf between cultures. Body language and customs also need translating if they are not to be misunderstood.
Confused signals can, of course, travel in both directions. A handbook issued to western students by the American University in Cairo warns: "Earrings on men are considered to be a sign of homosexuality".
A Jordanian (who had never visited Britain) once informed me that London is full of discos where "girlboys" dance together. Such behaviour, naturally, is known to many Arabs as the "English" vice.
The truth of the matter, so far as anyone really knows, is that same-sex relationships are neither more nor less common in the Middle East than anywhere else - though attitudes towards them differ.
Although Islam strongly disapproves of sex between men, Muslim societies have generally been tolerant in practice, especially where relationships are discreet. One of the most celebrated poets of classical Arabic literature indulged in wine and young men in equal quantities, but literary merit seems to have excused his behaviour.
The relatively open and liberal attitudes in much of the Arab world obviously came as a great shock to the straight-laced European travellers of the 18th and 19th centuries. The first people in Egypt to demand a law against homosexuality were the British, during the colonial period.
Curiously, though, over the last few decades, these positions have been reversed. Europe and North America have become more liberal towards homosexuality while some of the Arab countries have become more conservative - possibly in order to appease Islamic militants.
Last week, in the biggest gay trial that Egypt has ever seen, 23 men were sentenced to between one and five years' imprisonment for "debauchery" (since homosexuality itself is not illegal). Twenty-nine others, who had been held in jail for six months awaiting trial, were acquitted.
In advance of the trial, Egyptian newspapers published the full names and addresses of the accused - who included a university professor, three doctors and a lawyer - so there is little chance that those who were cleared will be able to return to a normal life.
The case began last May with a police raid on the Queen Boat, a floating disco on the Nile in Cairo, which was known as a gay - but not exclusively gay - venue. A number of women who inconveniently happened to be on board were allowed to go free.
Egypt's popular media reported the affair with a mixture of homophobia and xenophobia. Homosexuality, in their eyes, is a foreign phenomenon - an illness that Egyptians, if they are not careful, risk catching from westerners. Having caught it they may, in the words of one newspaper, go on to "infect others", thus threatening the Egyptian way of life.
It therefore came as no surprise that the central figure in the case, 32-year-old Sherif Farahat, was said to have been a regular visitor to the gay fleshpots of Europe and - adding a touch of regional politics - Israel.
To highlight the danger to the nation, the case was not heard in an ordinary court but in the state security court, specially set up some years ago to deal with suspected terrorists. The front-page headline of a Cairo newspaper reinforced this view: "Perverts declare war on Egypt".
Although novels by famous Egyptian writers such as Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz, and several films, portray gay characters living normally in society and causing no public outcry, it has never been easy to be gay in Egypt. In poor areas, men who seem feminine or act in a camp manner are ridiculed and sometimes beaten.
Gay characters in modern Arab novels and films usually meet with unhappiness or tragedy. Their sexual relationships with foreigners are often a metaphor for western domination or Arab revenge against it.
One popular explanation for same-sex relationships among young people in the Middle East is that those involved are not really gay, but social insistence on the virginity of unmarried women drives them to seek other outlets.
This is simply not true, according to one Egyptian gay activist who asked to be known only as Ahmed. "Heterosexual sex is freely available," he said. "Women who need to be virgins can have an operation to restore their virginity before they marry. It's very simple and quite cheap." (The cost is normally less than £200.)
It is much more common, he said, for gay young men to be forced into marriages they do not want. Those who display the wrong inclinations are likely to be beaten by their fathers until they find a wife or run away from home. In better-off families they may be sent for a "cure".
Ahmed told of a friend whose father discovered he was having a gay relationship and, after a beating, bundled him off to a psychiatrist.
"The treatment involved showing him pictures of men and women and giving him electric shocks if he looked at the men," Ahmed said. "After a few weeks of this he persuaded a woman to pretend to be his girlfriend. His father was happy for a while - until he found a text message from the boyfriend on his son's mobile phone."
The beatings started again and the young man fled to the United States.
No one is absolutely sure what prompted the recent mass trial in Cairo, but it seems that the internet played a part.
While discreet gay relationships are tolerated in Egypt up to a point, concepts such as "gay identity" and "gay lifestyle" are not recognised. There has never been a "gay community" of the kind found in many western cities.
This began to change in Egypt with the arrival of the internet. Websites and email lists allowed previously isolated gays to make contact and tell each other about social events.
About the same time, the Egyptian police set up a special internet crimes unit. With internet use mainly confined to the country's law-abiding middle classes, there was little real work for them to do, but they needed to show results and spotted a few international dating sites where Egyptian men were seeking to meet other men.
"Some found themselves invited out for a date and got arrested when they turned up," one man said. In February, a computer engineer was jailed for 15 months and an accountant for three months for having committed a "scandalous act" - advertising sexual services on the web.
Many Egyptian gays believe the government has cracked down because they were starting to come into the open. Ahmed Ghanem, a western-educated film director, says that the internet made it easier to find gay hangouts, and many upper-class gays no longer felt a need to hide.
"This has led to a negative reaction among ordinary Egyptians who do not believe that sex is something to speak about in public," he says.
Meanwhile, half a dozen Egyptian gay websites have closed down, leaving only gayegypt.com, which is registered in London and uses a server in California. It carries a warning on its home page that visitors may be monitored by the Egyptian authorities.
The gay emailing lists, in turn, have been deluged with "unsubscribe" messages. Since the arrests, one has dropped from 300 subscribers to nine (of whom only six are Egyptians).
· Thanks to Khaled Dawoud, the Guardian's correspondent in Cairo, for assistance with this article.
Why are the Turks obsessed with homosexuality? It seems that's all they talk about. Is it because their culture is drenched in it? The funny thing however is that the Turks on here seem to be in denial(as usual)about this aspect of their history too.
...hamams/men bathing other men, tellaks, Turkish Prisons and all those young boy references in Islam. etc etc etc.
"The sexual doings of the Turks came under frequent criticism by their Christian neighbors. The Chronicles of the Moldavian Land mention that the Ottomans upon the sack of Crimea in 1475, sailed away with a galleon filled with one hundred and fifty young boys destined for "the filthy sodomy of the whoring Turk." Thomas Sherley, held captive by the Ottomans between 1603 and 1605 under harsh circumstances, reported in his Discourse of the Turks that "For their Sodommerye they use it soe publiquely and impudentlye as an honest Christian woulde shame to companye his wyffe as they do with their buggeringe boys." John Cam Hobhouse an early traveller to Istanbul with his friend Lord Byron described the köçek dances as "beastly" and the anonymous poem Don Leon (written in the voice of Byron and ascribed to him by some), referred to Turkish boy prostitution as a "monstrous scene." Osman Agha of Temeşvar who fell captive to the Austrians in 1688 wrote in his memoirs that one night an Austrian boy approached him for sex, telling him "for I know all Turks are pederasts".
Monday, September 22, 2008
Islam's Love-Hate Relationship with Homosexuality