Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Homosexuality in the Middle East Essay Example for Free

Homosexuality in the Middle East Essay Homosexuality lacks respect in the Middle East. It is considered to be an immense scandal. Nowadays, the idea of gay marriage is completely disregarded. They don’t display it on Arabic television. The media is controlled by the government, and hence they are not allowed to air or publish such ‘dishonors’. Therefore, most Arabs remain unaware and ignorant. There are undoubtedly many homosexuals in the Middle East who hope to get married. However, the chief problem is that it’s against the law. The Middle Eastern governments have placed rules and regulations against homosexuals. If they were to alter their rules, the Arab community may begin to accept the gay community. Furthermore, another chief problem is that the government is heavily influenced by religion. All prevalent religions do not approve of gay marriage. Hence, if marriage were to become civil, gay marriage might be permitted in the future. But in order for all these actions to take place, the Arab community must unite and try to make a change. Gay marriage should become an acknowledged concept in the Middle Eastern society. The Arab governments are one of the principal obstacles that are preventing gay marriage from happening. They decree many rules and regulations that are against homosexuals. One such example of these laws is Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code, a result of French colonialism, in consideration of diehard religious groups and sects. Article 534 states that: â€Å"sexual intercourse contrary to nature is punishable for up to 1 year in prison†. This article, in essence, deprives a large Lebanese demographic from partaking in ordinary civil life, and restricts their civil liberties. By restricting civil liberties, this so-called â€Å"law† prevents the democratic process from occurring smoothly for all citizens, and is an obvious black mark on the face of the supposedly â€Å"free† Lebanese democracy. This article also prevents Lebanese homosexuals from being properly integrated into society, and they therefore seek other Western societies, that are more open to homosexuality, and emigrate in search of a better life. Article 534 includes â€Å"the act of Sodomy, or any sexual intercourse between two men, which includes penetration†. The article, theoretically and legally, does not concern intercourse that does not include penetration, and does not include sexual acts between two women. The execution of this article has been scarce in modern day Lebanon, and so a conclusion can be made that it is used instead to prevent any debate on sexuality from occurring. One Helem article cites that â€Å"The association of unnatural acts with homosexuality contradicts modern scientific foundations, especially psychological and medical studies and research that removed homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses, something recognized by the World Health Organization on 17 May 1992, a date that was announced as ‘the international day against homophobia’. † (Helem) (Helem is the first LGBT organization in Lebanon). In Islam, homosexuals (called qaum Lut, the people of Lot) are condemned in the story of Lots people in the Quran (15:73; 26:165) and in the last address of the Prophet Muhammad. However, attraction of men to â€Å"beautiful male youths† has been a part of the culture of some Islamic societies and the attraction is not usually looked down upon in itself. When it comes to lesbian homosexuality, some have argued that since penetration is not involved, female homosexual acts should be less severely punished. Islamic law is most concerned with openly gay public behavior, so there is no strong disapproval of homosexuality if it is not displayed in public (Homosexuality, Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Religions. ) ‘Struggle for Gay Rights in the Middle East’ is an article that was written by Hala Gorani for CNN. One of the situations mentioned in the article is how the Egyptian police invaded a homosexual hangout on the river Nile called the Queen Boat. Some of the people who were involved in the hangout were arrested and imprisoned for sin. The article also notes that when governments raid homosexual gatherings, they do it for political instead of ethical reasons. Brian Whitaker, in his paper ‘Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East’, argues that homophobia in Arab Muslim countries â€Å"is not a religious or a cultural issue, but is foremost a political problem of which culture and religion are reliant factors†, arguing that Homophobia in the Muslim world can be attributed to the attitude this world has to its counterpart, the modern secular European and Western civilization. Whitaker goes on to write that attitudes concerning homosexuality in the Middle East have become increasingly intertwined with politics on an international scale, stating that â€Å"claiming that homosexuality is anti-Islamic, or against the Arab ‘nature,’ has become a way to oppose Western policies†. The Muslim world views gay rights as a Western import, imposed on them by the changing world in view of globalization, and the stronger â€Å"imperialist forces†. But, even if the government were to change its laws concerning the issue of homosexuality, the people’s view on the subject might not change at all. Since the conservative citizen’s view on the issue is so deeply rooted in his beliefs already, it wouldn’t matter to him/her if the government changed a few rules and stuck some new wording in the Penal Code. They would still think the same thing, and say the same hateful things. Another major difficulty is the social rejection of gays in the modern Arab society. Most Arab people disregard and disrespect homosexuals. A recent article in BBC news written by John Muir called ‘Iraqi gay men face ‘lives in hell’ describes how a young boy was caught wearing women’s underwear. Men poked the boy with sticks and interrogated him, asking why he was dressed in such a manner. The boy frightfully explained that he was trying to aid his family’s monetary situation. Another event that was mentioned in Muir’s article was harassment. Homosexual Iraqi men were often harassed and brutally murdered for being what they were. Several dead men were found lying near placards with the terms ‘puppies’ and ‘perverts’ written on them. Another article called ‘People Think it’s a Mental Illness’, published in The Guardian, by Brian Whitaker accounts his travels around the Middle East, where he interviewed many homosexuals. One of the people he interviewed told him that his brother actually threatened him at gunpoint when his homosexuality was discovered. Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code, mentioned earlier, is used as Blackmail in Lebanon. One BBC article, in an interview with Helem’s co-ordinator George Azzi states that The authorities use this article to blackmail homosexuals by asking for money or using violence or insults, all the while knowing that it will cost them nothing at all to do so. The article also states that many gay men have lost their jobs after being uncovered as gay, and they suffer from verbal and physical abuse and degradation (especially in the case of more effeminate gay men). This hardship also exists within the family, where a majority of gay men have been threatened with murder and are kicked out of their houses. The article goes on to say that if a gay man or woman were to be a doctor or lawyer, he/she would be in a very tough situation, where people would lose f aith in their ability to treat them or give them legal advice. The only for the gay Arab community to escape social judgement is simply by keeping themselves in the closet, and restricting their beliefs only to themselves, in order not to get caught. This repression of attitude would definitely lead to major psychological and social problems for Arab homosexuals, most notably depression and social isolation from one’s social group, in order not to be judged or criticised for who he/she is. The gay individual may also start to feel denial because of his/her sexual orientation, and would start considering suicide as an easy way out. All these factors would not work well for the gay community, and would therefore lead to its downfall, and then the government would have won. Another important issue that needs to be tackled in the idea of civil marriage in the Middle East; traditionally, marriages are conducted by a Priest or a Sheik, with no regard to inter-religious marriages (sort of like a religion caste system). People of different religious backgrounds who want to get married usually travel to European countries, where civil marriages are conducted routinely, in order to obtain a legal marriage license and elope. Civil marriage has not been recognized in many, if not all, Arab countries, and multi-sectarian Arab governments steadfastly oppose the idea of legalizing civil marriage, where the idea of civil marriage takes â€Å"God† out of the sacred bond between man and woman. Since civil marriage is illegal in these countries, so is marriage between homosexual members of society, as they cannot get married in a church of mosque (even though some priests who are open to the idea may officiate gay marriages inside their respective churches, but the marriage would still go unnoticed by the government). Both the former Lebanese Minister of Interior Affairs and the current Maronite Patriarch (surprisingly enough) have voiced their opinions on being with the idea of civil marriage in Lebanon, but no action to pass a law concerning this issue has taken place as of yet. If civil marriages are legalized in these countries, then same-sex partners have the right, and the choice, to get married if they wanted to. In one Guardian article, entitled ‘What’s wrong with being gay and Muslim? , Brian Whitaker talks about how many Arab same-sex couples, or same-sex couples of Muslim descent in Britain are looking to civil marriage there in order to have a legal binding marriage contract. Whitaker gives one such example, writing that â€Å"two lesbians arrived at their local register office to tie the knot, both were Muslims and both were wearing hijabs†; saying that that was the first Muslim gay marriage to take place in England. The question still remains, if civil marriage we re to become legal at some point in the future, would Arab same-sex couples still want to tie the knot locally? They would remain afraid and weary of the repercussions that might result as a product of their marriage, and of the backlash of the conservative religious communities in these countries, and would probably not consider local Arab civil marriage a good solution, and would travel abroad anyway. In closing, the issue of homosexuality in the Middle East is still a taboo topic, regardless of the winds of change that might be sweeping part of the region. The point is they have still not had their effect on the region as a whole. The question of homophobia in these areas should be answered, is it one of culture and rejecting diversity, or is it a question of rejecting foreign politics and holding a united front against the western world? In any case, homophobia should not even still be a phenomenon of our 21st century civilization, whether locally or abroad. It is mainly a discussion on racism in general, and racism as a whole should have been abolished a long while ago. One day, the Middle Eastern governments will alter their challenging policies and people will begin to understand how ordinary gay marriage is. People should not feel troubled to be exposed and generate awareness to others around them. The face of the Middle East should case to be the face of extremism and terrorism, and should start being the face of a shining beacon of revolution and change, and especially of tolerance and unity. Marriage is first and foremost based on love, so why deny same-sex couples their right to love?

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