July 3, 2019
Original title in JNS: Arab homophobia and Western indifference
Gay men are driven underground in Muslim countries—Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia—where being outed means facing the ultimate sentence of death by stoning.
A recent poll conducted by the BBC shows that most Arab populations evince a strikingly low tolerance for homosexuality; a somewhat higher proportion find honor killings “acceptable.” The poll also uncovered predictable bigotry toward Jews and Israel. Ben Cohen comments:
The Arab population with the lowest tolerance for homosexuality is the Palestinians, just 5 percent of whom believe that being gay is “acceptable.” In Jordan, that number is seven percent, in Sudan 17 percent, and in Algeria, a comparatively open-minded 26 percent. . . . The fact that these [bigoted] views co-exist with anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and violent misogyny shows that a kind of reverse intersectionality prevails in the Arab world.
It isn’t an accident that hatred of Israel goes hand-in-hand with hatred of homosexuals and justification of the murder of females (25 percent of Moroccans, 21 percent of Jordanians, and 8 percent of Palestinians think this practice is “acceptable”). They go together because they are products of the prevailing political and religious environment. The same passions that animate opposition to the existence of Israel as a “colonial interloper” underlie the conviction that homosexuality is a distinctive sin of the West. It is, you might say, a strange mixture of pre-modern views about human freedom with post-modern views about the ills of Western imperialism. . . .
In 1979—40 years ago, that is—an Iranian feminist with the pseudonym “Atoussa H.” published a devastating critique of the Western left’s appeasement of the social conservatism that accompanied the Islamist revolution in Iran. “The left,” [she wrote], “should not let itself be seduced by a cure that is perhaps worse than the disease.” Recent history shows that the Western left was seduced. And nothing that Atoussa H. noted at that time has really changed.
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