“Gay Travels in the Muslim World”–the world of Islamic gays

Luongo, Michael T., editor. “Gay Travels in the Muslim World”, The Haworth Press, 2007.

The World of Islamic Gays

Amos Lassen

Since 9/11, much has been written about the Muslim world, painting it as a place where violence and terrorism rule. Having lived in the Middle East and having seen Muslim culture close-up, I knew this is not true. I venture to say that of all of the cultures in the world, we know perhaps the least about the followers of Islam. Michael Luongo attempts to give us a picture of an even lesser known aspect of Muslim life—the gay scene. Here are stories of traveling in the region of the Middle East at a critical time in history—after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Here is a personal view of gay Arabs as told by the men themselves.

This is a much needed book, mainly because gay Muslims are so isolated. When I lived in Israel, I had a few friends who were Palestinian gays and they were Muslims. I heard terrible stories about the way gays were treated in the Arab world and several of the Palestinians, even though at odds with the politics of Israel, tried to get permission to live there in order to escape the inhumanity toward gays where they lived. Here was a real double bind.

One of the main problems we have with the Arab world is based upon our own ignorance about it. There laws are interwoven into the society as well as with issues of sexuality and its interpretations and definitions. I this book we have representatives from Morocco, Egypt, India as well as other countries and American Muslims. There is also testimony from a Peace Corps volunteer and a soldier on his tour of duty in Iraq.

What is so interesting here is that this is the first book on the issues that is post-Taliban and not an academic study.

There are so many misconceptions about the Muslim world that this book is a treasure to have as it allows us to look at the words of individuals who actually live the Muslim life. It sees that Muslim society is ignorant of the struggle that gays have to deal with, Not only is gay existence objected to, it is rejected.

American hatred of Muslims has been based on misconceptions. As hard as it is for me, an Israeli and a Jew, to admit it, not all Arabs are terrorists and war-mongers. Muslims are thought of as living mysteriously and evilly and that they were treats to the American way of life. Interesting that we should think like that about a group of people most of had never had a contact with. The Middle East was a powder keg that could explode at any moment and the prejudice for the Muslim world continued to strengthen. We feared Muslims because of what we heard about them and because of what we didn’t know about them.

Since 9/11, homosexuality and how it relates to a world turned upside down as well as the traditions of the Islamic world have been in the forefront of the news. Some even feel that Islamic attitudes toward homosexuality might even be a cause of some of the problems in the world today. Even the American perception of homosexuality has been used as a reason for the turmoil in the world today, especially from the Islamic point of view. We can see that from the beginning of the conflict between the Islamic world and America, that homosexuality has played some part—whether we want to admit it or not. For that reason alone we must take a stand for human rights and in doing so we must make the world a better place for Muslim gays. We must listen to their stories, read their testimonies in a book like this and summon the courage to call for change. The stories in this volume give a range of experiences, some of which are very disturbing. It is time for us to start out on a journey against intolerance for if all men are brothers, we must assure that all men receive equal treatment. Much of the prejudice against Muslims is the same as the prejudice against gays—unfounded. Can you imagine what it is like to receive double doses of that intolerance because you are Muslim and happen to prefer your own sex?

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