Wednesday, November 2, 2016

834 Homosexuality in Saudi Arabia - just like Ancient Greece

(1) Homosexuality in Saudi Arabia - just like Ancient Greece
(2) Thierry Meyssan on Homosexuality in Islamic Countries

Newsletter published on 30 June 2016

I oppose Gay Marriage. But things are not always as they seem. Could
Saudi Arabia be the best place for Gays? Perhaps because there's no
Heterosexual Sex outside Marriage there? Camille Paglia's rejection of
"Gay" as personal identity comes to mind. The Ancient Greeks, despite
their homosexuality, did not consider themselves "Gay", any more than
modern Saudis do. - Peter M.

(1) Homosexuality in Saudi Arabia - just like Ancient Greece

The Kingdom in the Closet

Sodomy is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, but gay life flourishes
there. Why it is "easier to be gay than straight" in a society where
everyone, homosexual and otherwise, lives in the closet

Nadya Labi

May 2007 Issue

Yasser, a 26-year-old artist, was taking me on an impromptu tour of his
hometown of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on a sweltering September afternoon.
The air conditioner of his dusty Honda battled the heat, prayer beads
dangled from the rearview mirror, and the smell of the cigarette he’d
just smoked wafted toward me as he stopped to show me a barbershop that
his friends frequent. Officially, men in Saudi Arabia aren’t allowed to
wear their hair long or to display jewelry—such vanities are usually
deemed to violate an Islamic instruction that the sexes must not be too
similar in appearance. But Yasser wears a silver necklace, a silver
bracelet, and a sparkly red stud in his left ear, and his hair is
shaggy. Yasser is homosexual, or so we would describe him in the West,
and the barbershop we visited caters to gay men. Business is brisk.

Leaving the barbershop, we drove onto Tahlia Street, a broad avenue
framed by palm trees, then went past a succession of sleek malls and
slowed in front of a glass-and-steel shopping center. Men congregated
outside and in nearby cafés. Whereas most such establishments have a
family section, two of this area’s cafés allow only men; not
surprisingly, they are popular among men who prefer one another’s
company. Yasser gestured to a parking lot across from the shopping
center, explaining that after midnight it would be "full of men picking
up men." These days, he said, "you see gay people everywhere."

Yasser turned onto a side street, then braked suddenly. "Oh shit, it’s a
checkpoint," he said, inclining his head toward some traffic cops in
brown uniforms. "Do you have your ID?" he asked me. He wasn’t worried
about the gay-themed nature of his tour—he didn’t want to be caught
alone with a woman. I rummaged through my purse, realizing that I’d left
my passport in the hotel for safekeeping. Yasser looked behind him to
see if he could reverse the car, but had no choice except to proceed. To
his relief, the cops nodded us through. "God, they freaked me out,"
Yasser said. As he resumed his narration, I recalled something he had
told me earlier. "It’s a lot easier to be gay than straight here," he
had said. "If you go out with a girl, people will start to ask her
questions. But if I have a date upstairs and my family is downstairs,
they won’t even come up."

Notorious for its adherence to Wahhabism, a puritanical strain of Islam,
and as the birthplace of most of the 9/11 hijackers, Saudi Arabia is the
only Arab country that claims sharia, or Islamic law, as its sole legal
code. The list of prohibitions is long: It’s haram—forbidden—to smoke,
drink, go to discos, or mix with an unrelated person of the opposite
gender. The rules are enforced by the mutawwa'in, religious authorities
employed by the government’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and
Prevention of Vice.

The kingdom is dominated by mosques and malls, which the mutawwa'in
patrol in leather sandals and shortened versions of the thawb, the
traditional ankle-length white robe that many Saudis wear. Some
mutawwa'in even bear marks of their devotion on their faces; they bow to
God so adamantly that pressing their foreheads against the ground leaves
a visible dent. The mutawwa'in prod shoppers to say their devotions when
the shops close for prayer, several times daily. If they catch a boy and
a girl on a date, they might haul the couple to the police station. They
make sure that single men steer clear of the malls, which are
family-only zones for the most part, unless they are with a female
relative. Though the power of the mutawwa'in has been curtailed
recently, their presence still inspires fear.

In Saudi Arabia, sodomy is punishable by death. Though that penalty is
seldom applied, just this February a man in the Mecca region was
executed for having sex with a boy, among other crimes. (For this
reason, the names of most people in this story have been changed.) Ask
many Saudis about homosexuality, and they’ll wince with repugnance. "I
disapprove," Rania, a 32-year-old human-resources manager, told me
firmly. "Women weren’t meant to be with women, and men aren’t supposed
to be with men."

This legal and public condemnation notwithstanding, the kingdom leaves
considerable space for homosexual behavior. As long as gays and lesbians
maintain a public front of obeisance to Wahhabist norms, they are left
to do what they want in private. Vibrant communities of men who enjoy
sex with other men can be found in cosmopolitan cities like Jeddah and
Riyadh. They meet in schools, in cafés, in the streets, and on the
Internet. "You can be cruised anywhere in Saudi Arabia, any time of the
day," said Radwan, a 42-year-old gay Saudi American who grew up in
various Western cities and now lives in Jeddah. "They’re quite shameless
about it." Talal, a Syrian who moved to Riyadh in 2000, calls the Saudi
capital a "gay heaven."

This is surprising enough. But what seems more startling, at least from
a Western perspective, is that some of the men having sex with other men
don’t consider themselves gay. For many Saudis, the fact that a man has
sex with another man has little to do with "gayness." The act may
fulfill a desire or a need, but it doesn’t constitute an identity. Nor
does it strip a man of his masculinity, as long as he is in the "top,"
or active, role. This attitude gives Saudi men who engage in homosexual
behavior a degree of freedom. But as a more Westernized notion of
gayness—a notion that stresses orientation over acts—takes hold in the
country, will this delicate balance survive? ‘They will seduce you’

When Yasser hit puberty, he grew attracted to his male cousins. Like
many gay and lesbian teenagers everywhere, he felt isolated. "I used to
have the feeling that I was the queerest in the country," he recalled.
"But then I went to high school and discovered there are others like me.
Then I find out, it’s a whole society."

This society thrives just below the surface. During the afternoon,
traffic cops patrol outside girls’ schools as classes end, in part to
keep boys away. But they exert little control over what goes on inside.
A few years ago, a Jeddah- based newspaper ran a story on lesbianism in
high schools, reporting that girls were having sex in the bathrooms.
Yasmin, a 21-year-old student in Riyadh who’d had a brief sexual
relationship with a girlfriend (and was the only Saudi woman who’d had a
lesbian relationship who was willing to speak with me for this story),
told me that one of the department buildings at her college is known as
a lesbian enclave. The building has large bathroom stalls, which provide
privacy, and walls covered with graffiti offering romantic and religious
advice; tips include "she doesn’t really love you no matter what she
tells you" and "before you engage in anything with [her] remember: God
is watching you." In Saudi Arabia, "It’s easier to be a lesbian [than a
heterosexual]. There’s an overwhelming number of people who turn to
lesbianism," Yasmin said, adding that the number of men in the kingdom
who turn to gay sex is even greater. "They’re not really homosexual,"
she said. "They’re like cell mates in prison."

This analogy came up again and again during my conversations. As Radwan,
the Saudi American, put it, "Some Saudi [men] can’t have sex with women,
so they have sex with guys. When the sexes are so strictly
segregated"—men are allowed little contact with women outside their
families, in order to protect women’s purity—"how do they have a chance
to have sex with a woman and not get into trouble?" Tariq, a 24-year-old
in the travel industry, explains that many "tops" are simply hard up for
sex, looking to break their abstinence in whatever way they can.
Francis, a 34-year-old beauty queen from the Philippines (in 2003 he won
a gay beauty pageant held in a private house in Jeddah by a group of
Filipinos), reported that he’s had sex with Saudi men whose wives were
pregnant or menstruating; when those circumstances changed, most of the
men stopped calling. "If they can’t use their wives," Francis said,
"they have this option with gays."

Gay courting in the kingdom is often overt—in fact, the preferred mode
is cruising. "When I was new here, I was worried when six or seven cars
would follow me as I walked down the street," Jamie, a 31-year-old
Filipino florist living in Jeddah, told me. "Especially if you’re pretty
like me, they won’t stop chasing you." John Bradley, the author of Saudi
Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis (2005), says that most male
Western expatriates here, gay or not, have been propositioned by Saudi
men driving by "at any time of the day or night, quite openly and
usually very, very persistently."

Many gay expatriates say they feel more at home in the kingdom than in
their native lands. Jason, a South African educator who has lived in
Jeddah since 2002, notes that although South Africa allows gay marriage,
"it’s as though there are more gays here." For Talal, Riyadh became an
escape. When he was 17 and living in Da-mas-cus, his father walked in on
him having sex with a male friend. He hit Talal and grounded him for two
months, letting him out of the house only after he swore he was no
longer attracted to men. Talal’s pale face flushed crimson as he
recalled his shame at disappointing his family. Eager to escape the
weight of their expectations, he took a job in Riyadh. When he announced
that he would be moving, his father responded, "You know all Saudis like
boys, and you are white. Take care." Talal was pleased to find a measure
of truth in his father’s warning—his fair skin made him a hit among the

Marcos, a 41-year-old from the Philippines, was arrested in 1996 for
attending a party featuring a drag show. He spent nine months in prison,
where he got 200 lashes, before being deported. Still, he opted to
return; he loves his work in fashion, which pays decently, and the
social opportunities are an added bonus. "Guys romp around and parade in
front of you," he told me. "They will seduce you. It’s up to you how
many you want, every day." ‘Gulf Arab Love’

One evening in Jeddah after a sandstorm, I sat in the glass rotunda of a
café on Tahlia Street. I’d spent many nights there, interviewing men who
were too nervous about being caught with a woman to invite me to their
apartments. In a country with no cinemas or clubs or bars, the family
sections of cafés and restaurants are popular dating haunts, and during
my time in Saudi Arabia, I saw many heterosexual couples talking quietly
together, while the girl’s cover—her girlfriends—sat nearby.

On this occasion, I was accompanied by Misfir, 34, who was showing me
how to navigate Paltalk, a Web site similar to the one where he met his
boyfriend three and a half years ago. Misfir told me that "bottoms"—men
willing to be penetrated—are in short supply, and he advised me that if
I wanted to generate responses to my postings, I should come up with a
screen name that hinted at such willingness. We settled on "jedbut," and
I logged on to the "Gulf Arab Love" chat room, introducing myself as a

Within minutes, I had more admirers than I could handle. They dispensed
with small talk, asking for my "ASL"—age, size, and location—without
preamble. "Jeddah_bythesea" cited his private dimensions and sent
electronic "nudges" when I was slow to respond. "Jedbuilt" pressed me to
continue the conversation by phone, but I was distracted by the flirty
attentions of jed-to-heart." However, jed-to-heart’s tone changed when I
revealed I was a journalist:

     JED-TO-HEART: I lie

     jedbut: who do you lie to?

     JED-TO-HEART: I lie in my work

     JED-TO-HEART: with my family

     JED-TO-HEART: but I’m gay

     JED-TO-HEART: I can’t say I’m gay

     jedbut: is that hard? to lie? do you tell people you like women?

     JED-TO-HEART: that why I lie

     jedbut: what do you think your family will do if they find out?

     JED-TO-HEART: yes

     jedbut: are you married?

     JED-TO-HEART: ohhhhhhhhhhhhh I think I will kill myselif

He went on to write that he kept his sexual preference a secret from
just about everyone, including his wife of five years.

Back in Gulf Arab Love the next day, I encountered "Anajedtop," who said
he liked both men and women; he too was married. I told him I was a
journalist, and we chatted for a bit. I asked him if we could meet. He
was hesitant, but he seemed curious to find out whether I was for real.
We arranged to get together that evening at the Starbucks on Tahlia
Street. I waited for him in the family section, which opens out onto the
mall and is surrounded by a screen of plants. A mall guard patrolled
just outside. At first, Anajedtop avoided my eyes, directing his
comments to my male interpreter. "I went in [the chat room] to get an
idea of the bad people in those rooms so that God will keep me away from
those kinds of things," he said, his leg jiggling nervously. He
abandoned this weak cover story as our conversation progressed.

He claimed to prefer women, though he admitted that few women frequent
the Gulf Arab Love chat room. In the absence of women, he said, he’d "go
with" a guy. "I go in and put up an offer," he said. "I set the tone.
I’m in control." To be in control, for Anajedtop, meant to be on top.
"It’s not in my nature to be a bottom," he said. I asked him whether he
was gay, and he responded, "No! A gay is against the norm. Anybody can
be a top, but only a gay can be a bottom." He added, "The worst thing is
to be a bottom."

The call to prayer sounded over a loudspeaker, and his leg began shaking
more insistently; he put a hand on his knee in a futile attempt to still
it. The guard hovered. "I’m worried the mutawwa'in might come,"
Anajedtop said, and rushed off to catch the evening prayer. What is ‘gay’?

In The History of Sexuality, a multivolume work published in the 1970s
and ’80s, Michel Foucault proposed his famous thesis that Western
academic, medical, and political discourse of the 18th and 19th
centuries had produced the idea of the homosexual as a deviant type: In
Western society, homosexuality changed from being a behavior (what you
do) to an identity (who you are).

In the Middle East, however, homosexual behavior remained just that—an
act, not an orientation. That is not to say that Middle Eastern men who
had sex with other men were freely tolerated. But they were not
automatically labeled deviant. The taxonomy revolved around the roles of
top and bottom, with little stigma attaching to the top. "‘Sexuality’ is
distinguished not between ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’ but between
taking pleasure and submitting to someone (being used for pleasure),"
the sociologist Stephen O. Murray explains in the 1997 compilation
Islamic Homosexualities: Culture, History, and Literature. Being a
bottom was shameful because it meant playing a woman’s role. A bottom
was not locked into his inferior status, however; he could, and was
expected to, leave the role behind as he grew older. "There may be a
man, and he likes boys. The Saudis just look at this as, ‘He doesn’t
like football,’" Dave, a gay American teacher who first moved to Saudi
Arabia in 1978, told me. "It’s assumed that he is, as it were, the
dominant partner, playing the man’s role, and there is no shame attached
to it." Nor is the dominant partner considered gay.

However much this may seem like sophistry, it is in keeping with a
long-standing Muslim tradition of accommodating homosexual impulses, if
not homosexual identity. In 19th-century Iran, a young beardless
adolescent was considered an object of beauty—desired by men—who would
grow naturally into an older bearded man who desired youthful males.
There, as in much of the Islamic world, sexual practices were "not
considered fixed into lifelong patterns of sexual orientation," as
Afsaneh Najmabadi demonstrates in her 2005 book, Women With Mustaches
and Men Without Beards: Gender and Sexual Anxieties of Iranian
Modernity. A man was expected to marry, and as long as he fulfilled his
procreative obligations, the community didn’t probe his extracurricular

A magazine editor in Jeddah told me that many boys in Mecca, where he
grew up, have sexual relations with men, but they don’t see themselves
as gay. Abubaker Bagader, a human-rights activist based in Jeddah,
explained that homosexuality can be viewed as a phase. "Homosexuality is
considered something one might pass by," he said. "It’s to be understood
as a stage of life, particularly at youth." This view of sexual
behavior, in combination with the strict segregation of the sexes,
serves to foster homosexual acts, shifting the stigma onto bottoms and
allowing older men to excuse their younger behavior—their time as
bottoms—as mere youthful transgressions.

In Islamic Homosexualities, the anthropologist Will Roscoe shows that
this "status-differentiated pattern"— whereby it’s OK to be a top but
not a bottom—has its roots in Greco-Roman culture, and he emphasizes
that the top-bottom power dynamic is commonly expressed in relations
between older men and younger boys. Yasmin, the student who told me
about the lesbian enclave at her college, said that her 16-year-old
brother, along with many boys his age, has been targeted by his male
elders as a sexual object. "It’s the land of sand and sodomites," she
said. "The older men take advantage of the little boys." Dave, the
American educator, puts it this way: "Let’s say there’s a group of men
sitting around in a café. If a smooth-faced boy walks by, they all stop
and make approving comments. They’re just noting, ‘That’s a hot little

The People of Lot

Yet a paradox exists at the heart of Saudi conceptions of gay sex and
sexual identity: Despite their seemingly flexible view of sexuality,
most of the Saudis I interviewed, including those men who identify
themselves as gay, consider sodomy a grave sin. During Ramadan, my
Jeddah tour guide, Yasser, abstains from sex. His sense of propriety is
widely shared: Few gay parties occur in the country during the holy
month. Faith is a "huge confusion" for gay Muslims, Yasser and others
told me. "My religion says it’s forbidden, and to practice this kind of
activity, you’ll end up in hell," he explains. But Yasser places hope in
God’s merciful nature. "God forgives you if, from the inside, you are
very pure," he said. "If you have guilt all the time while you’re doing
this stuff, maybe God might forgive you. If you practice something
forbidden and keep it quiet, God might forgive you." Zahar, a
41-year-old Saudi who has traveled widely throughout the world, urged me
not to write about Islam and homosexuality; to do so, he said, is to cut
off debate, because "it’s always the religion that holds people back."
He added, "The original points of Islam can never be changed." Years
ago, Zahar went to the library to ascertain just what those points are.
What he found surprised him. "Strange enough, there is no certain
condemnation for that [homosexual] act in Islam. On the other hand, to
have illegal sex between a man and a woman, there are very clear rules
and sub-rules."

Indeed, the Koran does not contain rules about homosexuality, says
Everett K. Rowson, a professor at New York University who is working on
a book about homosexuality in medieval Islamic society. "The only
passages that deal with the subject unambiguously appear in the passages
dealing with Lot."

The story of Lot is rendered in the Koran much as it is in the Old
Testament. The men of Lot’s town lust after male angels under his
protection, and he begs them to have sex with his virgin daughters instead:

     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 /

The men refuse to heed him and are punished by a shower of brimstone.
Their defiance survives linguistically: In Arabic, the "top" sodomite is
luti, meaning "of [the people of] Lot."

This surely suggests that sodomy is considered sinful, but the Koran’s
treatment of the practice contrasts with its discussions of zina—sexual
relations between a man and a woman who are not married to each other.
Zina is explicitly condemned:

     Nor come nigh to adultery: / for it is a shameful (deed) / and an
evil, opening to the road / (to other evils).

The punishment for it is later spelled out: 100 lashes for each party.
The Koran does not offer such direct guidance on what to do about
sodomy. Many Islamic scholars analogize the act to zina to determine a
punishment, and some go so far as to say the two sins are the same.

Two other key verses deal with sexual transgression. The first instructs:

     If any of your women / are guilty of lewdness, / take the evidence
of four / (reliable) witnesses from amongst / you/ against them; and if
they testify, / confine [the women] to houses until / death do claim
them, / or God ordain them / some (other) way.

But what is this "lewdness"? Is it zina or lesbianism? It is hard to
say. The second verse is also ambiguous:

     If two men among you / are guilty of lewdness, / punish them both.
/ If they repent and amend, / leave them alone …

In Arabic, the masculine "dual pronoun" can refer to two men or to a man
and a woman. So again—sodomy, or zina?

For many centuries, Rowson says, these verses were widely thought to
pertain to zina, but since the early 20th century, they have been
largely assumed to proscribe homosexual behavior. He and most other
scholars in the field believe that at about that time, Middle Eastern
attitudes toward homosexuality fundamentally shifted. Though same-sex
practices were considered taboo, and shameful for the bottom, same-sex
desire had long been understood as a natural inclination. For example,
Abu Nuwas—a famous eighth-century poet from Baghdad—and his literary
successors devoted much ink to the charms of attractive boys. At the
turn of the century, Islamic society began to express revulsion at the
concept of homosexuality, even if it was confined only to lustful
thoughts, and this distaste became more pronounced with the influx of
Western media. "Many attitudes with regard to sexual morality that are
thought to be identical to Islam owe a lot more to Queen Victoria" than
to the Koran, Rowson told me. "People don’t know—or they try to keep it
under the carpet—that 200 years ago, highly respected religious scholars
in the Middle East were writing poems about beautiful boys."

Even Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab—the 18th- century religious scholar who
founded Wahhabism—seems to draw a distinction between homosexual desires
and homosexual acts, according to Natana DeLong-Bas, the author of
Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad (2004). The
closest Abd al-Wahhab came to touching upon the topic of homosexuality
was in a description of an effeminate man who is interested in other men
at a wedding banquet. His tone here is tolerant rather than
condemnatory; as long as the man controls his urges, no one in the
community has the right to police him.

Religious scholars have turned to the hadith—the sayings and doings of
the Prophet Muhammad—to supplement the Koran’s scant teachings about
sodomy and decide on a punishment. There are six canonical collections
of hadith, the earliest recorded two centuries after Muhammad’s death.
The two most authoritative collections, Rowson says, don’t mention
sodomy. In the remaining four, the most important citation reads: "Those
whom you find performing the act of the people of Lot, kill both the
active and the passive partner." Though some legal schools reject this
hadith as unreliable, most scholars of Hanbalism, the school of legal
thought that underpins the official law of the Saudi kingdom, accept it.
It may have provided the authority for the execution this February.
(Judges will go out of their way to avoid finding that an act of sodomy
has occurred, however.)

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

The gay men I interviewed in Jeddah and Riyadh laughed when I asked them
if they worried about being executed. Although they do fear the
mutawwa'in to some degree, they believe the House of Saud isn’t
interested in a widespread hunt of homosexuals. For one thing, such an
effort might expose members of the royal family to awkward scrutiny. "If
they wanted to arrest all the gay people in Saudi Arabia," Misfir, my
chat-room guide, told me—repeating what he says was a police officer’s
comment—"they’d have to put a fence around the whole country."

In addition, the power of the mutawwa'in is limited by the Koran, which
frowns upon those who intrude on the privacy of others in order to catch
them in sinful acts. The mandate of the Committee on the Promotion of
Virtue and Prevention of Vice is specifically to regulate behavior in
the public realm. What occurs behind closed doors is between a believer
and God.

This seems to be the way of the kingdom: essentially, "Don’t Ask, Don’t
Tell." Private misbehavior is fine, as long as public decorum is
observed. Cinemas are forbidden, but people watch pirated DVDs. Drinking
is illegal, but alcohol flows at parties. Women wrap their bodies and
faces in layers of black, but pornography flourishes. Gay men thrive in
this atmosphere. "We really have a very comfortable life," said Zahar,
the Saudi who asked me not to write about homosexuality and Islam. "The
only thing is the outward showing. I can be flamboyant in my house, but
not outside."

This strikes many Saudis as a reasonable accommodation. Court records in
Saudi Arabia are generally closed, but anecdotal evidence suggests that
the mutawwa'in are most likely to punish men who are overtly effeminate—
those whose public behavior advertises a gayness that others keep private.

Filipinos, who have little influence and less familiarity with the
demands of a double life, seem to be especially vulnerable. When I asked
Jamie, the Filipino who says he gets followed down the street by Saudi
men, whether he was gay, he answered, with a high giggle, "Obviously!"
But he has paid a price for his flamboyant manner. He used to wear his
thick black hair down to his shoulders, concealing it with a baseball
cap in public, until recently, when he ran into a man in a shortened
thawb at a coffee shop. The mutawwa asked for his work permit. Even
though he produced one, Jamie was shoved into an SUV and driven to a
police station.

"Are you gay?" a police officer asked after pulling off Jamie’s cap and
seeing his long hair. "Of course not," Jamie said. He challenged the cop
to find a violation, and the officer confirmed the mutawwa’s report that
Jamie was wearing makeup, dressing like a woman, and flirting. After
spending a night in jail, Jamie was taken to mutawwa'in headquarters in
Jeddah, and a mutawwa interrogated him again. When he tried to defend
himself, the mutawwa asked him to walk, and Jamie strode across the room
in what he considered a manly fashion. He was eventually allowed to call
his boss, who secured his release. Jamie cut his hair—not out of fear,
he says, but because he didn’t want to bother his boss a second time.

Jamie laughed as he told me of his attempts at dissimulation; though the
stakes can be high, efforts to stamp out homosexuality here often do
seem farcical. The mutawwa'in get to play the heavies, the government
goes through the motions, and the perps play innocent—Me? Gay? Few
people in the kingdom, other than the mutawwa'in, seem to take the
process seriously. When the mutawwa'in busted the party that led to
Marcos’s deportation, they separated the "showgirls" wearing drag from
the rest of the partygoers, and then asked everyone but the drag queens
to line up against the wall for the dawn prayer. At the first of the
three ensuing trials, Marcos and the 23 other Filipinos who’d been
detained were confronted with the evidence from the party: plastic bags
full of makeup, shoes, wigs, and pictures of the defendants dressed like
women. When the Filipinos were returned to their cells, they began
arguing about who had looked the hottest in the photos. And even after
his punishment and deportation, Marcos was unfazed; when he returned to
Jeddah, it was under the same name.

The threat of a crackdown always looms, however. In March 2005, the
police crashed what they identified as a "gay wedding" in a rented hall
near Jeddah; according to some sources, the gathering was only a
birthday party. (Similar busts have occurred in Riyadh.) Most of the
party-goers were reportedly released without having to do jail time, but
the arrests rattled the gay community; at the time of my visit, party
organizers were sticking to more-intimate gatherings and monitoring
guest lists closely.

The Closeted Kingdom

To be gay in Saudi Arabia is to live a contradiction—to have license
without rights, and to enjoy broad tolerance without the most minimal
acceptance. The closet is not a choice; it is a rule of survival.

When I asked Tariq, the 24-year-old in the travel industry, whether his
parents suspected he was gay, he responded, "Maybe they feel it, but
they have not come up to me and asked me. They don’t want to open the
door." Stephen Murray, the sociologist, has called this sort of denial
"the will not to know"—a phrase that perfectly captures Saudi society’s
defiant resolve to look the other way. Acknowledging homosexuality would
harden a potentially mutable behavior into an identity that contradicts
the teachings of Islam, to the extent that Islam deals with the subject.
A policy of official denial but tacit acceptance leaves space for
change, the possibility that gay men will abandon their sinful ways.
Amjad, a gay Palestinian I met in Riyadh, holds out hope that he’ll be
"cured" of homosexuality, that when his wife receives her papers to join
him in Saudi Arabia, he’ll be able to break off his relationship with
his boyfriend. "God knows what I have in my heart," he said. "I’m trying
to do the best I can, obeying the religion. I’m fasting, I’m praying,
I’m giving zakat [charity]. All the things that God has asked us to do,
if I have the ability, I will do it."

Amjad cited a parable about two men living in the same house. The
upstairs man was devout and had spent his life praying to God. The
downstairs man went to parties, drank, and committed zina. One night,
the upstairs man had the urge to try what the downstairs man was doing.
At the same moment, the downstairs man decided to see what his neighbor
was up to. "They died at the stairs," Amjad said. "The one going down
went to hell. The one going up went to heaven." For Amjad to accept a
fixed identity as a gay man would be to forgo the possibility of ever
going upstairs.

But as the Western conception of sexual identity has filtered into the
kingdom via television and the Internet, it has begun to blur the Saudi
view of sexual behavior as distinct from sexual identity. For example,
although Yasser is open to the possibility that he will in time grow
attracted to women, he considers himself gay. He says that his
countrymen are starting to see homosexual behavior as a marker of
identity: "Now that people watch TV all the time, they know what gay
people look like and what they do," he explains. "They know if your
favorite artist is Madonna and you listen to a lot of music, that means
you are gay." The Jeddah-based magazine editor sees a similar trend.
"The whole issue used to be whether that guy was a [top] or a bottom,"
he told me. "Now people are getting more into the concept of homosexual
and straight."

But new recognition of this distinction has not brought with it
acceptance of homosexuality: Saudis may be tuning in to Oprah, but her
tell-all ethic has yet to catch on. Radwan, the Saudi American, came out
to his parents only after spending time in the United States—and the
experience was so bad that he’s gone back into the closet. His father, a
Saudi, threatened to kill himself, then decided that he couldn’t
(because suicide is haram), then contemplated killing Radwan instead.
"In the end," Radwan told me, "I said, ‘I’m not gay anymore. I’m
straight.’" Most of his gay peers choose to remain silent within their
families. Yasser says that if his mother ever found out he’s gay, she
would treat him as if he were sick and take him to psychologists to try
to find a cure.

Zahar, at 41, has managed the unusual feat of staving off marriage
without revealing himself to be gay. Marriage would devastate him, he
says, and exposure of his homosexuality would devastate his family. So
Zahar has employed an elaborate series of stratagems: a fake girlfriend,
a fake engagement to a sympathetic cousin, the breaking off of the
engagement. As he put it, "I schemed, and I planned. I don’t like to con
people, but I had to do that for my family."

In the West, we would expect such subterfuge to exact a high
psychological cost. But a closet doesn’t feel as lonely when so many
others, gay and straight, are in it, too. A double life is the essence
of life in the kingdom—everyone has to keep private any deviance from
official norms. The expectation that Zahar would maintain a public front
at odds with his private self is no greater than the expectations facing
his straight peers. Dave, the gay American I met, recalled his surprise
when his boyfriend of five years got married, and then asked him to go
to the newlyweds’ apartment to "make the bed up the way you make it up,"
for the benefit of the bride. "Saudis will get stressed about things
that wouldn’t cause us to blink," Dave said. "But having to live a
double life, that’s just a normal thing."

Most of the gay men I interviewed said that gay rights are beside the
point. They view the downsides of life in Saudi Arabia—having to cut
your hair, or hide your jewelry, or even spend time in prison for going
to a party—as minor aggravations. "When I see a gay parade [in trips to
the West], it’s too much of a masquerade for attention," Zahar said.
"You don’t need that. Women’s rights, gay rights—why? Get your rights
without being too loud."

Embracing gay identity, generally viewed in the West as the path to
fuller rights, could backfire in Saudi Arabia. The idea of being gay, as
opposed to simply acting on sexual urges, may bring with it a deeper
sense of shame. "When I first came here, people didn’t seem to have
guilt. They were sort of ‘I’ll worry about that on Judgment Day,’" Dave
said. "Now, with the Internet and Arabia TV, they have some guilt." The
magazine editor in Jeddah says that when he visits his neighbors these
days, they look back at their past sexual encounters with other men
regretfully, thinking, "What the hell were we doing? It’s disgusting."

When Radwan arrived in Jeddah, in 1987, after seeing the gay-rights
movement in the United States firsthand, he wanted more than the tacit
right to quietly do what he chose. "Invisibility gives you the cover to
be gay," he said. "But the bad part of invisibility is that it’s hard to
build a public identity and get people to admit there is such a
community and then to give you some rights." He tried to rally the
community and encourage basic rights—like the right not to be
imprisoned. But the locals took him aside and warned him to keep his
mouth shut. They told him, "You’ve got everything a gay person could
ever want."

(2) Thierry Meyssan on Homosexuality in Islamic Countries

Islamic Emirate and homosexuality

by Thierry Meyssan

Looking back to the mass killing in Orlando, Thierry Meyssan reminds us
that the conflict between Daesh and the Syrian Arab Republic is above
all a struggle between two forms of society, one dominated by men, the
other equal in rights. It is also the occasion to underline the fact
that the Syrian civilisation has a long yet little-known history of the
integration of homosexuals, which Daesh is attempting to destroy.


In 2011, when the war in Syria was just beginning , a blog appeared
under the name of «Gay Girl in Damascus». The author wrote of her life
as a free woman in the Syrian capital, and criticised the «Bachar
régime». In December, a message was posted on the blog by one of her
cousins affirming that the young woman had just been arrested by the
«Mukhabarat» (Special Branch). Western gay associations – who know
nothing about Syria - mobilised against the «dictatorship ». We learned
later that the young woman had never existed. The blog was in reality
managed for propaganda purposes by Tom MacMaster (photo) from Edinburgh
University, probably for MI6.

The mass killing in Orlando has shone a hard light on the treatment of
homosexuals by Daesh (i.e. Islamic Emirate or ISIL). But the killer, who
claimed to be affiliated with the terrorist group, was himself a client
of the gay discotheque, and had had sexual relations with at least one
other client. It would seem, then, that he had targeted a discotheque,
not a gay discotheque.

In any case, the massacre of homosexuals is not the prerogative of Daesh
alone, it is a practice of numerous sectarian groups who claim to be
followers of various religions, and more particularly that of Islamist
groups. It was the case, for example, of the Lord’s Resistance Army in
Uganda in the ’90’s, who claimed to follow Jesus - or today the
djihadists, who claim to follow Muhammad. More generally, a large number
of Jews, Christians and Muslims consider that sexual activity between
people of the same sex is a «sin», while admitting that you do not
choose who you fall in love with.

 From an ethnological point of view, the condemnation of homosexuality
in the name of these religions is concomitant with a view of a society
in which men dominate women. It does not exist in societies where
individuals are equal in rights.

{photo} The election of «Mister Gay Syria » 2016 was organised by Subhi
Nahas during the month of May in Istanbul, and not Deir ez-Zor. A
Schengen visa was refused to the winner, who will therefore be unable to
compete in the election of « Mister Gay World» in Malta. {end}

© Bradley Secker / Daily Mail

Daesh and the Baath party – two conceptions of society

As I wrote a year ago, «the support for Daesh among certain populations
has nothing to do either with the Qur’an or the class struggle. It is
the revolt of a disappearing way of life, a violent society dominated by
men, against a way of life which is respectful of women and which
practices birth control.» [1] As from now, the massacre of homosexuals
has become, for the jihadists, an argument for «conquering hearts and

{photo} Mohammed Allouche, chief negociator for the moderate opposition
at the Geneva negotiations, won this responsibility by throwing
homosexuals off the roof-tops of Douma (Damascus).  {end}

The chief negotiator of the «moderates» for the Geneva negotiations,
Mohamed Allouche, earned his celebrity by throwing people accused of
homosexuality off the rooftops of Douma, in the suburbs of Damascus,
without provoking the slightest protest from his Western sponsors.
Although his group, the Army of Islam (Jaysh al-Islam), is financed by
Saudi Arabia, and supervised by British military advisors, he was given
permanent assistance during the negotiations by the French chargé
d’affaire for Syria. This diplomat – from a secular Republic -
intervened in order to ask that the Swiss hotel where they were staying
remove the paintings and cover the statues whose nudity risked shocking
this model «democrat». No doubt he thought – and it so happens that he
himself lives the life of a gay couple with another diplomat – that
Mohammed Allouche’s form of abuse was less serious than that of the
«Bachar régime».

{photo} On the 13 June, François Hollande shared a Tweet : «The
horrifying homophobic massacre of Orlando has struck at both America and
freedom. The freedom to choose one’s sexual orientation and one’s
life-style». The French President does not conceive that it is possible
to «fall in love» with a person of the same sex – for him, it’s a
question of «choice». {end}

Today, in the Arab world – which is in the minority compared with the
number of Muslims in the world – only Syria, the Sultanate of Oman and
certain of the United Arab Emirates integrate homosexuals.

It should be noted here that contrary to an image that has been imposed
without ever having been discussed, the Syrian Arab Republic has never
persecuted anyone for motives concerning their private life. All crimes,
real or imaginary, that have been attributed to the Republic are
exclusively linked to the repression of Islamists, whether the Muslim
Brotherhood or more recently their extensions, al-Qaïda and Daesh. Last
February, the Lebanese daily L’Orient-Le Jour, financed by the European
Union, and known for its systematic anti-Syrian stance, dedicated a
series of articles to a comparison between gay life in Lebanon and in
Syria. In Lebanon, the police arrest young people, who have often been
denounced by their family, ferret through their portable telephones
looking for compromising photographs, summon their friends, oblige all
suspects to submit to a medical examination supposed to determine the
dilation of their anus, and beat them until one of them accuses the
others. However, in Syria, observes the newspaper, «under the régime of
Bachar el-Assad, the gay community was enjoying a peaceful existence.» [2].

Syrians do not consider the question of homosexuality from the angle of
tolerance or intolerance, but from the angle of privacy. Thousands of
years of civilisation have taught them that they can only survive in
this region of the world by living together, and they can only manage
that by respecting the private life of each and all. It is therefore
possible to declare one’s disgust for homosexuals in general while at
the same time refusing to accuse anyone in particular of being gay.

Even though the dispositions of the Code Pénal of 1949 have not been
repealed, the party of President Bachar el-Assad, the Baath, has
developed a form of culture almost unique in an Arab country, based on
the respect for differences. So that L’Orient-Le Jour was astounded to
hear a gay Syrian refugee describe his period of military service as
having been «the most wonderful years of my life», and tell tales of
«the parties in reception halls rented by gay couples to celebrate their
union». It was only when Daesh arrived that he was obliged to «hide his
pink and yellow pants and practice walking in a more masculine way».

Although the founders of the Baath party were inspired first by the
French Revolution, their ideology is above all the fruit of the Syrian
culture. And contrary to other Arab countries, Syria has a long
tradition of respect for different life-styles.

The Biblical religions and sexuality

Judaïsm was founded in the kingdom of Jerusalem. Christianity by Paul of
Tarsus in Damascus. Islam was given to Muammad in Arabia, but the Qur’an
was not written until twenty years after his death, under the authority
of the third Caliph, Othmân, in Damascus. In other words, the three
Biblical religions were created in geographical Syria.

Three passages of the Torah explicitly evoke homosexuality. According to
Leviticus - «You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman. This
is an abomination.» (18:22) and «The man who lies with a man as one lies
with a woman - it is an abomination committed by them both - they should
both die, and may their blood fall upon them» (20:13). Finally, in
Deuteronomy - «Let there be no prostitutes among the women of Israël,
and let no son of Israël prostitute himself in infamy » (23:17).

Replaced in their context, the first two verses are rooted in the
patriarchal conception of the tribes of the time, and the third is a
condemnation of the sacred prostitution practiced in the temples of
other tribes, and thus assimilated with idolatry. Today, the Jews
reinterpret their religion by abandoning their tribal aspects, and have
no difficulty integrating homosexuals. They often understand the
relationship between Ruth and Naomi, and that between King David and
Jonathan, as homosexual relations. However, the people who claim to
follow the Alliance of God with none but the Tribes of Israël persist in
seeing homosexuality as an «abomination». Thus, the state of Israël
integrates homosexuals, but the Levaha group protests every year against
the Gay Pride and, in 2005, an ultraorthodox Jew stabbed six gays during
the parade.

According to the Gospels, Jesus of Nazareth continually criticised the
taboos and the formalism of antique Judaïsm, although he never
criticised Roman paganism. He promoted a form of spirituality founded on
love and sacrifice, and never spoke about sexuality. There is therefore
no scriptural foundation for the condemnations of homosexuality by the
Christian churches.

The first Christians were divided into two distinct groups. The Jews who
considered that Jesus was their Messiah, and the Gentiles (the pagans)
who saw him as an example of the perfect man. The former group was
organised in Jerusalem around James, «the brother of Jesus», while the
latter group was organised in Damascus and Antioch. The former refused
to celebrate Mass with the latter, who, as goyim, were «impure» in their
eyes. The first group was decimated during the Roman repression of
Jerusalem, and only the second group survived.

{photo} Saint Sergius (or Sarkis in Arab) and Saint Bacchus are
considered in the Levant as examples for Christians. Theirs is the only
case of a couple being canonised, an honour which has not been
recognised for married couples. {end}

During Antiquity, including the first centuries of Christianism, lovers
of the same sex were integrated into society, and thus into the church.
In the 3rd century, Sarkis, the commander of the Schola Gentilium (a
troop of elite soldiers which replaced the Praetorian Guard) and his
aide de camp, Bacchus, were martyrised by the Emperor Maximian near
Rakka (the current capital of Daesh) for having converted to Christ and
refusing to offer sacrifices to the Roman gods. The two men were lovers
and recognised as such by the Church, which celebrated the adelphopoiia
on their behalf, a rite equivalent to that proposed for couples of the
same sex in Roman society. Bacchus, who had been demoted and whipped to
death, appeared to Sarkis in a vision when he was being tortured in
turn. In the uniform of a Roman officer, Bacchus encouraged his lover
not to renounce his faith and to die as a soldier of Christ. Thereafter,
the cult of Saint Sarkis and Saint Bacchus spread throughout the Levant.

It was only from the 11th century, and especially with the
Counter-Reformation, that Christians condemned homosexuality. At that
time, Rome re-adopted the Vitalist philosophy dating from the end of the
Roman Empire, for which the function of sexuality is the reproduction of
the species. Western Christians justified this reversal by basing
themselves on Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians (VI:9-10) and to the
Romans (I:26-28), even returning to Leviticus and Deuteronomy. But apart
from the fact that these texts probably have a different meaning, they
do not have the authority of Christ. In any case, the integration of
homosexuals continued in the Christian communities of the Levant until
the 18th century.

{photo} In September 2015, Daesh executed persons accused of
homosexuality at Haritan (Aleppo) by throwing them from the roofs of
building. One of the victims was 15 years old. {end}

Islam presents itself as an intervention by God to clarify the
theological confusion which reigned in Arabia. The Qur’an, adopting the
myth of Genesis (19), evokes on six occasions the myth of Sodom and
Gomorrha (7:80-81, 21:74, 26:165-166, 27:54-55, 29:28-30 and 54:33-34).
These verses have only recently been interpreted to condemn the «crime
of Lot», and to advocate the stoning and killing of homosexuals by
throwing them from roof-tops. In reality, the myth of Lot does not apply
to relations between people of the same sex, but stigmatises both the
non-respect of hospitality and rape, which the Bedouins considered as a
mark of enslavement. Besides, the Qur’an does not condemne Lot – whom it
presents as one of the prophets of Islam – nor his visitors, who
ultimately reveal themselves as angels, but the inhabitants of Sodom.
Many artists from the golden age of Islam celebrated homosexual love,
and several caliphs openly displayed their relations with other men (for
example Al-Amîne, Al-Mu?tasim and Al-Wathiq).

{photo} During the meeting of the Security Council on the 24 August
2015, the permanent representative of the United States, Samantha Power,
requested the audition of Subhi Nahas, the leader of a Syrian gay
organisation presently exiled in Turkey. The young man described the
horrors commmitted by Daesh. But to the ambassador’s great deception, he
explained that he had fled the country in order to escape from the
jihadists, and refused to condemn the Syrian Arab Republic. {end}

Who is comfortable with homosexuality?

Today, Daesh is campaigning against those who practice the «crime of
Lot». On the 24 August 2015, on the initiative of Washington and
Santiago, the UN Security Council held a meeting concerning the
executions that the terrorist organisation has praticed on homosexuals
in Iraq and Syria.

Nonetheless, several members of the Council hesitated to condemn these
exactions by the jihadists. Angola (80 % Christian) and Chad (mostly
Muslim) asked their ambassadors not to participate in the meeting, while
other members of the Council demanded a closed session, so that there
would be no written report of the meeting, and the Council would abstain
from any public conclusion.

As a result, we do not know if it examined only the exactions committed
by Daesh, or if it extended its investigations to other jihadist groups.
In September 2013, the al-Nusra Front (al-Qaïda), supervised by Turkish
and French officers, attempted to take the small town of Ma’loula (40
kilometres from Damascus). The objective had no strategic or even
tactical value, but is a powerful symbol for Christians of the Orient.
It is the world’s oldest Christian city, converted in the year 35 by
Paul of Tarsus and Saint Thecla. Ma’loula claims to conserve the
tradition of original Christianity, independent of the schism between
Catholic and Orthodox. The jihadists made ferocious attacks on all
representations of Christianity, particularly against the grand statue
of the Virgin Mary (although she is celebrated by the Qur’an), the
relics of Saint Thecla, (whom Catholics no longer recognise as a saint,
since she gave the sacrements as a man, but whom Orthodox Christians
consider as the thirteenth apostle), and the two monasteries of Saint
Sarkis and Saint Bacchus. The Catholic and Orthodox churches, who
supported the inhabitants of Ma’loula, were very careful not to mention
this aspect of the events.

Finally, the Western powers do not seem to be particularly sincere about
their integration of homosexuals. They have made a symbol of free
societies, and manipulate the subjet to hammer home the idea that the
Syrian Arab Republic is a repressive régime. But the propaganda campaign
of the «Gay Girl in Damascus», like the attempt to manipulate Subhi
Nahas, has failed. However, they had no problem with supporting al-Qaïda
when it attacked the monasteries of Saint Sarkis and Saint Bacchus, or
Mohammed Allouche while he was throwing gays from the rooftops.

Thierry Meyssan

Pete Kimberley

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