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“Coming Out in Arabic”; the Muslim LGBT explosion continues

Brian Whitaker at The Guardian writes about the new Palestinian lesbian organization Aswat, which Whitaker describes as the "first openly-functioning organisation for Arab lesbians in the Middle East." Unsurprisingly, Aswat is based in Israel: Haifa, specifically. And this is the … Read More

By / October 3, 2006

Brian Whitaker at The Guardian writes about the new Palestinian lesbian organization Aswat, which Whitaker describes as the "first openly-functioning organisation for Arab lesbians in the Middle East."

Unsurprisingly, Aswat is based in Israel: Haifa, specifically. And this is the dilemma that haunts the rapidly growing Arab LGBT world: Israel, with its laws against sexual orientation-based discrimination and courts that are constantly advancing and protecting the impact of those laws, represents both a mortal danger and an irresistable resource. A resource because gay Arabs can live and organize in relative freedom there; a danger because every openly gay Arab in Israel confirms the suspicions of those in the Arab world who regard homosexuality as a Western pathology and a dangerous Israeli cultural export into Arab countries. And Aswat's website–complete with quotes from Virginia Woolf and Audre Lorde, and essays from Jewish women–will give the homophobes of the Arab world plenty of opportunity to dismiss Aswat as a culturally foreign abomination.

And still. The explosion of increasingly bold Arab and Muslim gay rights orgs the past several years (most alas, still outside the Middle East) has been breathtaking to watch, and Aswat's increasing visibility (I first heard of it, for example, when it issued press releases during the recent Lebanon war) is only the latest development. Years hence, people will write about this decade as the birth-time of the Muslim and Arab LGBT movement, the same way people today write about the heady days of the Stonewall riots and the late 60s/early 70s as the birth of the modern gay rights movement in the West.

A comprehensive history of the past several years and the birth of Muslim LGBT does not yet exist, so far as I know, so I'll have to leave it later chroniclers to clear up the cause-and-effect: why did this happen now, and who caused what? But from what I can piece together from the available information, it all started with one confused Muslim teenager in Connecticut in the late 1990s: Jewcy radical Faisal Alam.

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