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June 21, 2003

Queering Islam

Ikram Saeed links to a Queer Muslim conference. Yeah.

The article Ikram linked to had this image as an advert on the left bar:

I just wanted to pass along the blasphemy to any orthodox Muslims reading this site....

Also, Ikram highlights this woman:

So, in the fall of 1999, witnessed by two of my closest friends -- a gay leatherman and a queer, cross-dressing Sikh, my partner and I declared the Shahada at one of the most conservative Orthodox mosques in Toronto.

Following the initial euphoria of what we deemed our spiritual “reversion” to Islam, came the culture shock that our newly embraced spiritual path was part of a cultural appendage full of expectations circumscribed by tradition.

Oh, she was shocked, was she?!?! Personally, this woman seems like a crack-addicted twit, but who am I to pass judgement on other people's mental illnesses? God-speed & all that, she'll need it.

Update from Jason M: On a related note, check out this article from the latest Reason about how our MTV brand of music-video sexiness is slipping into the popular culture in many Muslim nations. Go here and watch Indonesian super-diva Inul shake that fat ass for Secular Democracy!

Posted by razib at 03:53 PM

Go Saudimites

Posted by: Jason Malloy at June 21, 2003 04:12 PM

Alright, I apologize for that one ;)

Posted by: Jason Malloy at June 21, 2003 04:14 PM

Why godless, are you saying that gay rights is a cultural WMD? not that there's anything wrong with that.

(PS where is the Islamic Andrew Sullivan?)

Posted by: Diana at June 21, 2003 04:37 PM

As someone who hates, loahes, abhors, detests, etc. (I’m running out of synonyms) the three Abrahamic monotheistic superstitions, my heart wildly rejoices at any thing that can undermine the so-called moral, or ethical, codes of these three bloody mythologies.

However, homosexuals in Muslim countries face an uphill struggle for basic human dignity.

Can you imagine a modern Western leader say what Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recently said about gays?:

National Post, June 21, 2003 (A14)

Mahathir Mohamad, the longest- serving elected leader in Asia, delivered his political swan song this week. And, like much of his career, it was filled with tears and venom. Delivering his last speech to the annual meeting of the United Malays National Organization, a party he has led for 22 years, Malaysia's Prime Minister lashed out at the West, describing Anglo-Saxon Europeans as a greedy, war-mongering people, who promote free sex and sodomy, are indifferent to incest and want to conquer the world.

"I am not anti-European. I have many friends and acquaintances who are Europeans," the 77-year-old Dr. Mahathir said. "They are very clever, brave and have an insatiable curiosity."

"The culture and the values which they will force us to accept will be hedonism, unlimited quest for pleasure, the satisfaction of base desires, particularly sexual desires," he added.
Fighting back tears as he tackled the topic of his own political career and his promised retirement from public life in October, Dr. Mahathir offered a public prayer for the Malay people and described himself as "Allah's insignificant slave."

As recently as 1999, he told a meeting of government officials in Malaysia:
"History shows that whites always tend to oppress and dominate non-whites, as they feel these groups are stupid. They still dominate us and they are uneasy over our independence."

In a 1998 speech, he solemnly declared: "Too much democracy leads to homosexuality, moral decay, racial intolerance, economic decline, single-parent families and a lax work ethic."

As recently as 1999, he sparked a political scandal when he fired and then jailed his Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim.
Mr. Anwar, then Malaysia's finance minister, had been touted at Dr. Mahathir's designated successor. But he was arrested under Malaysia's Internal Security Act and subsequently sentenced to 15 years in jail on charges of corruption and sexual misconduct.


Posted by: friedrich braun at June 21, 2003 10:43 PM

you know mahathir is a muslim moderate (liberal?) right? his wife and daughter have campaigned against polygamy and he frowns upon UMNO party members who wear beards.

Posted by: razib at June 21, 2003 11:02 PM

* mahathir is a liberal on religious issues-not necessarily political ones. his ex-protege, anwar ibrahim, was actually religious in outlook and traditionalist (he has facial hair and his wife wears a hijab) in personal presentation. he had good relations with the religious right, but was more of a darling with neo-liberals and those turned off by mahathir's authoritarianism than the religiously modernist mahathir.

in any case-what passes for "moderate" among muslims is rather shifted over. that is all i was getting at. moderate muslims often have attitudes on social issues that the american conservative would consider middle-aged, my parents have shocked american right-wingers with their opinions on occasion. that being said-is this a function of just the culture, and not islam? well, islam & the culture are often organic wholes in my opinion, one of the women at the queering conference is a "bisexual woman who owns a tatoo studio from a western background who converted to islam." the human mind is malleable, islam could theoretically become the official religion of the S&M swinging set if it was twisted and turned enough ;)

btw, by islamic law, i'm a 'muslim' because my father is...but i don't really identify as one. i'v never believed in god and am not a 'cultural muslim,' whatever that might mean. if atheism is the face of acceptable muslims, joe-schmo is going to accept us with a grudge, because atheism is almost as unpopular. rather, you have to look to people like aziz & perhaps zack (i have no idea of zack's opinions on the truth claims of islam)-who can earn respect from americans because they believe in all that god jazz....

Posted by: razib at June 21, 2003 11:25 PM

Yes, I know.

He also blamed the the Jews for Asia's recent financial crisis, some "liberal".

My point was, is, if a supposed Muslim “liberal” (or at least an "enlightened despot") feels comfortable spewing such barking-mad hate at homos (and Euros, etc.) then Muslim homos have a long and arduous struggle ahead of them.

Posted by: friedrich braun at June 21, 2003 11:30 PM

She doesn’t sound any crazier than the racialist “Bible-believers” posting at View From the Right

What the hell is a “Biblical racialist”? Why are Americans so wacky?

Posted by: friedrich braun at June 21, 2003 11:50 PM

Typical wack entry from the VFR: "is there a reason why freemasonry has never come up in discussion, let alone as a discussion topic on this blog?

if pope leo 13th’s humanum genus is to be believed, and i do believe it, doesn’t it answer affectively the problems brought up here?"

Posted by: abby on June 19, 2003 07:16 PM

Posted by: friedrich braun at June 22, 2003 12:10 AM

actually homosexuality is tolerated in a sort of split-personality way in Malay society in both Malaysia and Indonesia. There is a Malay term for girly homosexuals - 'pondan'. Of course they are discriminated against in business, etc and have quite limited employment opportunities (usually prostitution or show business or some freak area like that) - no one would want a 'pondan' as their travelling salesman for instance but male transvestite homosexual prostitutes operate quite openly in Indonesia for instance, are not usually the subject to gay bashings or social discrimination as they would be in some parts of the US, as long as they are flamboyant and obvious about their homosexuality. In fact among a Malay people - the Bugis who were originally pirates there was a tradition of crossdressing and homosexuality. There was a Bugis Lane in Singapore which was notorious for these things which has since been shut down and cleaned up by the Singaporean government, so of the three cultures, the most intolerant of homosexuality is actually the Confucian Chinese.

Posted by: Jason Soon at June 22, 2003 04:55 AM

PS to my previous comment : I remember when I was in junior high in Malaysia there was a Malay boy in my class who was quite openly a 'pondan'. He had blatantly obvious effeminate mannerisms and talked about boys he liked quite openly. People used to tease him a lot in a joshing way but he was never shunned or bashed up or anything like that. Of course homosexuality is against the law in Malaysia (though I think it's treated more liberally in Indonesia) - as I said, it's a very split personality attitude. No one is threatened as long as they're 'obvious' homosexuals.

I think Mahathir's anti-gay comments are mostly political, playing to a crowd. Of course he later also used a trumped up sodomy charge to imprison Anwar, his challenger, but again, political.

Note that his daughter is a prominent campaigner for AIDS charities and gay rights.

PPS My father was a journalist for a national paper when we lived in Malaysia and had access to lots of inside gossip. From what I've heard the rumours of Anwar's homosexuality had been around for a long time so it's not even clear to me whether the charges were in fact trumped up. So it makes for quite a strange paradox. The authoritarian but religiously modernist Mahathir using anti-gay laws to convict his political opponent who is more religiously devout but who may in fact have been ...

Posted by: Jason Soon at June 22, 2003 05:07 AM


Transvestites are widely accepted in Indonesia, although many try to keep their sexuality a secret from their families, often by moving to other cities.

Known locally by terms such as waria, banci and bencong, transvestites (also known as ladyboys and shemales) are a common sight in Indonesia’s big cities. Many work as roadside prostitutes, specializing in oral sex. Others work as drug dealers, or in salons, or as singers, dancers and actors.

Most transvestites believe breast implants will make them more attractive, especially to homosexual or bisexual Westerners. Some Jakarta transvestites dream of meeting rich Westerners who will take them abroad for cosmetic surgery. Others hope of receiving sufficient funds from Western boyfriends to pay for sex-change operations in Thailand or Europe.

Despite the general acceptance of transvestites in Indonesia and the prevalence of same-sex contact in public (such as men holding hands), public displays of homosexuality are usually frowned on.

Homosexuals are often portrayed in the media as being “ill”, while transvestite characters on local television shows are relegated to roles that make them objects of scorn and ridicule.

Posted by: Jason Soon at June 22, 2003 05:15 AM

At the risk of oversimplifying, the first big difference between Southeast Asian attitudes and modern Western constructions of homosexuality lies in the way Southeast Asians do not objectify homosexuality. In other words, they don't see homosexuality as a "thing" in itself, a stand-alone trait distinct from sex. In fact, as far as I know, no Southeast Asian language has an indigenous word that correlates to "homosexuality" or "homosexual".

The Western concept today is to see sex and sexuality as two independent dimensions. You can be male and homo, male and bi, male and hetero, female and bi, etc. More importantly, it sees gay people as a class, defined by their sexual orientation, and distinguished from bisexuals, heterosexuals and transsexuals.

I know it is very difficult for Westerners to grasp – I've tried till I was hoarse – that in many societies, such as in indigenous Southeast Asian societies, few people see homosexual identity. They are aware of homosexual behaviour, but that does not define the person, anymore than eating water-melons defines the person as a water-melon-eater, as distinct from, say, pineapple-eaters. To them, it's a crazy idea! Some people may prefer water-melons, others prefer pineapples, some both, but why see them as different subspecies of people?

Southeast Asian societies generally have just one dimension – gender. On this continuum, there is "male" at one end and "female" at the other. Interestingly, there is a well-recognised middle gender, and here Southeast Asian languages have a rich vocabulary for them.

Malay: bapok, pondan. Javanese: benchong, waria, banci. Tagalog: bakla, palorista. Bama: accault. Thai: kathoey.

Generally, all these words connote cross-gender mannerisms and dressing. These societies recognise these as a different type of people, although the status given to them is still very much inferior to normative male and female. Thus Suhaimi's comment, "they get away with it."

In this single-dimension continuum, males, whether homosexually or heterosexually inclined, are left with a single identity – that of male. With this identity goes a number of expected attributes and obligations. No doubt this will vary from one culture to another even in Southeast Asia, but generally, it would be along the lines of being husband, father, breadwinner, protector, and so on. Of being stoic, courageous, moderate and wise.

How do these societies then accommodate variabilities in sexual habits and preference if all males must conform to a common standard? These cultures aren't blind to the fact that some men are promiscuous, some really prefer other guys, or some others, because they aren't compatible with their wives, find another lover. But it doesn't mean you can walk away from the social responsibilities to the first wife, or to the children. So, where's the safety valve? It seems to me, from what I have read, that the indigenous cultures make a distinction between one's public social role and one's private affairs. The cultures value discretion on the part of the individual if he should do something not quite in keeping with his expected social role (e.g. bed his neighbour's brother, or take a mistress). On the part of the others, it values silence, looking away and non-interference should they come to know of private peccadilloes.

Others may not much approve of your dirty deeds, but the higher requirement of social politeness or family togetherness may prescribe feigned ignorance. This is provided you have more or less fulfilled your public social role. This may mean getting married, just for the sake of face, or being a good father, or being, outwardly at least, a pious Muslim. Then on balance, it is best not to make a big fuss about your side activities.

Posted by: Jason Soon at June 22, 2003 05:21 AM

What next, Muslim wiccans?

Razib, you could also post the URL to the Andrew Sullivan personals ad on bareback city! I checked it out, it was hot stuff.

Posted by: Diana at June 22, 2003 07:42 AM

friedrich, yes, there is religious idiocy on the cultural Left & Right-but in the Left's defense they tend to leave you alone if you shout loud enough....

Posted by: razib at June 22, 2003 09:42 AM

Mahathir -- Yes, anti-Islamist. Also anti-Jew.

When people ask for 'moderate' muslim, do they mean a muslim who drink alcohol or likes anal sex, or do they mean a supporter of the 'women in green' and Effie Eitam?

Posted by: Ikram Saeed at June 22, 2003 10:55 AM

Godless -- Prior to the 'terrorist-under-your-bed' sentiment in the US, many American Muslims,a and all non-African American Muslim organizations were Republican supporters. And conservative Muslims still are natural Republican supporters. I expect them to return to the fold in a few years.

The Republican party is still The Muslim Party of America.

Posted by: Ikram Saeed at June 22, 2003 11:10 AM

It's personal. My definition of a moderate Muslim is one who doesn't want to convert me.

I think plenty of Muslim fundamentalists like anal sex with adolescent boys, if reports from Afghanistan are to be believed.

Posted by: Diana at June 22, 2003 11:11 AM

Not exactly true Ikram, but I guess it depends on how you're willing to define "Muslim". The largest group of Muslims in America are Black Muslims, and they vote overwhelmingly non-Republican. Then again Arab-Americans always leaned slightly to the Republican side of the vote. But then we have to remember that Arab and Muslim aren't the same thing. Half of American Arabs are Christian.

Posted by: Jason Malloy at June 22, 2003 01:45 PM

"In terms of party affiliation 40% of Muslims register Democratic, 23% are Republican, and 28% are independent."

Zogby Poll: http://www.projectmaps.com/PMReport.htm

Posted by: Jason Malloy at June 22, 2003 02:01 PM

2000 was weird because nader was an arab-american who had a strong anti-israel stance, and bush spoke up loudly against racial profiling [1]. this diminished the pro-gore vote a bit more than might be normal as far as democratic voting goes....

[1] bush's pro-muslim outreach was partly influenced by gover norquist who has been working to bring muslims, generally professional immigrant groups, into the republican fold....

Posted by: razib at June 22, 2003 02:23 PM

And conservative Muslims still are natural Republican supporters.

Yeah, just like those "traditional valued" Latinos are "natural Republican supporters". ;) Hmmmm...why is it that this formula seldom works?

Posted by: Jason Malloy at June 22, 2003 03:38 PM

Ikram maybe you are confusing "Muslim" w/Arab-American. I have the impression that pre-2000, you are right at least as far as Arab-Americans were concerned cuz the Republican party was more the party that took an "even-handed" approach on the ME; Bush the Elder was a Connecticut WASP who was covertly sympathetic to the Palestinians; the old-line 'Arabists' being mostly WASP gentry were Republican, and so forth (also that Jews were overwhelmingly Democrat)...but all that has changed. Still maybe Arab-Americans are to the Republicans as pro-lifers are, nowhere else to go.

PS Nader''s running mate "No Nukes" LaDuke was half-Jewish, on her mother's side. She went to Harvard on a native American scholarship. Ridiculous.

Posted by: Diana at June 22, 2003 04:55 PM

"Bush the Elder was a Connecticut WASP who was covertly sympathetic to the Palestinians; the old-line 'Arabists' being mostly WASP gentry were Republican..."

and who can forget James A. Baker III ("the velvet hammer") outburst: "Fuck the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway!"

Posted by: friedrich braun at June 22, 2003 07:29 PM

Diana: “I think plenty of Muslim fundamentalists like anal sex with adolescent boys, if reports from Afghanistan are to be believed.”

Plenty of Catholic priests like anal sex with adolescent boys, if reports from.....everywhere are to be believed.

Both Muslim fundamentalists and Catholic priests live in a male world, a world, for all intents and purposes, without women. Is it really strange that misogyny is rampant in both camps, i.e., inside the senile patriarchy of the Catholic Church and the world of Muslim fundamentalism (especially of the Wahhabi sort)?

You often hear it said that superstition (i.e., religion), or “belief” in a sky-god or sky-gods, has the effect of making people behave better even if the metaphysical claims of faith are untrue. The utter falsity or inconsistency of such a position needs to be exposed again and again and again and again.

I've read a quote some years ago, I can't remember now who said it:

A bad man will be bad with or without religion, but it takes religion for a good man to become bad.

Posted by: friedrich braun at June 23, 2003 12:12 AM

The utter falsity or inconsistency of such a position needs to be exposed again and again and again and again.

Is it false? You seem to be pretty sure, but I haven't really seen this demonstrated statistically. (One time Razib tried to look for test-cases to see if Steve Sailer's claim that Capitalism required religion held up. The evidence was pretty ambiguous.)

Posted by: Jason Malloy at June 23, 2003 12:43 AM

Friedrich, re priests and buttfucking, I agree w/you, but Ikram was asking about moderate Muslims, so I confined myself to them.

Thought: I wonder if the misogyny of both groups is an effect of their womanlessness, or a cause.

Re: Jim Baker, he was only telling the truth!

Posted by: Diana at June 23, 2003 06:51 AM

No need to queer" Islam: homosexuality has always been both rampant and tolerated in Muslim countries!
It´s an all-male world and we all know what happens when women are not available...
In Afghanistan, the British soldiers were sexually harassed by the jolly Afghans! If you don´t believe me, read this:


And this in Pravda (!!!):


And further on Muslim homosexuality and paedophylia, don´t miss the hilarious account by none other than Sir Richard Burton:


It would seem modern Islam may feel threatened by Western Homosexual mores, because its own brand of "queerness" was based on traditional and conservative values ( a man´s world, the wife at home and the jolly chaps at the "hamann"). "Women for babies, boys for pleasure" and perhaps some Malthusian thoughts thrown in.

Posted by: eufrenio at June 23, 2003 02:22 PM

"It would seem modern Islam may feel threatened by Western Homosexual mores, because its own brand of "queerness" was based on traditional and conservative values ( a man´s world, the wife at home and the jolly chaps at the "hamann"). "Women for babies, boys for pleasure" and perhaps some Malthusian thoughts thrown in."

Sounds very much like Plato's Symposium...

Posted by: friedrich braun at June 23, 2003 09:08 PM

Diane: What about anal sex with the women in green? Or anal sex with a drunken Effie Eitam - he'd be a bottom of course.

Your criteria for moderate doesn't really work. Any member of a universalist religion, whether Muslim, Mormon, or southern baptst, is going to want to convert you. Do you think all Mormons are extremists becuase they sned missionaries to convert you.

If you belong to a universal religion, and you know the trick to keep a person out of the fires of Hell, the more people you convert, the more people you are helping. If a mormon looks at you and decides not to try to convert you, he is deciding that you are the kind of person that should go to Hell. That's not very nice.

So your conversion test makes no sense. No member of a universal religion would qualify.

Posted by: Ikram Saeed at June 24, 2003 08:03 AM

Diane: What about anal sex with the women in green? Or anal sex with a drunken Effie Eitam - he'd be a bottom of course.

Whatever floats your boat. I don't like facial hair on men (or women, either, I guess), so Eitam would be out of the question. You could try him yourself.

Well, my definition of a moderate doesn't work for you, but that's the defintion that works for me in our wonderfully diverse, pluralistic society. Mr. Moderate Muslim who doesn't want to convert me may think I am going to hell, but that doesn't mean I am. At least, not for the reasons he states.

Posted by: Diana at June 24, 2003 08:31 AM

"Sounds very much like Plato's Symposium..."
Indeed it does. Only the man/boy thing in Greece was about "love" not about sex, as in Islam.
Anal sex was taboo in Greece and Rome. And the term "pathicus" ("bugger, sodomite") was derogatory in Catullus.
I would like to hear from Dienekes about this...

Posted by: eufrenio at June 24, 2003 02:23 PM

Time for me to bow out of the conversation.

Sorry about that.

Posted by: Diana at June 24, 2003 07:41 PM

>> Sounds very much like Plato's Symposium...

Plato explicitly speaks against (carnal) pederasty in the Laws. The Greeks despised (carnal) pederasts and passive homosexuals. Plato explicitly states that they should be denied citizen rights. The Greeks (Aristotle, Diodorus, Athenaeus) also commented of the homosexual practices of certain barbarians as if they were strange; if we add to this the evidence from Greek comedy where effeminacy is ridiculed as is passive homosexuality, the position of the practice in Greece becomes clearer.

It's unlikely that you'll hear about any of this from the "gay liberation" crowd that wants to gain legitimacy by ascertaining that their current practices were praised by the Greeks.

Posted by: Dienekes at June 25, 2003 05:08 AM