Houria Bouteldja, the spokesperson for the political party organized by people of color in France called Les Indigenes de la Republique, said it best when she was asked about Western Feminism versus Third World Feminism. She stated,“[w]hy should you, white women, have the privilege of solidarity? You are also battered, raped, you are also subject to men’s violence, you are also underpaid, despised, your bodies are also instrumentalized…”. In the same vein, why should white queers have the privilege of advocating, speaking for, or defending queer Arabs?How many expats have come to study and write about gender and homosexuality/homophobia in Islam and the Middle East? You can spot them at the Turtle Greens’ and Books@s’ of Amman. What is so special about the LGBTQ community in the Arab world? Homophobia has neither been eradicated and isn’t even really frowned upon in the “Western” world. Hate crimes occur against gay, lesbian and the transgendercommunities on a regular basis in the “West” and Republican presidential candidates in the United States have been openly and blatantly homophobic throughout their campaigns this year.
The real question is who sets the standard for equality and justice? Can it only be defined by the “West”? What is the underlying agenda of “gay rights” work in the Middle East by foreign (presumed Western) entities?
A major factor in the shift towards creating a pervasive “Western” culture throughout the world has been globalization, and particularly the construct of “The Gay International” as Joseph Massad put it in the book Desiring Arabs. The Gay International is the Western gay white male dominating the LGBTQ rights organizations in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. The Gay International embodies an orientalist vision of the Middle East and is used by US and European “human rights” (as defined by the West) organizations. The Gay International attempts to use blanket generalizations of sexuality and sexual expression as well as attempts to universalize gay rights to make themselves the crusading champion for oppressed queer indigenous people across the world. However, the Gay International cannot do it alone. In my opinion his strategic ally in his attempt to free Arab queers is the globalized image of homosexuality.
Globalization “refers to the increasingly global relationships of culture, people, and economic activity”. Globalization has introduced everything from Coke-a-cola to Arab (American) Idol in the Middle East. It is my belief that globalization has had regressive and damning effects on the Arab World. It has allowed for the cultural, economic, and social colonization of the Middle East. Globalization has divided and polarized the Arab people on a broad range of political and social issues. It has given radicalism, Islamic or otherwise, a prime environment for growth and expansion. There is a growing anti-Western sentiment in the Middle East that has grown stronger due to American/European foreign policies that include occupation, war, and destruction of the region. Due to the appropriation of queer identity by the Gay International and the West, homosexuality has been seen as a creation of the West by a large majority of Arabs. Along with Pepsi, Arab Idol and Beat FM Arabs have adopted Western homophobia as a reaction to what is perceived as an infiltration of “Western” morals/ideals.
The Gay International has imposed a label on an identity that he does not own the exclusive rights to. The Queer International has transformed people from same-sex love practitioners to “homosexuals” and “gay”. The Queer identity is extremely dynamic and changes from individual to individual. Saying all queers must express and label themselves exclusively using the terminology of American/European queers is repression in and of itself.
Throughout the modern history of the Arab World there have been thousands of forms of colonization. Starting with the divisions of Arab land, the fabrication of borders, the “peace” processes, women’s rights, and democracy. Queer rights is the new fashion in the white progressive’s closet. It is another tool, often times referred to as pinkwashing, used in demonizing Arabs and gives way for the continued occupations of mind, body, and lands.
Jay is a blogger and an in-house writer for My.Kali. if you want to read more of Jay’s views and writings you can visit her blog ‘Out of Academia’ where she expresses more on politics, general social issues and news. Check her blog (here>)