Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Murder and Hypocrisy: Democracy Will Not Flourish in the Middle East until Islamic Governments Stop Murdering Their Gay Citizens-And We Need to Halt Antigay Violence at Home before We Can Condemn It Abroad

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Murder and Hypocrisy: Democracy Will Not Flourish in the Middle East until Islamic Governments Stop Murdering Their Gay Citizens-And We Need to Halt Antigay Violence at Home before We Can Condemn It Abroad

Article excerpt

Although the United States claims to be the prime cultivator of democratic values in the Islamic world, a member of the Dutch parliament has far exceeded our flawed efforts. Ayaan Hirsi Ali received death threats for her film about Islam's treatment of women, Submission. In 2004 an Islamic radical murdered her partner on the film, director Theo van Gogh.

With the controversy over Submission still raging, Hirsi All has announced that her new film will concern itself with an equally incendiary subject: Islam's attitude toward homosexuality.

As American fundamentalist Christians have done with the Bible, extremist Muslims have interpreted the Koran as condemning homosexual acts, justifying the persecution of gays in many Islamic states. Even though the mainstream media have paid only passing attention to the situation, abundant examples exist of widespread and flagrant persecution of gays in countries that include Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia. Even countries seen as more moderate, such as Egypt, continue to brutally suppress homosexuality.

Several horrifying cases occurred in 2005 that may have influenced Hirsi Ali's decision to make her new film. In July two teenagers were hanged in Iran on questionable charges that they had raped another male teenager. And while Sharia courts generally reserve the death penalty for those convicted of rape, murder, and adultery, among other offenses, Sharia law decrees capital punishment even for consensual gay sex.

Such was the case earlier in the year for a Nigerian man who was sentenced to death by stoning after he admitted to having had sex with men.

And in November more than two dozen men were arrested at what police called a "mass homosexual wedding" in the United Arab Emirates, where gay men are subject to government-ordered hormone treatments, beatings, and prison time as punishment for their orientation. These are but a few of the recent cases in a long history of inhumane treatment of gay people in Islamic countries.

While Hirsi Ali's film will focus on homosexuality in Islamic states, it might also indirectly shed light on hypocrisy in the United States.

President Bush has clearly stated that the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were the opening salvos in a campaign to spread democracy and its attendant values throughout the Middle East. And to its credit, the Administration has promoted respect for and equal treatment of women as an integral part of the democratic ideal. So it is clear that when we as a nation believe that an aspect of Islamic fundamentalism flies in the face of democratic human rights, we are willing to challenge religious beliefs in other sovereign countries.

Yet the U.S. government never cites homophobia as a dangerous aspect of Islamic extremism.

In fact, the U.S. government has done its part in the Middle East to reinforce the view that homosexuality is inherently wrong. When our military denies openly gay men and women the opportunity to serve their country, it implies that such people are incapable of carrying the cause of democracy to foreign lands.

On a more visceral level, the images of abuse that took place in Abu Ghraib show the military using homosexual acts and identity as the ultimate symbol of weakness, shame, and degradation. …

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