Where Is LGBT Community in the Arab-Muslim Majority World?

M. KH. and A. D.

M. KH. and A. D.

Administrators of Lesbian Diary page and activist journalists for minority rights in the Middle East and North Africa. They have publications in several news outlets on the matter.
M. KH. and A. D.

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LGBT in the Arab world. © Image: MPC Journal - Hakim Khatib - Where Is LGBT Community in the Arab-Muslim Majority World?

LGBT Community in the Arab world. © Image: MPC Journal – Hakim Khatib

A report of the Academy of Science of South Africa titled “Diversity in Human Sexuality: Implications for policy in Africa” has just been published where it affirms that homosexuality is a natural human sexual behaviour. It is NOTat all a harmful disease as some people claim. It was also indicated that assumptions such as therapy led parents to make their children heterosexual, gay couples direct their children to homosexuality,or that homosexuality is contagious are simply wrong. Rather, sexual diversity makes societies richer and it is time for tolerance to settle once and for all.

That said, tolerance often takes some time to complete its formation. While science is making continuous progress on the subject to accurately report to the public answering such questions, mentality takes some time to change as it is the case in Arab-Muslim majority societies.

Attached to religion, traditions and customs, Arab-Muslim majority societies have long demonstrated difficulties to accept anything out of the ordinary. Homosexuality is one of them. It is a taboo, about which nobody dares positively speak other than the LGBT community.

This small part of society advocates on a canvas trying to change the look of those who rebuke. LGBT community in Arab countries attempts to fight against homophobia and injustice through Facebook pages, associations, magazines, stories and all other means that might make their voices heard. But the road is still long – very long.

To fight this “curse”, heterosexual justice is never tired of taking so called “individual perverts” and putting them in prison for infringement of moral disorder. This was the case for Lahcen and Mohsin, a Moroccan couple, who were imprisoned based on the Article 489 of the Penal Code. Another example to mention is the Moroccan magazine, Tel Quel, which has recently published an article entitled: ”Should we burn homosexuals?” The content of that article clearly calls for brutally murdering homosexuals. Nobody lifted a finger to stand against such an outrageous call. Despite the fact that the Ministry of Health called for Morocco to decriminalise homosexuality following incessant demands of Moroccan and foreign personalities to end its discrimination toward the LGBT community, homophobia rate nevertheless remains high. This is also the case in Tunisia.

Fresh out of the shadows, Shams, the first Tunisian LGBT organisation to be legalised, has been a target of several homophobic critics. TV programs were organised trays, radio broadcasts condemned and newspaper articles were written about it. In short, everyone was debating about it. Of course, the topic was discussed in a negative way. Rare are those who handled the issue scientifically and called for tolerance and acceptance of others. Tunisian media, unfortunately and scandalously, didn’t help, but rather categorised homosexuality as a perversion disease by inviting notorious homophobes. This escalation by media outlets encouraged more hatred against LGBT community in Tunisia.

Yet, the community is active and trying to look for solutions to make their voices heard without being discriminated. A small gay pride march was organised by the World Social Forum in March 26. It was not happy news for homophobes. For them, Article 230 of the Penal Code should be implemented to eliminate this scourge. Aside from the fact that the majority of Tunisians believe homosexuality is a mental illness and they openly make jokes about it, there are many who call for murdering them, as was the case of Imam, Nabil Ben Younes, on a radio station. He said that homosexuals should be thrown off buildings or burned alive. This was a very heart-warming statement coming from a religious person.

The case of Egypt is the most severe. According to many people, homosexuality does not exist and should not exist. And to prove this, Egyptian police hunt homosexuals in social networks using famous mobile dating applications such as Grinder. Policemen pose as gays, chat with other gays, meet up with them after taking their phone numbers, and voila! Gays are shipped directly to prison for contempt of heterosexual norms. Let’s not forget mentioning the Egyptian journalist Mona Iraqi, who was pleased to have contributed to the protection of her country by helping the police to close a gay sauna after a long investigation on the subject.

The only exceptions in the Arab region are Lebanon and Jordan. The Lebanese LGBT community is quite visible. The Helem association is regarded as a reference, a model and an icon. It still hosts a pride march and is considered the spokesman of minorities. Activists wear no masks, instead, they defend their rights, face uncovered and verbally demand that Article 534 of the Penal Code to be repealed.

As for Jordan, few people know that homosexuality is legal. No law discriminates them. There is even a magazine called Mykali, which defends the interests of the LGBT community. A status every Arab gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender dreams to have in their own country. However, this dream can end at any time. Indeed, the lawyer Tariq Abu Al-Ragheb sued the US ambassador in Jordan, Alice Wells for encouraging the dissemination of a perverse culture during the commemoration of World Day against Homophobia (May 17). Moreover, the event of May 17 has been controversial and was the subject of debate in media and in the Jordanian Parliament. Some say there have been calls for the police to stop this scourge, others are afraid that politicians might take the stage to set up an article criminalising homosexuality. Yet there is good news for the LGBT community of Arab-Muslim majority countries.

The Jordanian Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein elected as the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in his first statement that homosexuals should be protected against any aberrant act and inciting discrimination. A glimmer of hope lights for the LGBT Arab community even if the battle seems to be very difficult.


 

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