- Published on Wednesday, 04 April 2012 06:43
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 2498
Of the seven countries that impose the death penalty for homosexuality, all are Muslim. It's not always imposed but it's on their books - Muslims think being gay is as bad as being a murderer. There are some Christians who think the same but so far they haven't sentenced a gay to 500 lashes and 5 years in prison because of it - like they did in 2010 in Saudi Arabia. Some (like me) would view that as worse than a death penalty. Yet behind closed doors, Muslim countries are the same as anywhere else. The only difference is that they are risking their lives. The Economist reports that: In February last year, police in Bahrain arrested scores of men, mostly other Gulf nationals, at a "gay party". Iranian gay men are typically tried on other trumped-up charges. But in September last year three were executed specifically for homosexuality. (Lesbians in Muslim countries tend to have an easier time: in Iran they are sentenced to death only on the fourth conviction.)
As the Economist reports: Gay life in the open in Muslim-majority countries is rare, but the closet is spacious. Countries with fierce laws, such as Saudi Arabia, also have flourishing gay scenes at all levels of society.
It could be that the American soldier who killed Afghan civilians knows that wealthy Afghans buy bachabazi, (dancing boys) as catamites. (I'd call them boy sex toys). It should be no surprise that this is also common in some Pakistan tribal areas. Pushing gays underground is bound to cause abuses like these.
But banning gays can be handy for politicians - catch your opponent in a gay relationship, or just accuse him of it and he's toast. Just ask the Malaysian opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, who was twice tried for sodomy.
The Arab Spring is not helping - now that dictators are out of the way, the imams have their say - and they say that gays and their behaviour should be stamped out. The country which has moved the furthest along from dictatorship rule is Iraq and now men even suspected of being gay face kidnappings, rape, torture and extrajudicial killing. Ali Hili, head of a group called Iraqi LGBT, (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) says that since the 2003 invasion more than 700 people have been killed because of their sexuality. It is the most dangerous place in the world for sexual minorities, he says.
The good news is that the Internet is allowing a real debate to happen in Muslim countries although it is led by gay Muslims outside the Islamic world (where it's safer).
But like any reform, the first step is to accept that there is a problem. If laws and edicts do not stop behaviour, then, like Prohibition, the wrong solution was applied. The next is to have an exchange of ideas such as to ask gay-haters why they feel that way. OK so the holy book (Qur'an) says it's wrong, but why would it? And has it been interpreted correctly? Other things have been interpreted incorrectly according to Islamic scholars - maybe this has too?