This weekend’s Gay Pride festivities in New York City climaxed with Sunday’s 36th annual parade down Fifth Avenue. As usual, the raucous affair thrilled some and rattled others, but everyone walked away intact.
One would have to fantasize about such an occasion, however, in most Muslim nations where homosexuality remains as concealed as a bride beneath a burqa. When it peeks through, it isn’t pretty. While many liberals (and President G.W. Bush) call Islam a religion of peace, “celebrating diversity” is hardly on its agenda. Consider these recent examples of the Islamic world’s institutional homophobia:
In Saudi Arabia, 105 men were sentenced in April for acts of “deviant sexual behavior” following their March arrests. Al-Wifaq, a government-affiliated newspaper, claimed they illegally danced together and were “behaving like women” at a gay wedding.
“Calling the event a ‘gay wedding’ has become a lightning rod to justify discrimination against gay people,” Widney Brown of Human Rights Watch told Patrick Letellier of gay.com.
Seventy men received one-year prison sentences while 31 got six months to one year, plus 200 lashes each. Four others face two years behind bars plus 2,000 lashes. If these four receive their lashes at once, Brown fears their wounds will prove fatal.
“Anyone caught committing sodomy — kill both the sodomizer and the sodomized,” Islamic cleric Tareq Sweidan demanded on Qatar TV last April 22. As the Middle East Media Research Institute (memri.org) reports, Sweidan continued: “The clerics determined how the homosexual should be killed. They said he should be stoned to death. Some clerics said he should be thrown off a mountain.”
Ogudu Emmanuel and Odjegba Tevin admitted that they were male lovers after their neighbors reported them to Nigerian cops. They were arrested January 15 and charged with “crimes against nature.” The pair apparently escaped from jail while awaiting trial and potential 14-year prison sentences. Gay rights activists worried that cops or other inmates may have killed them in custody.
Last November, an Islamic court in Keffi, issued an arrest warrant for Michael Ifediora Nwokoma after neighbors accused him of having sex with a man named Mallam Abdullahi Ibrahim. Nwokoma quickly fled. Ibrahim was charged with the “unholy” act of “homosexualism.” The court postponed Ibrahim’s trial indefinitely and incarcerated him until Nwokoma surfaces.
In northern Nigeria, where Sharia law governs 12 Muslim states, homosexuality requires capital punishment by stoning.
Iraq’s terrorist Ansar al-Sunnah Army, the Islamic Army in Iraq, and the Mujahedeen Army issued a statement last December 30 urging Iraqis not to vote in last January’s elections, lest democracy spawn un-Islamic laws such as “homosexual marriage,” in their words. To be sure, many Americans also oppose gay marriage, but they at least have the good manners not to detonate advocates of same-sex unions. Ansar-al-Sunnah is incapable of such restraint. It scored major headlines when it claimed responsibility for a December 21 bombing at a U.S. military mess tent at a base in Mosul. It killed 22 people, 18 U.S. GIs among them.
Egyptian cops have met gay men online and through personal ads, then arrested them, according to a March 1, 2004 Human Rights Watch report. Since 2001, HRW says at least 179 men have been charged with “debauchery,” prompting five-year prison sentences for at least 23. As the Associated Press’ Nadia Abou El-Magd wrote, HRW “interviewed 63 men who had been arrested for homosexual conduct. It said they spoke of being whipped, bound and suspended in painful positions, splashed with cold water, burned with cigarettes, shocked with electricity to the limbs, genital or tongue. They also said guards encouraged other prisoners to rape them” — thus using coercive gay sex to penalize consensual gay sex.
While he notes that secular nations such as Jordan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Syria are more relaxed about homosexuality, Robert Spencer, director of JihadWatch.org and editor of The Myth of Islamic Tolerance, warns against equating the homophobia of strict Muslim states with, say, American social conservatives’ opposition to gay-rights laws.
“Jerry Falwell and others like him do not call for the deaths of homosexuals, while these people do,” Spencer tells me. “This demonstrates the bankruptcy and, ultimately, the danger of such moral equivalence arguments, which are nonetheless ubiquitous today in discussions of Islamic terrorism.”
Unlike Sunday’s marchers, many in the Muslim world literally risk their lives and limbs by merely peering out of the Islamic closet.