by Beau Burriola -
SGN European Correspondent
Two weeks ago, I wrote a column that pissed a lot of people off. As a result, I got an e-mail box full of people taking me to task over my insensitivity toward Muslim cultures. Reading some of the responses made me angry that so many people who live in liberal bio-bubbles would presume to tell me how I need to behave in the face of open hostility and discrimination when they don't experience that same thing. Sure, it's easy to be accepting of Muslim culture when you don't live in the middle of the hostility toward Gay people that it has created.
"I am concerned about the tone of your article which seems to ascribe homophobia and violence specifically to Muslims," one person wrote. "Many fundamentalist Christians do this as much as many Muslims."
"We need to avoid stereotyping Muslims as being homophobic," parroted another. "A stereotype is a stereotype."
"You just can't make statements like this about all Muslims," complained another.
Too all of you, I say boo-friggen-hoo, wake up.
While we are all busy hugging ourselves for our ideas about equality, let's not forget the systematic genocide of Gay people occurring every day in Islamic Republics around the world. Today, Gay people are killed in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Mauritania, Nigeria, Sudan, and Yemen. That's killed, outright. In several other countries with areas controlled by courts ruling on law according to Islam, you can expect much of the same treatment. This is systematic, government-driven execution of Gay people simply because they are Gay. Genocide. There isn't a single majority-Christian country in this world which does this to Gay people.
And you all want to tell me that I'm not being accepting enough of Islam? That I can't make generalizations about Islam? Seriously?
I have lived my whole life with the belief that in order to bring full equality to realization, we have to generate that equality ourselves, but now I'm starting to doubt whether that is truly possible. There is a growing scenario in Europe where we find ourselves accepting people who not only don't accept us, but who reject our very right to exist. That is fine for a while, but if integration never happens, what then?
I am not some crazy right-wing wacko advocating the removal of Muslims from Europe. I believe that integrated coexistence is possible, but walking down the streets of Brussels with my boyfriend carrying pepper spray makes me think that perhaps Europe could work a little more on the integration part of this model.
I worry that our equality movement is becoming too soft. If we don't even recognize institutionalized discrimination for fear of being seen as not being accepting enough, then how can we expect to change anything? Aren't we just sitting on our hands and hoping that eventually people will just accept us because we are us? And if they don't, what then?
The comment that got me riled up the most, though, was from an official at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Rev. Rebecca Voelkel with the NGLTF wrote:
"It is extremism/fundamentalism within all of the major religious traditions that is the problem and it is the cultural interpretations of these religions that is flawed. I think it is urgently important that we, as Western LGBT folks from the US (who carry all kinds of power in the world because of our cultural context - economic, political - we're even linked to all the military power our gov't uses), are very careful not to make blanket statements about Muslims or Jews, or Christians, for that matter. We need to be very clear that we are respectful of and in collaboration with Muslims who are not fundamentalists."
First, isn't it organizations like the NGLTF who should be standing up for us when we experience discrimination, particularly if we are experiencing it from one of the largest institutions in the world? If the very organizations we set up to fight institutionalized discrimination, like NGLTF, are going to berate me because I complain about the discrimination I get from Muslims, what's the point of them anyway? If that's all they are going to do, they are really just a bunch of overpaid (if hopeful) cogitators who have neither tasks nor force to bring about any meaningful change. They should change their name.
Second, it infuriates me that Rev. Voelkel and others are labeling Muslims who are hostile to Gay people as "extremists." A quick, global look at Islam will show anyone that it is mainstream Muslims who are hostile to Gay people, not "extremists." It's not some breakoff, crazy group outside the mosque enacting hostility toward Gays; it is the mosque itself and the mainstream interpretation of their beliefs. Let's call it what it is. It is "mainstream" Muslims who are hostile to Gay people, and you can try to put all kinds of lipstick on that pig, but it will still be the same ugly pig.
I know we Gay folks like to imagine this view of a peaceful world full of people who coexist without any violence toward one another. It's the very utopian equality we put on our flags for our parades and the idea we trumpet from the rooftops. But while we are celebrating that utopian idea, let's not forget that there are forces in this world which are just as powerful doing exactly the opposite. A systematic genocide against Gays is happening every single day thanks to Islam. It's no more a generalization than pointing out that the sun rises from the east, however we phrase it to make it sound different.
So if it sounds a little general when I complain about Muslim hostility toward Gay people, I think my reaction is probably equal to what we face. Not all Muslims are hostile to Gay people, sure, but a great deal more than not are. That is worth a little complaining.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts."
Beau Burriola is a Queer American writer living in Europe. firstname.lastname@example.org
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