[Marxism] More on Shia attacks on gays
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Mar 24 14:24:22 MST 2006
From March 24 JuanCole.com:
Readers have been asking me about the stance of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani
regarding homosexuality. I take it they are inquiring about this entry at
my colleagues' great Pandagon site.
Let me begin by saying that the charge leveled by some, and mentioned at
Pandagon, that Sistani has called for the killing of Sunnis, is completely
untrue. The implication given by exiled gay Iraqi, Ali Hili, of the
London-based gay human rights group OutRage, that Sistani has called for
vigilante killings of gays, is untrue, though it is accurate that Sistani
advises that the state make homosexual activity a capital crime; it is also
accurate to call this "sick."
In traditional Islam there was no conception of the "homosexual" as a
permanent identity or social role. As in ancient Greece, the real
distinction in sexuality (as Michel Foucault showed) was between the
penetrator and the penetrated. Medieval and early modern Islamdom were like
the Greece of Plato. Adult males were the penetrators. In premodern Muslim
society, women could be penetrated if they were legally married to the man
or if they were his slaves. Likewise, slave-boys (catamites) could be
penetrated, although it was typically disapproved of by the Muslim clerics.
Exclusive adult male-male sexual relationships are not recorded, and a
taste for a slave-boy did not stop a wealthy man from being married or from
having liasons with his female slaves, as well. About half the famous
love-poems of the medieval Baghdad literary figure, Abu Nuwas, appear to
have been addressed to boys.
As slavery was forbidden in the Ottoman Empire in the course of the mid- to
late-nineteenth century, obviously the keeping of slave-boys by wealthy men
ceased. As society modernized, notions of sexuality moved away from the
penetrator/penetrated model similar to that of the ancient Greeks, and
toward a modern male-female binary. Many Muslim societies in the course of
the twentieth century also moved away from polygamy toward a model of one
man, one woman as the family unit.
Modern homosexual identity has only slowly emerged in the Middle East, and
has sometimes faced great hostility. I say sometimes because real-life
Muslim societies are not as puritanical as outsiders or local elites
imagine. It is obvious that American writer Paul Bowles liked living in
Tangiers precisely because anything went as long as it stayed fairly
private. In cosmopolitan Muslim cultures like Egypt, at best the modern gay
subculture is winked at, but sometimes there are crackdowns. The situation
resembles the US in, say, the 1930s and 1940s, when the police would arrest
gays. In a radical Muslim regime like Taliban Afghanistan, gays were
executed. This was in part an attempt to keep discipline in the Taliban
military ranks, which were notorious for gay liaisons. So there is a
spectrum. It should be underlined that Taliban Afghanistan was weird and
not like most of the Muslim world.
So on to Sistani, who upholds a slightly modernized version of medieval
Muslim canon law. The first two fatwas he gave on the subject have to do
with adult men penetrating boys. That is, Sistani appears to take as the
connotation of lawat that it is an adult man penetrating an under-age boy.
Unsurprisingly, he deeply disapproves. The first two fatwas, however, come
in response to questions about what this sexual relationship means for
later marital relations between the two families. Say a 21-year-old man
from Khazraj had relations with a 17-year-old boy from Ruba'i? Then, say
the first man's family wanted to marry him off to a girl from the Ruba'i
family. Can they? And to what degree of relatedness? Can he be the husband
of his former lover's sister? The answer is "no." In contrast, Sistani
would allow a man who had an affair with a girl to later on marry her
sister. Personally, I think the gay guy is getting the better advice here;
having a brother-in-law or sister-in-law who is your former lover would be
awkward at family reunions. Sistani does say that if a man has an affair
with a married woman, and fathers her child, and she later gets divorced,
he cannot in good conscience marry her, as a punishment for the earlier sin.
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