Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Gay Rights in the Middle East

Andrew Sullivan has a sickening, heart-rending post about the execution of two gay youths in Iran. It brings home the importance not just of the war in Iraq and the war against terrorism but--I know, we're not supposed to say this out loud--the culture war with Islam as practiced in the Middle East.

This is a daunting project and many people, understandably, are simply unwilling to confront it. But this isn't a fight between Middle Eastern Islam and America or Democracy or even Liberalism. It's a fight between Middle Eastern Islam and modernity. A culture which is compatible with the modern world is simply incapable of this barbarism. And remember, this isn't an isolated example.

What worries me most about America's democratization project in the Middle East isn't the pictures of Nick Berg having his head sawed off. That is, in its own misguided way, part of war, with people who style themselves as soldiers acting the part of butchers. It is barbaric, but you can, after much struggle, dimly comprehend it.

No, what worries me are the pictures of Iraqis the charred bodies of American contractors. The pictures of Palestinians joyously waving their hands, stained purple with the blood of Jews, out the windows in Ramallah to a cheering throng below. This picture of two kids who barely look old enough to drive being trussed up on the gallows because they're gay. There is no comprehension available here. The people in these pictures are not grimly carrying out politics by other means. They are rhapsodic about death.

You can stop an insurgency. You can kill and capture terrorists. It is not clear to me how you instigate a reformation in a major sect of a religion which breeds this sort of hatred and bloodlust.


Anonymous said...

The same way we stamp out the hatred and bloodlust of the KKK. The way we stamp out the hatred and bloodlust of those who killed Matthew Shepard. Can you really see a fundamental difference between cheering at a killing in the Middle East and public attendence, with picnic baskets, at a southern lynching?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Of your two analogies, only one comes close to working. It's true that celebration of lynching throughout the south is bears some similarity to the incident in Iran. But I don't think your comparison quite works.

JVL's point, if I read him correctly, is that such behavior is normal, unremarkable, in much of the Middle East, which is a consequence of the uncomfortable fact that Arab culture may lack the moral resources to condemn it. In marked contrast, in the U.S., lynchings were the exception, and they were rooted out precisely because they were abominable to the spirit of our larger moral and political culture.

Your other analogy fails badly. Matthew Shepard's murder was an absolutely isolated incident, and does not come close to representing something of our larger culture. Nor was he killed by the authority of the state; nor was his death gleefully received. (And let's disregard, shall we, the recent evidence that Shepard was killed not for being gay, but because he was a meth addict who got involved with a rough crowd.)

Anonymous said...

One thing that leaves some room for hope in the long run is that all of these super macho Middle Eastern Muslims find it necessary to wear masks/hoods when allegedly acting in the name of their religion. Even these barbarians know deep down that what they are doing is wrong and they fear being held accountable for it.

Kathleen Nelson said...

While your overall point is clear, and I agree with it, I believe you're painting with strokes that are way too broad when you use the term "Middle East Islam." Iran is predominantly Shiite, which as we all know is not the same thing as Sunni, or Wahhabism, or any one of a hundred other sects. Neither is every Muslim in the Middle East an Arab.

There is a battle between those who would advocate civilization and those who wouldn't. And while there are plenty who would advocate a return to the stone age, it's important to remember there are plenty of Middle Eastern leaders who may be Islamic and lead Islamic nation states, but who are fully for modernity. The Emir of Dubai, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al-Maktoum is wholly in favor of modernity and you can tell that just by looking at his city. He knew early on that their oil supply would be depleted by 2010, so he has created, quite literally, a whole new economy for his emirate. Dubai Internet City is just one example of what he's done. It's not a coincidence, either, that Dubai is the one place between Beirut and Bombay where you can legally buy a beer. In Kuwait, women recently received the right to vote and there is now a woman on the cabinet.

This is not to excuse what these bastards did, but there is hope. Some people are seeing the light.

Jack Rich said...

Islam in its various stripes is about submission (painting with a very broad brush here, but they all share a certain non-flushable book...). Some would say, the submission is your will to that of God (Allah). fair enough, but that's not all of what is done in the name of Islam.

Evidence on the ground, since its bloody founding on the Arabian peninsula almost 1400 years ago, says that Islam is all about submission of infidels to Islam. By the sword. Period.

The apologists, such as Ms. Nelson (paraphrasing, "Gee; they've got a really nifty internet city in Dubai...") often confuse the use of modern things, such as computers and cellphones, with the liberal, post-Englightenment outlook that we in the West take for granted. We are modern; they mimic some of the modern behaviors.

Islam as practiced is brutal, nasty, and has none of the grace and love of and by God that I associate with both Judaism and my faith, Christianity.