Sunday, June 11, 2006

Gays vs. Muslims in Europe: A True Battle?

Two events happened in Europe last week which signal emerging tension between gay groups and Islamic ones.

First, an article in the Brussels Journal expressed the Dutch fear that the release of Somali-born asylum seeker Ayaan Hirsi Ali's new movie Submission 2 might create a Muslim backlash which would hurt Holland. Submission 2 documents the struggle of gay people in Muslim society. A quote:

The NCTb writes that "Submission 2" has already attracted attention in the Arab
world and in Iran. The Dutch authorities are working on a plan about what to do
if the movie does, indeed, stir up international Muslim indignation.
“Controversial debates or artistic quotes about Islam in the Netherlands can be
abused by radical Muslims abroad to agitate against the Netherlands,” the NCTb
report says. It states that the Danish cartoon affair shows how minor local
incidents can rapidly escalate into violent tensions between Muslims and
non-Muslims. “Not only political interests but also economic interests as well
as the safety of embassies and Dutch troops abroad can be in jeopardy.”

I find this to be unlikely. While the Danish cartoon incident was clearly an example of a poor reaction of the Muslim community (You're calling us violent? We're not! And we're burn your embassy to prove it!), it is an outlier. There are hundreds more examples of Western criticisms of Islam that do not garner such a reaction. Even in regards to the gay issue, for even Brian Whitaker's colonialist Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East did not muster even the blink of an eye, and the British embassies are still in tact. (I'll write a review on the book and why I like and dislike it soon.)

Another quote:

The way in which the Dutch threw Hirsi Ali out in an attempt to appease Muslim
fanatics has attracted worldwide attention. The famous Peruvian author Mario
Vargas Llosa criticized the Netherlands this week in an op-ed piece in the Lima newspaper El Comercio. He wrote that he had “applauded the Netherlands in the past when it was a pioneer in allowing euthanasia, legalising drugs and institutionalising gay marriage. Now I am disillusioned by the disgraceful surrendering of a government and the public opinion of a democratic country to the blackmail of terrorist fanaticism.”
The second quote shows the danger that can be promulgated by gay society in Europe in regards to the Muslim community - if the gay community creates a false dichotomy, i.e. either you support gay rights or Islam, the gay rights movement will be severely damaged. Such a dichotomy forces people to choose between the two sides, creating the illusion that moderate stances are impossible. If Muslims are torn between their religion and tolerance of gay people, which do you think they will choose? This danger of dichotomy is echoed in the next event in Europe:

The British blog Islamophobia Watch last week posted a rebuttal to an article posted on the blog Harry's Place by British gay-rights group OUTRage!

Last month, I posted about homophobic comments from the leader of Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), Sir Iqbal Sacranie, and Brett Lock OUTRage's righteous reponse to them. The comments on Harry's Place, also by Brett Lock, do not follow the same vein. I understand what Lock is saying: intelligent policing is not the same as random police attacks, and Islamic extremists have proven to be a real threat in this century. But he goes a little over the line in his attacks on Muhammad Abdul Bari, the new leader of the MCB, appointed this month. Take a look at Lock's response to Bari's statement, "Trust could be an issue. Trust could break down if things are not clarified. Angry people can do anything, angry people can even feel that they should take the law into their own hands so anger has to be directed into positive action.":
Angry people can do anything? That sounds like a threat. It presents the spectre
of more angry, resentful and militant Muslims driven to taking even more extreme
actions. It’s saying “The situation is making us angry... and you know what we
do when we’re angry!”

Lock is hinting that Bari is calling for more militant extremism in the Muslim community, which he surely isn't. In fact, the idea that an angry populace treated badly by the government is a tried-and-true argument for minorites, and gay people have said that many times. Why, when said by a Muslim, should it equal terrorism?

It's no wonder Lock's post receives such an emotional response from Islamophobia Watch - it's somewhat unjustified, especially when the blog found these remarks made by Bari last Monday:
Islam doesn't accept homosexuality.... But that doesn't mean that Muslims have
to homophobic. There is no room for discrimination and hatred in our

If gay people are going to win tolerance from the greater Muslim community, they need to work with the Muslim community in positive, constructive manners. Attacking or creating the illusion of constantly being attacked will not help. Gay people need to find Muslims who support them and nurture relationships with them. Those gay-supporting-Muslims have friends, and their friends have friends, and so on... That is the method of true change.


Blogger Brett Lock said...

Actually, my argument wasn't at all that Bari was calling for more militant extremism. What I was saying is that from a public relations perspective, what he said is likely to be interpreted as a threat of more militancy rather than a more reassurancing message. The problem is that his message in muddled. I do not believe that he intended to provoke violence, but what he did - again, purely from the perspective of effective public relations - is raise the spectre of an extreme response at a time when it would have been better to do the opposite for the simple reason that if the public becomes conserned about more extremism, they'll likely be more supportive of these police raids, not less.

Islamophobia Watch got completely the short end of the stick.

June 13, 2006 10:32 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home