9 December 2009

Islamic Homosexualities

If you've read past the title, congratulations on your open mind.

I love this book:

It is a collection of chapters that delve into historical and modern homosexual practice in the Islamic world. It focuses on culture rather than religion. What does this mean? It means that while it performs an analysis of homosexuality in the Islamic countries, its reader is encouraged to conceptualise Islamic homosexuality in the context of cultural practices that either existed or currently exist rather than in the context of practices that are or are not endorsed by the Islamic religion.

It is important not to make prejudiced assumptions.
The authors do not aim to critique Islam in any way regarding its stance (pro or against) towards homosexuality.
Nor do they set about proving that some hadith endorses homosexuality.
That is NOT the aim of the book.

Its chapters essentially "challenge the dominant, Eurocentric model of gay/lesbian history and the implicit, occasionally explicit, assertion in many social constructionist accounts that nothing at all preceded modern homosexuality or that whatever homosexual behaviour occurred earlier was too disorganized, spontaneous, and insignificant to compare with modern homosexuality."

Essentially the book is in opposition of "Western exceptionalism - the practice of viewing the history of western Europe as representing the culmination of all human progress".

Incidentally, my [incomplete] novel takes the same stance against Eurocentrism. But it goes further and endorses, quite explicitly, an Eastern centric viewpoint. This viewpoint is aimed as an experiment that explores different models for conceptualising history. It is not aimed at converting readers to this Eastern model but rather, it offers a challenging perspective for all readers regardless of their background.

But going back to Murray, who is one of the authors of this book...He states that some scholars believe that the cultural conception of homosexual types was non-existant before the late 19th century when medical discourse created one in Northern Europe. Murray sees this belief "as northern European and American will not to know that anyone else anywhere else ever noticed recurrent homosexual desire." Again, this belief is founded in Western exceptionalism.

So that is the book. Very interesting, by the way. Not for the faint hearted.

Homosexuality - Dialogue and Change

I came across a few topics in this book which reminded me of some of the intergroup behaviours identified by social psychologists.

Firstly, some background. It is a popular belief that the Western [non-Islamic] world, which sees itself as 'progressive' and 'highly tolerant' argues that Islam is 'backward' in its stance towards homosexuality. Albeit, only in 1895, literary figure, Oscar Wilde, was thrown in jail for indecent [homosexual] behaviour. He was given a very harsh 2 year prison sentence (walking on the treadmill all day long is linked to heart attacks for those not used to the effort and Oscar was not) which broke his spirit, rendered him penniless and eventually led to his demise.

But for argument's sake, let us say that the Western world is indeed 'progressive'. Just for argument's sake.

To adopt a Western centric viewpoint, the Western world would represent the ingroup. The outgroup, in our Western centric scenario, is the Islamic world.

Conversely, in a Muslim centric model, the ingroup is the Islamic world and the outgroup is the Western world. This is the model I want to use.

As history would have it, much of this Islamic ingroup suffered indignance at the hands of a colonial Western outgroup. But I won't go into it. Just hold that in mind.

Now in their book, Murray and Roscoe indicate that "in countries where Islam is the dominant religion, equal rights for gays and lesbians are unlikely to be achieved by means of secular arguments that do not pay respect to the sacred sources of Islamic culture".
They then quote Khalid Duran who points out that "such an approach is likely to result in a backlash against what is perceived as an attempt to impose the values of the former colonial powers."

What this means is that if ever Islamic countries were to be persuaded to adopt so called 'progressive', 'tolerant' views towards homosexualities, the means of persuasion should NOT be through Western discourse.

Because in intergroup relations, persuasion of an ingroup is best achieved when ideas or critique originate from an ingroup member (e.g. a Muslim), rather than an outgroup member (a non Muslim). Any outgroup suggestions for change are interpreted negatively by the ingroup and are seen as arising out of outgroup self-interest rather than for the interest of the ingroup. This tendency to interpret outgroup criticism negatively increases, the more strongly an ingroup member identifies with their ingroup. In other words, for Islamic accommodation of homosexuality to ever occur, discourse must flow from within the Islamic community rather than from the Western world.

Now to compound the distrust that our ingroup (Islamic world) would feel towards the outgroup (Western world), remember the colonisation of the ingroup and its consequences. Remember, for example, France's harsh treatment of Algerians during its colonisation process. Now reflect on how an outgroup's intention can be further mistrusted as a result of the ingroup's experience with the outgroup.

Anyway, I'll drop the model for now. Enough said.

The sum of this is that the Western world is by far not the best group to disseminate homosexual discourse or to promote homosexual tolerance in the Islamic world. As intergroup relations would have it, this would only be interpreted negatively, especially by those who identify strongly with Islam's teachings.

Furious meddling is not an option!

(Oh, and by the way, I'm not Muslim and I wouldn't call myself fully Western. Now just where do I fit in? Hmmm....)

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