CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW ON THE HISTORIES OF HOMOSEXUALITIES IN THE WEST AND THE ARAB WORLD
Most of the scholarship on homosexuality in Arab countries has focused on same sex relations that were practiced between males before the nineteenth century. However, during the last century, there has not been profound recognition of scholarly work on homosexuality in the Arab World. Only recently have scholars started to discuss the subject of gayness directly. Among what has been written on homosexuality, I chose three significant works to discuss in this section.
"Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian life in the Middle East" by Brian Whitaker (2006) includes interviews with gays and lesbians from the upper class living in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. It focuses on the social and political repressions imposed on gays living in the Middle East, and has shown that adopting a gay identity clashes with Arab and Muslim identity in which the codes of honor and shame, and the concepts of family and marriage are of significant importance in Arab culture(s).
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In Chapter 3, of "Desiring Arabs" by Joseph Massad (2007) , entitled "Re-orienting desire: The Gay International and the Arab world", the author states that there is an attempt by the Gay International to universalize and impose gay rights in societies in which gays do not exist. The main objective of gay activists around the world is to transform men engaging in same sex relations into gays when this category is absent in Arab countries. His main argument is that "it is the very discourse of the gay international, which both produces homosexuals, as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist, and represses same sex desires and practices that refuse to be assimilated into its sexual epistemology" (163). He acknowledges the existence of gays and lesbians in the Middle East but claims that these are victims of the West and that most of them are from upper classes. The repressive campaign that has been launched against homosexuals in the Middle East among which the biggest one was in Egypt in 2001 was due, according to him, to men identifying themselves openly as gays.
"In a time of torture the assault on justice in Egypt's crackdown on homosexual conduct" by the Human Rights Watch (2004) includes interviews with sixty three men who have been arrested by the Egyptian government for being gays. These men have been condemned with debauchery and prostitution laws. The ones who were found to be passive/bottom in sexual relations following a forensic anal examination were subjected to few years of prison as well as harassment and torture. This report shows that Egypt is violating human rights and its own constitution in which sexual orientation is not punishable by law. Associations dealing with human rights asked Egypt to stop persecuting men engaging in same sex relations and to therefore respect human rights law.
The latter works discussed have only focused on the repression imposed on gays in the Arab world as well as the 'non respect' of their sexual orientation. However, no qualitative empirical study has been conducted on gay identity formation in Egypt. Therefore, this literature review won't be about homosexuality per se, but rather about what can we say about scholarly approaches concerning the topic homosexuality, and how has the definition been changed throughout history.From criminalization to medicalisation to legalization in the West
The thirteenth century witnessed a growing hostility toward homosexuality as the religious institution (Church) was in control of the individuals' sexuality. "Through most of Western history, the church was the chief reflection and instrument of socio-sexual values, and it was not necessarily out of harmony with widespread values and other institutions" (Marmor 1980:83). Non-procreative sex such as masturbation, bestiality homosexual, anal and oral sex were considered as sinful and unnatural acts. Just like any other type of sexual sins, sodomy was a capital offense, punishable by death. "The penances for homosexuality and effeminacy were usually greater than those for fornication, adultery, sometimes even incest, and might be lifelong" (Marmor 1980:85).
In the nineteenth century, official characteristics of homosexuality shifted from the criminal model to the medical one. Ulrich's argument in "Third Sex Theory" is that homosexuality is innate and that therefore homosexuals should not be punished. "Medicine thereby became another weapon among the armaments arrayed against same sex love, opening a century of experimentation, drugging, electro shocking, mutilation, and psychological manipulation" (Adam 1978, chap.2). Homosexual males and females were sent to mental institutions and prisons. They were also discriminated against in workplaces and prevented from leading a normal lifestyle. It is because they were considered abnormal and mentally sick persons by psychiatrists and the society as whole that homosexuals started to develop their own subculture by the end of the nineteen century.
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"During much of the nineteenth century, history was used to reinforce traditional ideas about chastity, monogamy, and sexual conformism. More recently it has been used to de-stigmatize behavior once considered sickness or sin" (Marmor 1980:97). The first committee founded for the defense of homosexual rights took place in Germany in 1897 and survived till it was suppressed by Hitler in 1933. However, even though Nazism was the culmination of brutality in the name of modernity which has led to the massacre of tens of thousands of homosexuals, this suppressed German model encouraged the formation of gay and lesbian movements in many European and North American countries after World War II. In June 1968, the first gay manifestation in the world expressing the growing political power of gays and lesbians-the Stonewall riot took place in New York.
Identifying themselves openly as gay, activists displayed an assertiveness and self confidence rarely seen in the older groups. Gay protests, demonstrations, and parades now confronted the public with angry and determined homosexual men and women who came out of their closets and bodily flaunted traditional stereotypes or demonstrated their falsity. (Greenberg 1990:458).
This increased visibility of homosexuals in civil society was preceded by the Women's liberation movement that occurred in the 1960s. The social and economic changes that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s in the European and North American societies facilitated the acceptance of homosexuals. During this period, women started to ask the government for their social, legal and political rights. The sexual division of labor was contested by many women who started to invade the public sphere-a place which had been long consecrated to men only. Women started to take control of their sexuality. They started using contraception to control their fertility. In the 1960s, sex became no longer a matter only of procreation but also of pleasure, facilitated by new technologies of fertility control. The women's liberation movement of the late sixties, with its fundamental critique of the family structure and weakening of the imposed gender stereotype that dictated both sexes emotional profile, gender function and the subsequent male domination of both the social & economic spheres, has favored the ground for the gay movement (Greenberg 1990: 459-461).
Intrinsic to the gay and women's liberations movements was also the movement for sexual liberation that challenged the traditional principle of confining sexual relations to the institution of marriage. Pre-marital sex acceptance along with the acknowledgment of pleasure and consensually harmless expression of love have relaxed the attitudes toward contraception, abortion, pornography and divorce and has reduced the hostility toward homosexuality (Greenberg 1990: 462).
Sexual liberation and women's liberation movements played a role in the weakening of rigid traditional gender stereotypes and in the shift away from the old conception of the gay man as feminine:
Self conceptualization as either distinctly 'masculine' (and therefore active' and not homosexual) or feminine/gender-inverted (and therefore 'passive' and distinctly homosexual) appears to have given way to a more uniform, if paradoxical, masculine identity. It has enabled many men...to come out of the closet by thinking that (their) homosexuality poses no threat to their masculinity. (Forrest: 1994:103).
The 1970s marked the beginning of an increased tolerance of homosexuality thanks to its passage from the field of psychiatry to the field of sociology. The American Psychiatric Association did in fact remove homosexuality from its list of mental diseases in 1973. Since then, social theorists started to become interested in the analysis of homosexual identity formation. "Ethnographic work of this kind began to give us a picture of homosexuality, not as medical or psychological condition, but as a component of a way of life with distinctive manners, customs and institutions" (Greenberg 1990:464). In the mid 1980s homosexuality as a sexual orientation was included in human rights legislations through A law reform that only demanded the logic realization that equal and impartial treatment and evaluation of everyone's right for a job or shelter is determined according to their competence and not any irrelevant criteria (Barry 1987:123).
Having gained many of their rights in the 1990s, gay and lesbian activists have since then multiplied their efforts in other parts of the world to prevent other homosexuals from discrimination. The main objective of LGBT organizations (Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals) mostly located in Europe and in the United States is the encouragement of an increased visibility of homosexual communities around the world and their acquirement of more equal rights in their societies.From tolerance (under specific conditions) to criminalization, medicalisation and sin in the Arab World
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Recorded accounts of same sex relations in Egypt date back to the Mamluk era (1250-1517). The most common type of same sex relations the Mamaleek were practicing for more than two centuries was pederasty-trans-generational or age-structured homosexuality which involved a young non-Egyptian boy undergoing military service and an adult man.
The Mamaleek were military slaves separated from theirhomeland at a very young age and brought to Egypt to protect it from foreign invasions. Their main objective in life however, was not to build a family and ensure affiliation.
Cut off from all his former ties: his environment, his religion, his race, his tribe and-what is particularly important-his family...he got a new family instead of that which he had lost. This was a family which was not based on blood relations, but on the relations of slavery and patron-ship. The patron who had bought the Mamluk became his father; and his comrades in servitude in the school, whom he-in most cases-never knew before, and who quite often belonged to other races and other tribes, became his. (Ayalon 1980:327-28).
Just like the eunuchs (khasi), the Mamluks could not inherit nor pass their in-heritance to their relatives. "Neither the wealth, nor the status of Mamluks was heritable. Upon the death of the warrior, his property, house, goods, wife and slaves were sold for the benefit of the treasury" (Murray 2000: 43). Beside the fact that the Mamaluks' social system was not based on family and marriage, this period of Egyptian history was also characterized by a high status of women. One of the first governments established by the Mamaleek was ruled by the queen Shajaret al Dur who even though she married Izz al-Din Aybak kept on running the country for three months. The Mamaleek were also not given the right to divorce their wives. Their wives were also financially independent. They used to receive a fixed monthly salary from the Egyptian government of that time, just like their husbands (ibid).Homoeroticism in Classical Arabic Literature
Traces of same sex love between an adult and a boy or teenager are found in the Classical Arabic Literature of the Early Ottoman period (1516-1798). "Biographical dictionaries, poetic anthologies, and belletristic works on profane love relate usually without any hint of disapproval, the pederastic love affairs of prominent poets, religious scholars, and political notables" (Lagrange 2006:1). According to Khaled el Rouayheb in his book Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800, "Falling in love with a teenage youth and expressing this love in verse were not punishable offenses, and a significant number of Islamic scholars, though not all, asserted that such behavior was not objectionable" (El-Rouayheb 2005:153). There were visibility and tolerance of same sex relations at this period of history, even though homosexuality was punishable. Homosexuality was age structured, that involved bearded older men in love with beardless teenagers, the beard being a sign of manhood and masculinity.
Many Arab poets described the object of their love as a young boy and they went at length to describe his "desirable" physical features:
The beloved of whom the Arab poets write is always a young boy, at most an adolescent...the boy is always brown and slender: his waist is supple and thin like a willow branch or like a lance: his hair, black as scorpions, traces on his forehead the letter of the Arabic alphabet: his eyes are arcs with hurl arrows; his cheeks are roses; his saliva has the sweetness of honey; his buttocks resemble a dune of moving sand. When he walks, you could call him a young faun; when he is motionless; he eclipses the brightness of the moon. (Daniel 1977:5 in Murray & Roscoe 1997:22).
Frederique Lagrange (2005) has identified four basic notions concerning homoeroticism in classical and modern Arab societies as reflected in fiqh (jurisprudence), poetry and prose literature : The first being the acknowledgment of "male beauty", even in other males eye, and its capability of inducing "fitna"(disorder); the second being the recognition of the natural vulnerability of a grown man to be charmed by a handsome adolescent to the point that main stream theologians such as imam Ibn Hanbal (d. 855) urged on the necessity of resisting the related temptation that follows this natural appreciation; the third being the affirmation that love and passion along with their related dangers- and not just sexual desire- might be the driving force to a man-to-man attraction and the fourth being the focal centralization around men to boys attraction in classical literature and poetry whereas grown man to grown man attraction is marginalized and regarded as mujun (ribaldry) sukhf (obscenity) (171-173)."The will to not know" in the Arab culture
Even though homoeroticism is present in classical Arabic literature, same sex relations between two men could never be made public. The concept of silencing sexuality and keeping it in the private realm might be explained by the concept of "The Will to Not Know" present in the Arab culture. "The apparent tolerance of homosexual practices in Islamic societies depends on a widespread and enduring pattern of collective denial in definition which is a condition of the pursuit of homosexual activity whether based on age difference or gender definition, is that behavior should never be publicly acknowledged" (Murray & Roscoe 1997:8). A sort of a "don't ask, don't tell" policy was followed when it came to same sex relations.
Further, if it became known the man had been the "object "of sexual relations, he would lose face and honor in society. According to the German Islamicist Arno Schmitt:
A man should not allow others to bugger him. Otherwise he loses his name, his honors that is, if others know it and are known to know. The decisive line is not between the act kept secret and the act known by many, but between only talking behind one's back and saying it in your presence, between rumors and public knowledge. There is always maneuver, you can always ignore what everybody knows, one ignores what might disrupt important social relations. There is a clear rule: you cannot be fucked. But what this really comes down to is: saying of somebody that he has been fucked disturbs social relations. (1992:7).Distinction between active and passive partner
Sexuality in the Arab world, whether heterosexuality or homosexuality is not a relation between two equals but rather, a relation of power between a dominant partner and a dominated one. The distinction was made between the active/dominant/top /penetrator and the passive/subordinate/bottom/penetrated in sexual relations, the male being the penetrator and the female the penetrated. The fact of being penetrated was a shameful act in sexual intercourse:
Where the attitude toward the passive partner tended to be unequivocally negative, the evaluation of the active partner was more ambivalent. From the perspective of the ideal of masculinity, the penetrator emerges from the sexual encounter with his honor impaired, if not enhanced. From the perspective of the ideal of conformity with religious-moral norms of society the penetrator is dishonored. (El-Rouayheb 2005: 24).Distinction between sexual behavior and sexual identity
Murray and Roscoe argue that there is a distinction between sexual behavior/doing and sexual identity/being. Engaging in same sex relations did not mean that one perceived himself as homosexual at that time. "Practitioners of pre-modern homosexualities never formulated identities based on their practices and never created networks among themselves that might have achieved sufficient density and localization to be noticed, that `identity' and `subculture' are uniquely modern and Western inventions" (1997: 5).Absence of a social definition of homosexuality
The notion of male homosexuality has not existed in the Arab world in the early Ottoman Empire. "There was simply no native concept that was applicable to all and only those men who were sexually attracted to members of their own sex rather than to women" (El-Rouayheb 2005:154). According to Frederique Lagrange (2005), there is not a single word that exists in Arabic to describe men engaging in same sex relations but there are multiple ones. There is a categorization of sexual acts: "The language uses such specialized terms as liwat (anal sex), luti (active sodomite who prefers boys over women, not being concerned with what modern terminology would qualify as occasional bisexuality), ma'bun (passive sodomite), mukhannath (effeminate passive sodomite), mu'ajir (passive male prostitute), dabb (active sodomite who likes raping his victims in their sleep regardless of their age), musahiqa (lesbian), and so on" (171).
The word "khawal" was invented in the 19th century under the reign of Mohamed Ali (1805-, a period of the Egyptian history marked by social segregation. This term was used to refer to a young Egyptian and Muslim male dancer or performer in ceremonies who replaced the traditional female belly dancers who were banned from performing in 1834 as they were considered as obscene.
It was felt at that time that men casting aside their virility were less a cause of fitna (social disorder) than women behaving freely and sporting their charms. The public space was the exclusive domain of men and it was accepted therefore that men had the right to renounce their manhood through effeminacy (khinath) or passive homosexuality (ubna), although these were seen as illnesses. Women on the other hand could not claim what was not theirs and their appearance in the public space came to be regarded as a greater threat to the social order. (Lagrange 2000: 190).
Apart from dressing like women, the khawalat used to grow their hair and to braid it. "They imitate the women also in applying kohl and henna to their eyes and hands...they are often employed in preference to the ghawazee to dance before a house or in its court on the occasion of a marriage-fete or the birth of a child, or at the circumcision and frequently perform at public festivals" (Murray 2000:190).
Klunziger, a nineteen century traveler to Egypt described the performance of a male dancer and found it almost exactly alike to that of his female counterparts:
The performance of the chauel (khawal) or male dancer is not much of an improvement on that of the female dancer. Clothed and tricked out like a dancing girl, he goes through the same kind of motions on another evening to the delight of the spectator. Sometimes he also plays on some instrument, and sings as well; He blows the bagpipe full of wind, and while it escapes melodiously from the holes of the tubes, under the play of his fingers he strikes up his ear-piercing song which is followed by the hip dance-a threefold artistic effect produced all at once. This class of hermaphrodites, the product of the luxurious east, also resembles the dancing-girls in their abandoned morals". (Kunziger, 1878 in Murray 2000: 189).Representation of homosexuality in modern Arabic literature
In the absence of historical data, Literature is believed to be the social indicator of the codes of thoughts and conduct of an era. By the end of the 19th century, Arab writers started adopting the Victorian European disapproval of pederastic themes as these were seen as moral corruption. The colonial encounter has had an impact on Modern Arabic literature according to Bruce Dune's work on the nineteen century Egypt. It led many writers to avoid talking about sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular.
During the 1920s, with the rise of the liberal national identity that followed the 1919 revolution led by a white collared bourgeoisie who has assimilated the western literature and ideologies, the theme of male desire and boy love in classical poetry started to be attacked by Arab and non Arab writers who worked on eliminating pederasty from many books. The love poetry of boys present in classical literature was conceived as a crime against nature and a dishonor to the history of Arabic poetry.
Public morality started to evolve and expand as literacy increased and, by doing so, imposed censorship and self censorship. Naguib Mahfouz pointed at the differences between classical and modern literature, stressing the more private nature of classical literature, as well as the fact that the more sensitive aspects of modern literature remained unpublished "Classical Arabic adab was a literature of pleasant conversations at night with friends, and was restricted to private salons; there was no publisher nor media" (Lagrange 2000:191). In his book on the history of Islamic civilization published between 1928 and 1945, Ahmed Amin, an al-Azhar taught writer with progressive, close to secular opinions who used Western scholarship to introduce Muslims to the early Islamic cultures also talked about the poetry on the love of boys with great disapproval, claiming that this was "the greatest calamity".
"It is probably in the 1940s and 50s that the term shudhudh jinsi began to be regularly used by Arab authors to refer generally to phenomena that had traditionally been distinguished, such as active pederasty, effeminate male passivity, the passionate love for boys and sodomy" (El- Rouhayeb 2005:158). Any type of attraction to men started to become a sign of depravity and sickness in modern literature. In fact, homosexuality in modern literature is described in three different ways: First, as a denounced-or neutrally described-secondary character of the traditional society; Second, as a central or a secondary character with physical, psychological and social conflicts that usually leads to his death or suicide and third, as a traumatic interaction with the westerner other (Lagrange 2000:175).Representation of homosexuality in the Egyptian cinema
The Egyptian cinema with its influential effect as the "Hollywood of the East" and its powerful impact as a media of entertainment played a major role in reinforcing the image of the homosexual as a deviant person. Homosexuality has long been synonymous with transvestism and cross-dressing as men have often been represented as women (and women as men) in many Egyptian films.
In Arab film, they have become standard characters to imply the existence of a homosexual subculture or trans-gressive sexuality in general. Functioning as the servants of brothel prostitutes and their mentors in the art of erotic belly dancing, they are cinematic code for the depiction of homosexuals as derogatory, effeminate men. They also often possess uncanny wit, a cynical sense of pragmatic realism and personal integrity lacking in the conventional heterosexual characters who surround them. (Menucci 1998:32)
Since 1938, at least fourteen Egyptian movies have featured the homosexual characters: The Pasha's Director Daughter (1938), Miss Hanafi (1953), Succar Hanem (1960), For Men Only (1964), The Malathi Bath (1973), A Daughter Named Mahmoud (1975), Cat on Fire (1977), Alexandria Why (1978) Alley of Desire (1983), Male Masters (1987), Beggars and Proud Ones (1991), Mercedes (1993), Disco Disco (2000), and finally, Yacoubian Building (2006).
After watching the movies myself, I was able to compare, contrast and categorize the various genres these movies fall into. I noticed that the earlier movies, from 1938 till 1964, touched on homosexuality in a comical manner. Had they come out in a serious, accepting manner it might have been a taboo and frowned upon. These clear depictions paved the way for other directors to take on homosexuality in movies.
What is evident in the later films since 1973 is the development of the homosexual character in a far more serious and controversial manner. The homosexual is often represented as a mentally challenged person who is overpowered by his sexual preference for men and traumatized by social stigma. Most of the time he ends up committing suicide.
The concept of homosexuality is also always linked to the West washing its hands of the Middle East. This is the case of the homosexual character in the Yacoubian Building. The film was based on a novel written by a prominently prestigious Egyptian dentist, Alaa Al Aswany. The author bravely and blatantly tackled the homosexual role and pulled this character out of the closet for all to see; he was prepared for all the taboo and social stigma that comes with it. Before the movie was put into making there was a great deal of controversy around who was to play the role of the homosexual, an upper-class French-influenced journalist, and a great many actors turned the role down due to its sensitivity. However, Khalid Al Sawi took on the role and was most skillful in portraying this character. While I am in agreement that the description of the gay character is plausible on many levels in the Yacoubian Building, I disagree with the portrayal of the character as a victim; that his homosexuality is related to the infidelity of his mother and having been sexually abused as a child by his Nubian butler, which was the cause of his sexual orientation and later homicide
I am not at all in agreement that this film has done justice to homosexuality in Egypt. In fact, quite the opposite: it only sheds light on the pessimistic side of homosexuality. According to my own research on homosexuals, it is clear they can lead a "normal" life, as well as being gay without any history of abuse or suicidal contemplations. Some have hardly had any Western influence and have lived in Egypt all, if not most, of their lives; whereas in the film his sexual orientation is again related to his French influence which does not conform to all homosexuals in Egypt. However, it remains the clearest positive, or at least the most sympathetic, representation of the homosexual, despite the many pessimistic elements and victimization portrayed in the movie.Representation of homosexuality in the print media
The local Egyptian media sponsored by the state has also created a phobia around the topic of homosexuality. Homosexuals are referred to as perverted, sinners, sodomites, criminals, sick persons, and Satan worshipers. Many journalists also refer to male homosexuals in the feminine, especially following the Queen Boat case (The most famous crackdown on Egyptian homosexuals that occurred in 2001) and other arrests of homosexuals that have followed this incident. Homosexuals, it is argued, are arrested because of the way they dress and talk:
Banners' headlines called them perverted who embraced the evil, lost the path of spirituality from the straight good path to the ways of hell'. Satanic and perverting jobs, invoking the 'cultural and moral situation' serves as a pretext for arrests, prosecutions and decisions based on stereotype and stigma. (Humans Rights Watch 2004:96).
Despite the fact that that the incident of the queen Boat took place in Cairo in 2001, Egyptian journalists did not stop attacking men engaging in same sex relations in local newspapers. "The media frenzy sent the message to the public and the police that sexual perversion in conspiratorial alliance with foreign forces was not merely a private concern but a national menace" (Long 2004:15). On the 4th of March 2004, in an article entitled "Freedom of Perversion" published in El Wafd, Gamal Badawy, a renowned journalist, argues that the Egyptian conception of freedom and human rights is totally different from the Western conception that gives rights to homosexuals. The journalist states that gay rights activists have gained their rights to get married in the West without anyone interfering from the Arab world. He says that Arabs have always refused the Westerners' political advice and that therefore Westerners should not expect Arabs to accept gay rights. The human rights activists hide behind the concept of "freedom for all" when their intention is otherwise. What the West wants is to spoil the Arab world and to fill it with perversion. The journalist claims that many TV channels and programs are transmitting inappropriate images of homosexuality to the Arab audience. He wants people to stand up and fight against the enemy. According to him, the duty of the Islamic and Christian associations in Egypt as well as any other association that works for the preservation of cultural authenticity.
In response to the massive attacks by gay international on the Egyptian government's persecution of homosexuals and its so called non-respect of the human rights, Dr. Ahmed Kamal Abou El Magd, the vice president of the National Human Rights Assembly- a governmentally funded establishment created in the aftermath of the post 9-11 American call for democratization - has written a magazine article in Rosa al Youssef ( a liberal progressive publication ) in June 19, 2004 entitled "You have your own traditions and we have our own beliefs...Perversion/Homosexuality is not a human right in Egypt" . In the article, Abou El Magd argues that culture is different across time and space and those differences should be respected by everyone everywhere. There are major differences between cultures, and one of these differences in Egyptian society is the rejection of homosexuality.
According to the same intellect, sexual perversion and more specifically homosexuality is against human rights as there is no universal agreement on gay rights. For example, the Vatican, as well as many influential religious communities and establishments in Europe and most of the United States are against the marriage of homosexuals. The main purpose of marriage, he argued, is to build a family and to have children. Marriage is between a man and a woman and not between two persons of the same sex. Moreover, gay rights are not a priority in the Arab world, according to the author of the article. There are many other important issues the Arab governments have to deal with such as the respect of the human lives and freedoms.
Previous article published in Al Wafd on May the 6th 2003 by Dina Tawik, entitled "Shawaz (Perverts) on Internet" blamed the existence of homosexuality in Egypt on the Internet. The internet, and more specifically gay websites, threaten the social order according to the journalist as it is the mean through which homosexuals establish contact and meet each other. Tawfik cites an anonymous "professor" at the American University in Cairo as stating that homosexuality is due to several social factors among which the incapability of the youth to get married, unemployment, unstable childhood life, lack of self-confidence, rejection from women, and family disintegration.
In contrast to this sociological argument, a religious point was made in an article published in Sot El Oma (March 10, 2003) entitled "We do respect differences but we refuse immorality: Egyptian shawaz/perverts insulting the prophet". The journalist, Mohamed El Baz, argues that since 9/11, the West has attacked Islam as its enemy. Badr claims that "The shaz/perverted"-Egyptian homosexuals are using prominent figures in the Egyptian society such as famous writers, actors and producers to legitimize their deviant behavior and are now using the prophet in one of the most famous gay websites in Egypt: gay.egypt.com. They post wrong historical information about Egypt, which Badr finds unacceptable. He considers homosexuals to be mentally sick people. Therefore, they should not distort history and religion and invent stories such as claiming that the prophet kept on getting married to divorced women and widows because he was not attracted to women.
Articles published in other Egyptian local newspapers that have religious arguments have noted that Shenouda III, the pope of the Copts, has launched a campaign against gays and that Aly Gom'a, the mufti of the republic, has stated that gayness is unnatural, that Islam is against perversion and that gays have no rights in Egypt. Finally, religious, sociological and medical arguments have recently been proposed together as when October newspaper published an article called: "Muslim and Coptic religious figures in Egypt agreed upon the fact that the shaz /pervert/deviant is a sick person that should be put in a mental institution" (July 9, 2006). In the article, Ihab Hegazy reinforces the religious and cultural beliefs that the only admissible type of sexual relationship is the one that occurs between a man and a woman and that results in procreation-any other type of relation such as homosexuality and, presumably childless heterosexual threatens the social order and should be considered as unnatural or abnormal.Egyptian state control of civil society, Islamic revival and limitation of women rights and human rights
The social stigma attached to the word homosexuality has further been reinforced by the maintenance and reproduction of gender inequality through three other factors: 1) the Egyptian state control of civil society 2) Authoritarian Islamic revival 3) and the limitation of women's rightsEgyptian state control of civil society
Civil society is the place in which the state enforces its power through different religious, cultural and educational institutions. However, it is also a place in which citizens can challenge the power of the state and form groups to fight for their rights. The history of modern Egypt shows that the state has always dominated civil society and has often used religion among other references such as Nationalism and Arabism to further its political goals. Groups that are discriminated against in the Egyptian society were systematically muted throughout the progression of the state unless they served a pragmatic purpose to the regime.
Mohamed Ali, Wali of Egypt and Sudan, and the "founder of modern Egypt" introduced modernization to Egypt in the nineteenth century, by developing a strong state bureaucracy. The state was the only manager of the country's economy. He depended on foreign/external power and resources instead of depending on civil society, severely weakening the formation of independent associations. He did not use the Egyptian bourgeoisie to help him, which explains the collapse of his regime after 18xx. According to some historians in the 20th c, Nasser, the second President of Egypt from 1954 to 1970 has made the same mistake as Mohamed Ali, alienating the classes that could have backed him by not giving them any real share in power" (Abdelrahman 2004:95).
Abdelrahman (2004) goes on to argue that under Nasser's regime, the state became the only actor in the political scene. The expansion of bureaucracy gave rise to the growth of the ruling class, the state bourgeoisie composed of military elite. Nasser's regime was characterized by "the suppression of all social political movements and the reduction of institutions such as NGO's to an appendage of the state bureaucracy...The rise of any social outside force outside state control was perceived as a threat to this stability"(93). All political parties were banned, and all opposing forces such as the Muslim Brotherhood were suppressed.
Prior to 1952, Egyptian citizens had the freedom to create associations. After 1952, all of the associations had to re-apply for licenses. In 1964, Law 32-law of the associations gave the right to the state and the ministry of social affairs to regulate the associations. Furthermore, Law 49 placed all associations under the supervision of the state. This further restriction gave the state the right to reject any association, to select its leaders, and to control its funding. At present, no money can be obtained for an association without government's approval. Foreign grants have to be approved by the ministry and are subjected to strict regulations.
After Sadat came to power in 1970, he faced several challenges. In need of support to his regime, Sadat gave the freedom to certain Islamist groups and especially the Muslim Brotherhood to form associations. Thus, half of the associations active in the Egyptian society in the 1970s were Islamist associations. Even though they were monitored by the state, Islamic funds were not subjected to the supervision of the ministry of social affairs. No permission to collect money was required from the government, which opened the door for the solicitation of funding from sources in rich Gulf countries.
The Mubarak regime continued these reforms in the 1980s and 1990s. Parallel to the increase in the number of Islamist associations in civil society and state control over all of the association formation, Mubarak introduced the law 153/1999 which promoted the creation of several businessmen's associations. However, the main objective of these associations was the promotion of the businessmen's own interests, rather than people's interests. Associations that are based on the defense of human rights, women's rights, as well as any minority whether ethnic or religious were and still are subjected to strict control by the government. These are considered as potential threats to the social order.
A close analysis of the NGOs scene reveals that the state has always dominated the civil society by dictating its areas of interest and by often using religious & social dogmas to further its political goals and to marginalize the rest. From that perspective, women and human right activists were relatively welcomed since they provide the Egyptian regime with a certain international prestige as long as certain red lines were not crossed; whereas homosexuals and even ethnical or religious minorities have had, and are still having, difficulties forming associations that would help them gain their rights.Social and political power of the Muslim Brotherhood
Founded in 1928 by Hassan El Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood played a central role in early nationalist movements before aiding Nasser in overthrowing King Farouk. However, just after he gained power, Nasser imprisoned many of them and banned the movement. As they did not hold the same ideologies as Nasser did, he considered them a threat to the new government's stability. After the defeat in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and the collective humiliation this defeat caused to the Egyptians, the Muslim Brotherhood regained power. The Sadat government considered them as a non violent Islamist group and not as the holder of a radical ideology like other Islamists groups. Since the 1980s, the Muslim Brotherhood has represented the only serious opposition to Mubarak. In 2005, the Muslim Brothers gained 88 out of 454 seats (20%) in the parliament. Denis Sullivan asserts that they have also increasingly gained power in civil society as they provide better and cheaper services than the ones offered by the government:
The Muslim brotherhood has been very active in promoting social welfare, particularly in the areas of health care and education. The organization and its supporters run schools, hospitals, day care programs, and job training centers, tutoring programs, Quranic instruction programs, after-schools programs, and numerous other development and social programs. Its members are also very much involved in capitalist enterprises, such as factories, investment companies and agricultural enterprises. (Sullivan 1999: 22).
The Muslim brothers have been very effective in the way in which they put actions to their words. Their ability to mobilize people that started in the 1930s and to transmit their religious message was facilitated by the Egyptian state under the Sadat regime. President Sadat used the media as well as the television to consolidate power and mobilize society as well as to reinforce his religious image as al-ra'is al mu'min or the believing president . According to John Waterbury, Sadat depended on these conservative elements to build support for his regime's shift away Nasser's leftist policies and to undermine Nasserites, Marxists and radical students. (Waterbury 1983).
Even though the state has established censorship laws on the modern means of communication, Islamists have usually been given the freedom to spread their religious message in public areas such as the mosque in addition to their preachers use of the viral spread, easy access and the influential effect of audio tapes & fax machines (Ghanam 2002:138). Furthermore, the number of Islamic television programs and the number of viewers of these programs have increased considerably over the past few years. The building of more mosques has also become a trend in Egypt today. The mobilization of these mosques by Islamist groups to spread their religious message was and still is not subjected to state monitoring. The Islamicization of the state is also symbolized by an increase in Islamic instructions in schools and an increase in wearing the veil among women.
Hassan El Banna argued that "the Muslim world had been assailed by the West's abuses that have done injury to their Muslim dignity, their honor and their independence as well as commandeered their wealth and shed their blood" (Sullivan 1999:41). According to Islamists, since the corruption comes from the Westerners, the application of Islamic jurisprudence is necessary to combat this corruption. The Muslim Brotherhood's main objective is in fact the creation of an Islamic state that is ruled by Islamic law-sharia or God's law. Western law, they argue is man made and is believed to have spoiled Muslim society. Since Islam is the religion of most Egyptians, Muslim law is best suited to govern it: "In demanding the regulation of every aspect of life with Islamic values, Al Banna was asserting the Islamic belief that state and religion are inseparable (Sullivan 1999:42). Thus, in the perspective of Ziad Munsun, anti-colonialism come to be---to islamicization:
The primary concerns of the Muslim brotherhood centered on the domination of Egypt by foreign power, the poverty of the Egyptian people and the declining morality they identified in both, the Egyptian state and the lives of individuals throughout Egypt. The solution to these and other problems was an embrace of Islamic teachings and an understanding that all Muslims comprise a single cohesive community and must work together to resist the encroachment of corrupt western influences. (Munsun 2001:490).
To counter the rising Islamic trend, the Egyptian government sought to control the Islamic institutions concerned with the regulation of religious and sexual matters: "Religious institutions affiliated with the government (such as Al-Azhar and the ministry of endowment) have been intensifying their activities to show that the government is the "Guardian of true Islam" (Hanna 1993:26; see also Starett 1998; Ghanam 2002:131). Al Azhar is the institution that decides on religious grounds whether a controversial book could be distributed or not. Moreover, legislative proposals about personal status, including sexuality, have to pass by the Al Azhar centre of Islamic research before going to the parliament for discussion & legistlation. Even though holding important political differences, Al Azhar and Muslim Brotherhood support each other on gender sexuality and rights since they both rely on the same fundamental understanding of the "true Muslim society"
In an attempt to appease the Islamist groups and to give credibility to Al Azhar, Sadat modified the second article of the Egyptian constitution in 1971 to make the Islamic Sharia "THE" main source of legislation. A primary site of influence has been in laws governing family and personal status. This modification and application of Islamic law has increased the state control over citizens' private lives as the family law controls gender and sexuality.Islamic revival and limitation of women's rights
The application of Islamic law has had an impact on women's rights acquisition in Egypt. It is further reinforced by Islamist feminists' belief that women's first priority in life is staying home and taking care of their husbands and children.
While women entered universities and professions in greater numbers, an Islamic women's movement grew, rejecting western influences and inequality. Young women donned veils and traditional clothing. Increased educational opportunities and professional visibility, which have created their own tensions, were matched by an upswing in modest Islamic dress as an expression of Egyptian nationalism. (Brandt 1995:111).
Islamic revival going on in society has given rise to a division in the movement for women's rights. Two different types of women's movements have resulted in Egyptian civil society: Secular feminists and Islamist feminists:
Many women and men are fighting to advance women's rights through a secular (and supposedly modern) agenda, whereas many others appears to be seeking women's "return" to a traditional, subservient role (as supposedly prescribed by religion, both Islam and Christianity...these groups reflect the ideological differences in Egyptian society-from religious, conservative and traditional to secular, liberal and leftist. (Sullivan 1999:99).
Both groups face state opposition. According to Michelle Brandt and Jeffrey Kaplan: "Both secular and Islamists women's organizations are penalized by the state if they transgress of tolerable opposition to the state" (Brandt&Kaplan 1995:117). In fact, there is a growing opposition to women's activism and desire to gain their rights. The past few years have witnessed the dissolution of many women's organizations, both secular and Islamist, that are considered to be threatening to the stability of the country. Women's rights' activists and writers have been and still are imprisoned and threatened by the Egyptian government.
Brandt and Kaplan point the continued state control of civil society, arguing that: "Egypt's law regarding associations, which forbids any discussion of political or religious issues by any organization, has been used to close down the Arab's Women's Solidarity Association (AWSA) and its publication" (Brandt &Kaplan 1995:114). This association, headed by feminist activist Nawal el Saadawy, wanted changes in the family law, a modification that would help women gain control over their bodies.
According to research conducted by The Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, women's rights are constrained because of cultural, economic and social barriers. Under the Shari'a law, the patriarchal system is reproduced as women become dependent on members of their families. The fathers or the husbands are the heads of the family, and they have the duty to protect and to financially support their women relatives. This dependence is further reinforced by the inheritance laws that make the women inherit two times less than men and the wife even less than the children.
A regional workshop held in Malta in 2003 on "Sexual and Bodily Rights in the Middle East and North Africa" revealed that:
Taboos around women's sexuality serve to maintain the structure which supports these violations. The combination of law, social practices, traditions, religious and cultural constructs intertwine to shape the concept of sexuality. The patriarchal notion that women's bodies and sexualities belong not to themselves but to their families and society is reflected not only in customary practices, but is also sanctioned by the penal and civil codes in all of the countries in the region. (Amado 2004:125).
Islamic jurisprudence that determines women's rights in Egypt does work in contradiction with the constitution. Article 40 of the Egyptian constitution states that "All citizens are equal before the law." They have equal public rights and duties without discrimination due to sex, ethnic origin, language, religion or creed." However, and in spite of this right, women are still striving for their rights and suffering from inequality that finds its roots in the limited role given to them in the public sphere because of the application of Shari'a as the main source of law to regulate their private matters. According to the World Economic Forum, Egypt is at the bottom line in gender inequality. The representation of women in decision making positions is very rare, as their testimony is believed to worth half than that of man according to Islamic law.
The inequality in chances is also perceived in education. In fact, in spite of the effort made by the government to eradicate illiteracy, the rate of illiteracy is still higher among women because of girls still not being enrolled in schools especially in rural areas. 50% of women are still illiterate as opposed to 29% of men which is almost double. Many women still do not have identity cards and birth certificates. "Interrelated to lack of education opportunities is poverty. Many women, possessing no identity cards or birth certificates, are ineligible for social programs such as subsidized food and housing and cannot vote, obtain a passport or go to court" (Brandt 1995:115).
As for the right to work and professional opportunities, men hold more jobs than women in the government, public sector, public enterprise and private sector. 82% of women are still working in the informal sector and more specifically in the agriculture. The rate of unemployment is also higher among women than men.
Violence against women in work, public and domestic spheres is still practiced even though forbidden by the law. Violence against women includes Female circumcision or female genital mutilation. These practices are performed to decrease women's sexual desire, preserve women's chastity and ensure their fidelity. This practice is done to girls aged between 7 and 12 years old. It represents a violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted in 1989 and ratified by ninety six states among which Egypt on September the 5th 1991.
The Egyptian government had to wait till the beginning of this century and the intervention of the UNICEF after the death of a 12 year old girl to take initiative and formulate a law that would prohibit the performance of FGM. However, and because the campaign against FGM is still recent many women are still mutilated. Till today 4000 circumcisions are performed illegally every day in Egypt.
It is undeniable that law 34 improved family laws in terms of marriage and divorce as it gives the right to the woman to divorce her husband and to give her nationality to her children, but still, discrimination against women remains. In fact, in spite of the changing world women are living in today, personal status law has been resistant to change over the years. These laws regulate the relationship between husband and wife and parents and children, marriage as well as the termination of marriage whether by divorce or by death.
The concept of the "house of obedience" that women are obliged to go back to their husbands against their will and sometimes by force remained unchanged. Moreover, polygamy, the right of men to have more than one wife is still performed. The legal age for marriage of women has not been modified and is still very low and the age for the right to custody has not been expanded.
For women, adultery is punishable by two years imprisonment while for a man it is only six months. And if a man kills his wife for adultery he is imprisoned for a period not exceeding 3 years compared to three to 15 years with labor to hard labor for life for women. Under article 9, female prostitutes are subject from three months to three years while their male clients are released without any penalties. So the woman is the only bearer of the blame in this case. The penal code and law 10 for 1961 regarding combating prostitution does also discriminate against women and give them higher sentences than men. This same law 10/1961, dealing with debauchery and prostitution has been used and is still used by the Egyptian government to punish homosexuals.Crackdown on homosexuals
The Islamic revival that followed the 1967 military defeat and the adoption of primitive Arab customs that followed the early 70's migration to the to the gulf during the petrodollar boom to which Egypt has been subjected has resulted in the non modification of gender roles, the relations between men and women and the conception of homosexuality as a "violation of Islamic law". It is in this context that the imprisonment of men engaging in same sex relation by the Egyptian government became inevitable especially when it serves the regime best interest in distracting the masses, rising the bid on the islamists and recruiting the conservatives:
Since early 2001, a growing number of men have been arrested, prosecuted and convicted for having sexual relations with other men. Human Rights Watch knows the names of 179 men whose cases under the laws of 'debauchery' were brought before prosecutors since the beginning of 2001; in all probability that is only a small percentage of the true total. Hundreds of others have been harassed, arrested often tortured, but not charged. Men are whipped, beaten, bound and suspended in painful and inhumane positions, splashed with ice cold water, and burned with lit cigarettes. (Human Rights Watch Report 2004:1)
The most famous police entrapment of male homosexuals in Cairo was the Queen Boat incident in May 2001 in which 52 men were sent to prison because of their sexual preference for other men. Their full names, addresses, positions and photographs have been made public through local newspapers. In November of the same year, twenty three men were sentenced to one to five years in prison.
This repressive campaign did not only limit itself to public places such as discotheques, streets, hotels and mouleds but also targeted private spaces such as homosexuals' homes, parties and gatherings in Cairo and in other Egyptian governorates such as Alexandria and Tanta. "Police raid homes, tap phones and use innumerable informers to identify men suspected of homosexual acts. Undercover detectives answer internet personals, arrange to meet lonely men-and drag them to jail" (Long 2004: 13).
Gay informers have been recruited by the Ministry of Interior andthe Secret Services to work on arresting male homosexualsusing chat rooms in gay websites. Since the beginning of the crackdown on homosexuals, early 2001, forty six men have been entrapped and half a dozen of gay websites have closed down. Among these forty six men there was a 17 year old youth who was sentenced to two years prison in February 2004, only because he posted his picture and information on a gay website. "Since the emergence of the internet as a popular medium and expression in Egypt around the turn of the twenty first century, the Egyptian government in defiance of UN standards has been raising the banner of protection of public morality to justify intrusive surveillance of this new technological challenge to its control over Egyptians citizens" (Bahgat 2004:23).
The exchanges of e-mails or the texts of chartroom conversations have been presented to the courts as evidence. Most of the defendants have been acquitted by appeals courts, simply because they have denied being homosexuals and the prosecution has failed to prove that they are...the moral apprehension that has resulted from the demonization of the internet and the fact that most judges are ignorant of basic concepts about the information super-highway allow police officer and prosecutors to violate the law and get away with it. (Bahgat 2004:24)
Men suspected of being homosexuals are also forced to sign confessions and to do an anal examination without their consent. If these men are found to have had anal intercourse with other men they are imprisoned. "Men have told Human Rights Watch how they were whipped, beaten, bound and suspended in painful positions, splashed with ice-cold water, and burned with lit cigarettes. Men taken during mass roundups maybe tortured with electroshock on the limbs, genital or tongue" (Human Rights Watch 2004:2).
Since October 2007, twelve homosexual men were arrested by the Egyptian authority because they were suspected of being HIV positive. According to BBC NEWS and in an article entitled "Egypt Police 'widen HIV arrests' published on February the 15th 2008 all of these suspects were forced to have an anal examination and HIV test without their consent. Five men were in fact found to have HIV. Among these men; nine were convicted and sentenced to one to three years of prison. "These cases show Egyptian police acting on the dangerous belief that HIV is not a condition to be treated but a crime to be punished, "Gasser Abdel-Razek, HRW's acting director of regional relations in the Middle East, told the BBC." (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle _east/7247228.stm).
No laws preventing same sex relations exist in Egypt but still, homosexuals just like members of dangerous Islamist groups are being sent to the State Emergency Courts. These courts were established after the death of Sadat in 1982, so that any crime might go to the emergency state security court. The president is the only one who has the power to alter or annul sentences without any possibility of appeal and no constitutional support. "The Egyptian convicts, after all were tried in a security tribunal which permitted no appeal, as enemies of religion and the state" (Long 2004:20).
Two elements of Egyptian legislation are used to imprison homosexuals. First, article 98 of the penal code states that "Any person who exploits religion in order to promote or advocate extremist ideologies by word of mouth, in writing or in any other manner with a view to stirring up sedition, disparaging or belittling any divinely-revealed religion or its adherents, or prejudicing national unity or social harmony". Second, male homosexuals are also convicted for fujur/debauchery and laws combating prostitution are used to arrest them. The law 10/1961 on the combating of prostitution claims that: "Whoever incites a person, be the male or female, to engage in debauchery or in prostitution or assists in this or facilitates it and similarly whoever employs a person or tempts him or induces him with the intention of engaging in debauchery or prostitution is to be sentenced to imprisonment for a period not less than one year and a fine between 100 and 300 Le in the Egyptian administration and between 1000 and 3000 Lira in the Egyptian administration" (Human Rights Watch Report: 129). This law is not entirely the product of the Egyptian tradition.
In fact, few if any provisions in Egyptian law dealing with sexual crimes are rooted in either shari'a or custom. Most are modeled on France Napoleonic criminal code...This is hardly to deny that older, traditional categorizations or criminalization-of sexual behavior are remembered in Egypt, and inflect the current crisis. (Long 2004:18).Violation of the Egyptian constitution and Human rights law
By applying laws on debauchery and prostitution to condemn men engaging in same sex relations, Egypt is violating several basic human rights laws such as: The right to privacy, the right to freedom from discrimination, the right to freedom from torture, the right of freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of expression and the rights to freedom of association and assembly.
Many articles of the Egyptian constitution include principles concerning these same human rights. In fact, Egypt is signatory to the universal declaration of human rights and is one among the fifty countries that have helped in the elaboration of these rights. However, and in spite of its obligation to respect these rights that are incorporated in its constitution, Egypt has not respected part three of the constitution, the one that deals with public freedoms, rights and duties and specifically articles 41, 42, 43, 44 and 45:
Art. 41: Individual freedom is a natural right not subject to violation. Except in cases of in flagrante delicto no person may be arrested, inspected, detained or his freedom restricted or prevented from free movement except by an or necessitated by investigations and preservation of the security of the society. This order shall be given by the competent judge or the public prosecution in accordance with the provisions of the law. The law shall determine the period of custody.
Art. 42: Any person arrested, detained or his freedom restricted shall be treated in the manner concomitant with the preservation of his dignity. No physical or moral harm is to be inflicted upon him. He may not be detained or imprisoned except in places defined by laws organizing prisons. If a confession is proved to have been made by a person under any of the aforementioned forms or duress or coercion, it shall be considered invalid and futile.
Art. 43: Any medical or scientific experiment may not be undergone on any person without his free consent.
Art. 44: Homes shall have their sancticity and they may not be entered or inspected except by a causal judicial warrant proscribed by the law.
Art. 45: The law shall protect the inviolability of the private citizens. Correspondence, wires, telephone calls and other means of communication shall have their own scancity and secrecy and may not be confiscated or monitored except by a causal judicial warrant and for a definite period according to the provision of the law.Conclusion
This chapter has traced back the contrasting pathways of the histories of homosexualities in both the Wes