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Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East

af Brian Whitaker

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1353206,179 (3.67)1
Draws long-overdue attention to the rights of homosexuals in the Middle East. Here, "Guardian" journalist, Brian Whitaker, paints a disturbing picture of people who live secretive, fearful lives, often jailed, or beaten and ostracised by their families, or sent to be 'cured' by psychiatrists.
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The first paragraph of the introduction sets the tone of this book and completely annoyed me. It describes a young Arab man travelling by plane from Damascus to London. It states, "He passes through the final security checks, puts down his bag, takes something out and fiddles furtively in a corner. No, he is not preparing to hijack the plane..." I assume it was supposed to be a joke or be some odd attempt at getting the reader to realise their prejudice, but it wasn't very funny and if I'm unprejudiced enough to pick up a book like this in the first place, I don't need it spelled out to me. I would have enjoyed this book a lot more had it actually been written by an Arab. As it was, it showcased the usual us and them type attitude which really does nothing to educate. Fair enough, there were discussions of beliefs, attitudes, debates, and experiences but it seemed hollow to me. More of an 'oh, look at them over there, look how antiquated they are when it comes to sexuality, they're trying but not quite hard enough, aren't we over here so much better?' Who says that a Middle Eastern approach to accepting sexual diversity will be anything like a Western one? Surely moves towards acceptance within a society should still be based on that society otherwise it will not work? This book kind of reminded me of the general belief that the Victorians were prudes, because that was the surface portrayal. Look under the surface and you find anything but prudishness. Clearly the Middle East has quite a way to go regarding human rights and sexual diversity but I really didn't like the perspective from which this book was written. Western society isn't exactly all smiles and open arms either, just because laws may be less discriminatory doesn't mean people are. ( )
  KatiaMDavis | Dec 19, 2017 |
It’s hard to assign a star-rating to this book – could be three stars, or it could be five, depending on the reader.

The subtitle (Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East) misled me. Because the author is an English journalist working for The Guardian, and because the publisher in North America is University of California Press, I expected something sociological, perhaps a series of interviews or composite portraits based on interviews; in short, a book aimed at non-Muslim Westerners.

Instead, the book appears to be aimed mostly at Muslims grappling with the challenge of their own sexualities, and beyond them, at Muslim people in general. A comparable title in Western culture might be John J. McNeill’s The Church and the Homosexual.

As such, Unspeakable Love outlines the examination by progressive theologians of Islamic teaching on minority sexualities as they challenge traditional teaching. It is clear that this process has only just begun.

The situation for gays and lesbians in many Muslim countries is very grim. The handful of individuals whose stories are recounted confirms this. As a non-Muslim Canadian, I would have liked a lot more of this kind of information; and it is perhaps significant that the author had access to so few first-hand stories. Speaking for myself, then, I would give the book three stars.

For gays and lesbians struggling in hostile societies, Unspeakable Love could be very important. By simply showing that there is room for a legitimate debate around the acceptance of sexual minorities in Islamic culture, the book could save lives. For that audience, the book rates five stars. How many people will have access to it in the countries where it most needs to be read is another matter altogether. ( )
1 stem librorumamans | Sep 10, 2008 |
Kind of depressing, really, unsurprising given the book's subject. It wasn't as informative as I'd hoped, but I was most interested in the bits about growing acceptance in places like Beirut. ( )
  lysimache | Jul 5, 2007 |
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Draws long-overdue attention to the rights of homosexuals in the Middle East. Here, "Guardian" journalist, Brian Whitaker, paints a disturbing picture of people who live secretive, fearful lives, often jailed, or beaten and ostracised by their families, or sent to be 'cured' by psychiatrists.

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