The Syrian blogosphere recently got fired up over the subject of homosexuality. Specifically, a group of bloggers of a variety of backgrounds launched a campaign against homosexuality, and another group of bloggers responded rationally (though angrily). As my dear friend Razan pointed out in this epic post:
It is very outrageous for some and for me to hear arguments that are against non-virgin women and homosexuals, but these very thoughts are real, and we need to feel good about having Syrian bloggers who depict the majority of the Syrian society, cause without them, we ourselves, won’t be real anymore, we will think that Syria is fine, everything is fine, and we won’t be able to touch a bit of what is not so fine about us.
Razan is right – until these topics are broached, they remain underground, silent. As soon as they are raised, whether in opposition or not, they become real, a part of the fabric, something worthy of discussion.
Now, I need to take a step back, because I am an outsider – most certainly to Syria, but also to Morocco, which this post will eventually be about. Yes, I lived there for two years, and yes, have had very intimate relationships and friendships with Moroccans, but I feel the need to place a caveat on this post: I am not Muslim, I am not Moroccan, and so my views are stated as such – as a citizen of the world, a believer in freedom of justice, and as myself.
That said, here goes: I read today that Morocco is cracking down on homosexual activity. My first thoughts upon reading the article were very angry, reactionary. I singled out this quote in particular:
“Homosexuality is copied from Western movies, TV shows, and porn channels that promote such practices, and which are, in turn, adversely reflected on younger generations who follow suit, unaware of the consequences,” added university student Mohamed Zahi.
That quote is what I want to discuss, because I realize that the Qur’an, like the Bible and like the Torah, and I’m sure like many other holy books, forbids homosexuality (at least by most interpretations). I recognize that Moroccans, the majority of whom are raised with some degree of Islam or another at home, are brought up to oppose homosexuality on religious grounds. That is reality.
What is not reality, however, and will never be, is that homosexuality is an import. The same argument was made by Syrian bloggers: that homosexuality is an unnatural effect of a freewheeling society. I will say it once: it is not. Homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexualism, transgenderism, queerness, and anything else on the spectrum are acts of nature. While we can control our actions, as many homosexuals raised in religious communities feel forced to, we cannot control who we fall in love with, who we are attracted to.
But rather than waste time debunking myths that have been debunked thousands of times (including here, in Anas’s fantastic post), I would rather say this: A society cannot progress by restricting freedom, as Morocco continues to do. Morocco is a hypocritical nation: it gives equity to women one minute by allowing them to pass Moroccan nationality to their children, but refuses to do anything about its vast child labor problems. It grants the freedom of the press to photograph the princess and her children, but places shackles on journalists for telling a few jokes. And now, in the same breath, Morocco is clamping down on sexual and religious freedoms as it tries to push ahead economically.
Of the many reasons I left Morocco, the most poignant was that I never once felt, as a woman, equal. Not once. Not in my job where, despite my equal salary and equal teaching schedule, I was still sexually harassed by a fellow teacher. Not on the street where it was a miracle if I could walk two blocks without being whistled at (didn’t matter if I wore hijab!). Not in shops, where if I were with a man, he would always be deferred to even if I were the one paying.
People back home aren’t wont to listen to such complaints, thinking them the burdens of a Muslim society. But I know better: that isn’t Islam. That’s a society repressed to the point of explosion.