Some people relate the attitude towards homosexuality in Arab countries to Islam, but that’s not completely true. Arabs, Muslims and Christians, consider homosexuality to be a sin. All Arabs are attached to religion; the Church and the Mosque have a key role in Arabs lives. Born as a Muslim, I feel it is very important to explain Islam’s and Sheiks’* views of homosexuality.
Some scriptures of the Quran, the Holy Book of Islam, were taken out of context, added to a Hadith** not correctly reported to Prophet Muhammad, and conveyed to Muslims by ignorant Sheiks to form a general look at homosexuality as a sin that is against the nature intended by god for humans. In this Hadith, gay guys caught in act are to be killed by throwing them down from the highest building in town. Considering that most buildings in most Arab peninsula’s towns were about 5-7 meters high at that time, this Hadith seems very ridiculous. There is also “The Story of Lut” mentioned in the Holy Quran. According to the story, Lut was a prophet sent to people lived in Eastern Jordan. They were punished by destroying their village and turning it to what is known now as the Dead Sea. Those people were homosexuals, yet a full objective reading will conclude that they were punished for many reasons; homosexuality was not one of them. Muslims still believe in the Hadith & the story of Lut as they were interpreted to them.
Being raised in a strict Muslim family, I struggled with my homosexuality in my early adolescent years, but I also had access to some rare Islamic scriptures, which allowed me to have a great look to how Islam dealt with homosexuality. I had come to the conclusion that Islam considers sexuality to be an identity, something to be born with. I also discussed this conclusion with well-known moderate Sheikhs, who confirmed it to me. Nevertheless, even the most moderate ones insisted that it is not acceptable to convey this fact about homosexuality in Islam to people for so many unconvincing reasons. I will not list the stupid reasons they gave, but I must say I found it very hard to convince other gay Muslims of this fact. Unfortunately, most Gay Muslims consider themselves to be sinners, live in fear of exposing themselves as homosexuals, and are forced to get married and hide their sexuality.
Homosexuality is a taboo in most Arab societies, and even when discussed, it is summed up in two words; unhealthy sin. In most discussion we had with men of religion, Muslims and Christians, the Arabic word “shaz” was the only word to describe a homosexual. The word “shaz” could be translated to “deviant” or “abnormal.” It is a very offensive word in Arabic. On the other hand, Creative people at every domain in media, literature, and art are now trying to bring the subject to open discussion. Unfortunately, the best realized efforts still consider homosexuality to be a sin. Meanwhile, the word “gay” has entered the spoken language, mostly because of American Films and TV shows, and is used frequently by educated young people. While most people still consider homosexuals to be sinners and deviant, they think using the word “gay” is more appropriate now, and that is a huge leap for homosexuals in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan; the three countries I know well about.
* Sheik: Islamic religious leader: a senior official in an Islamic religious organization.
** Hadith: a saying or dictation by Prophet Muhammad.