Jan 24, 2014

Gay Arab's AMA

Last week, Reddit user bar84bar posted an AMA (ask me anything) called "I'm a Gay Arab." In case you are not familiar with Reddit or AMAs, allow me to explain. Reddit is "the front page of the Internet." A hub for those crazy gifs, memes, and wacky news articles you see sprawled across Facebook every morning. Ask Me Anything's usually involve someone who is rare, be it a celebrity, or, in this case, a gay Arab. Other AMAs of note include, but are not limited to these!

So, now that you understand the concept, you can see
how interesting the conversation unfolded when a gay Arab removed the veil of secrecy that is homosexuality in the middle east. Some of our favorite moments follow:

The main way to get to know other gays is mainly through online dating, specially mobile apps. With those apps you could find tens of gays at any time around the clock.
To put this idea of staying hidden into understanding, I should emphasize the role of the taboo-ness of homosexuality in Saudi Arabia. Nobody talks about it. That helps the underground LGBT community to grow unharassed as long as they are invisible. In other more "American" terms, don't ask don't tell.

What country do you live in and how accepting is your society of LGBT people?

Saudi Arabia.

Homosexuality is definitely a taboo in Saudi Arabia. Yet, there are many gays and lesbians in there. If a gay seeks support he can find it. Subculture in Saudi Arabia is very diverse and colorful (including dark colors). Communities of liberal, atheists, or progressive muslims are found in many major cities. It is not very hard to find support among such groups. But one must be cautious and careful.

How do you reconcile your faith as a Muslim and your homosexuality? Doesn't Islam frown upon homosexuality?
Do you still live in an Arab state? Are you 'out' amongst your peers/community?

What term do you prefer to be called in Arabic? "مثلي" or "شاذ" ? Apologies if either of these is offensive.

I believe that Islam, as any religion, is highly interpretable in a variety of ways. Therefore, I don't think that there is a single Islam, but multiple versions of it. In the Islam as I interpret it, I have no contradictions between being gay and being a muslim.
I have lived, until very recently, in Saudia. Many of my friends know about me and are very supportive of me. But I don't think that they are a representative sample of Saudi society's general dismissal, if not hostile, attitude toward homosexauls.
I prefer مثلي. I find it more accurate and respectful. I would like to define شاذ as someone who commited a sexual offence such as rape.

Sounds very much like how Christians, here in the United States, interpret religious passages regarding various ways to live life, no? 

شاذ (shath) is literally 'odd' or 'queer'.
مثلي (mithli) is literally "of the same' which is the equivalent of 'homosexual'

In what ways specifically do you have to be cautious and careful?

well, homosexuality in Saudi Arabia is considered a criminal act by law that is 'de jure' punishable by death. The main fear of a gay in a Saudi Arabia is to get exposed and for his homosexuality to be publicized. So what I mean by caution is knowing who to tell and who not to tell in order to maintain a closed circle of trusty friends to make sure he doesn't get exposed.

I'm curious, do you still pray daily and all without a feeling of guilt? I'm maybe in a similar situation and have trouble agreeing with orientation and religion at the same time?! Thanks a lot by the way for doing this

Yes and no.
I need perhaps to define to you what Islam is for me. It is based on two key points:
A definition of Allah (God): The definition of Allah for me is based on his name الغني (Alghani: the one who doesn't need). That means that god doesn't need us, and can't be harmed by us. Therefore, when I pray I not benefiting God, and when I don't I'm not harming him either. Therefore, I base my relationship with Allah on the basis of motivation and love, not obligation nor obedience.
A way of dealing with Islamic scripts of Quran and Hadith that their historical and geographical context: Islam as a message, I believe, came for serving two main goals: Justice between humans, and spirituality with Allah. The way that Islam came suited its context, and I think through a process of continuous Ijtihad (reform), Islam can still remain to serve those goals.
Therefore, yes I do pray. But not necessarily on a 5 times daily basis. It goes up and down as with most Muslims. I pray to feel connected with Allah, not because I have to pray.


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