Saturday, 17 November 2007

Desiring recognition of Palestinian gays

Marhaba Prof Joseph Massad,

Allow me to express my deep gratitude for your articles, research and advocacy on behalf of my/our people, the Palestinians. After Edward Said, we do need an advocate for a truly downtrodden people, their shattered identity and a pillaged existence. Whereas we are not the only population to suffer, I am allowing myself a certain selfishness after the thorny mess of the diaspora.

I have, and at times still, read your articles and admittedly use many of your arguments where the mere uttering of the words "I am Palestinian" bring on unwarranted contentions. All is not well when not abiding by any invisible law denoting shame for one's heritage.

I love the image of a country I have never known, the eyes of a mother who can never seize the trauma of the Nakba, reflected by the women of Palestine and the gestures of defiance of a father carried by many of the men of Palestine. That country is no longer a place, it is a part of a lost soul. Peace of mind and heart that many of us are still trying to find.

Sadly, I was recently reminded of the fragility of human judgement; Palestinian have every right to fight for the simple right of statehood, yet when they are homosexual they are merely the puppets in a plot created by the "Gay International"? They are, therefore, of lesser Gods, lesser men and, according to you, the source of the what the West still has in store for us!

I am a queer Palestinian having to put up with the partiality of daily life in the West. When followed around a drugstore, frowned upon for asking a rightful question, called a terrorist, I am being treated as an underdog for being non-white and Palestinian. Imagine the type of refuge I receive when among Arabs with their all too rigid, even sordid, views on manhood.

Nor am I an imaginary product of the "West". Born and raised in the Arab world, I have taught myself the "white man's" tongue.

Nor am I some freak of one parental dominance over the other. If you have lived with Palestinian parents, I assume you would know that male dominance is prevalent in our society, whereas a Palestinian mother might as well open a college teaching Jewish moms what real control looks like!

I am not an academic, nor do I pretend to be one. I am angry at the racism of the winners and the hypocrisy of Arabs and the West. I would rather live in Beirut, Cairo or Abu Dhabi, listen to the morning Athan and have a family that will not view me as morally corrupt than enjoy the stifled freedom in a black-and-white society. The only difference is that back home my life is under threat for the mere assumption of immoral behaviour, thus forcing me and others like me to lead double lives. The West still offers a minimum of legal protection from discrimination. Yet, it does not offer the warmth of an Arab family.

If our intellectuals are as bigoted in their opinion as you are, how is the rest of the populace faring?


Wikipedia entry on Massad's Desiring Arabs


Anonymous said...

Dear friend,

but are there really friends?

V-47 said...

I do not know where to start, but let us concentrate on Prof. Massad’s book. I want to ask you a question to which I expect an honest answer. The fact you seem to be regurgitating views expressed elsewhere by some reviewers (particularly Brian Whitaker whose intentions, to this day, remain suspicious), avoiding actually quoting from the book when you are making references and linking to Whitaker for reference in the letter itself as well as linking to Wikipedia at the end of it, gave me the impression that you actually have not read Desiring Arabs. Is that so?
Let’s be fair. No one expects you to be an academic, or “pretend to be one.” The least one can expect, from someone who has “taught himself the white man’s tongue” to have read the book before passing judgment on it – not to mention before engaging in the sort of character assassination you did about its author. Is that too much to ask?

Khaled Diab said...


Firstly, you seem to have a number of issues muddled up. The anonymous letter written above was written by a distressed Palestinian homosexual whose identity has been concealed. After reading Massad's words, the man was very hurt by the denial of his existence and Massad's portrayal of his sexuality as a western construct and political weapon. And I sympathise with him.

I added the links for readers who wanted more info. If you have alternative links, please feel free to post them.

Re Massad, I have read the extended essay upon which the book is based. And I have to say, although I have respect for Massad's political advocacy, I found the essay to be an elaborate way of reiterating, in academic abstraction, the position Ahmadinejad succintly summed up with his unforgettable comment: "There are no homosexuals in Iran".

I have to admit that Massad is certainly no Edward Said with his mega intellect. I agree with part of his thesis, that sexuality, like gender, democracy and a host of other issues, can be abused as an excuse to achieve other political ends. However, what he overlooks is a lot of the people who wish to exert hegemony over the Middle East are themselve homophobic.

In addition, he fails to acknowledge that Arab societies discriminate and even persecute people of different sexual tastes, whether or not you want to call them homosexuals in the western sense. I do not advocate foreign inteference, but Arab societies have to come to terms with people's sexuality.

V-47 said...

The only link you can give is a link to purchase the book(or maybe a "link" to the local library), so people can read the book and have their own opinions about it.

By the way, I love the whole dramatization about concealing the identity of the author, it has a nice native flavor to it. But trust me if you are out there defaming a respectable scholar you should really be generous enough to share your name with people.

"The book" is not particularly based on whatever article you have read, least of all on denying the existence of anyone. Certainly, one of the arguments is what you, with your unlearnedness, reduced to Ahmedinejad's comment which was again and again misquoted (what he did say was that "We don't have homosexuals like you.")

This just goes to show who are the real hypocrites and bigots. People who spend years on end with their research to write a book to make a crucial intervention on an issue that is incredibly understudied both in quality and quantity? Or people like you and your concealed friend who just regurgitate the opinions of white neo-cons who you are groupies of?

The thing that you still fail to understand is, sexuality is not something that can be simply abused to political ends. That is not Joseph Massad's thesis at all(although it might be argued elsewhere by petty nationalist politicians f.e. Ahmedinejad), it would really help if you tried to actually read the article without thinking about what Whitaker and the New Republic said about it. Sexuality does not exist in a vacuum outside of the politics surrounding it. You do not have to agree, but read some Foucault. It might help a little to do your homework.