There is a tendency among many Americans, even some on the Left and in the gay community, to write the Islamic world off in a way, to essentially suggest that because they are often far behind the West when it comes to things like LGBT acceptance, that Muslims, as a people, should not be trusted. Likewise, the American Right entertains a fantasy that somehow includes “far leftists” and “radical Muslims” being in alliance with each other. They believe they are making a winning argument when they huff questions like “yeah well, ya know what they do to gay people in Iran?!” Far from making a winning argument, they are not even making a point, but that’s the American Right for you. As with so many issues that require critical thinking and nuance, the truth is a bit more complicated.
Take this, for instance: Syria is one of the latest among Arab nations experiencing fevered anti-government protests, and the protesters’ story is becoming more known thanks to a girl who calls herself “the ultimate outsider”:
[Amina] Abdullah’s blog, A Gay Girl in Damascus, is brutally honest, poking at subjects long considered taboo in Arab culture. “Blogging is, for me, a way of being fearless,” she says. “I believe that if I can be ‘out’ in so many ways, others can take my example and join the movement.”
“Unfortunately, for most of my life being aware of Syrian politics means simply observing and only commenting privately.”
That changed when protests broke out and Abdullah joined them, blogging about her experiences.
The blend of humour and frankness, frivolity and political nous comes from an upbringing that straddles Syria and the US. “I’m the ultimate outsider,” she says. “My views are heavily informed by being both a member of a small marginal minority as an Arab Muslim in America and as a part of a majority as a Sunni in Syria, and of course as a woman and as a sexual minority.”
Homosexuality is illegal in Syria and a strict taboo, although the state largely turns a blind eye. “It’s tough being a lesbian in Syria, but it’s certainly easier to be a sexual than a political dissident,” she says. “There are a lot more LGBT people here than one might think, even if we are less flamboyant than elsewhere.”
So there you have it: the revolution in Syria is being live-blogged by a woman, a dual citizen, a Muslim, a lesbian. Much of the Islamic world may be far behind the West on these issues, yes. But there are glimmers of hope on the horizon, and Amina is certainly one of those.
Update, June 12, 2011: Amina Abdullah was subsequently reported to be nonexistent — a fictitious attempt to spotlight Syria’s poor human-rights record. Human Rights Watch and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association are accurate sources of information about antigay violence and prejudice in Syria.