Secret Sexuality

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

We all hide parts of our personal identity at various times for various reasons: to fit in with a new group of friends, to impress a potential employer, or to please a demanding mother-in-law. But imagine having to hide your sexual identity because you fear for your life. That's what many homosexuals are forced to do in such countries as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt, where engaging in sexual relations with the same sex or lobbying for gay rights can be met with torture or death. As a result, many gay Muslims seek asylum in other countries. I'm curious to know the degree to which homosexuality within Muslim communities in Western countries is acknowledged and accepted. Does homosexuality enjoy greater visibility in these communities? And what are the personal politics involved in reconciling Islam with homosexuality? The answers are out there, and I will find them. In the meantime, check out Parvez Sharma's documentary A Jihad for Love. It explores the nuanced and complex issues facing homosexuals in the Muslim world today.

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This concept of "general acceptance" of homosexual behavior in the culture is much the way I see the future of "being gay" in the west. Once its been accepted as just a facet in the myriad of a life then special laws and recognition becomes redundant. Laws should not create a special class but should protect the rights of all people to enjoy their lives if it harms no other.

By wrapping ourselves in a "glbt" identity we limit ourselves and thus others in the way we can live and move and have our being. And limit the way we can be percieved.

Sent by John Calvin | 2:41 PM | 10-2-2007

Homosexuality is not to be mixed with religion.
That is fine with me what you do behind closed doors, but my kids do not need to be exposed to it.
Look, you might have heard it before, but I think that it should be considered as illness. You do not have enough estrogen or progesterone, or you are only accepted from that side of population. Please, read the holly Quran, fast, help the poor, and follow the pillars of Islam you learn to control your lust.
Please, for there is ill people everywhere (even imams) does not make it acceptable in Islam. Please, is Ramadan, be more considerate of the rest of us. I have no interest to see you movie.

Sent by Merita | 4:55 PM | 10-2-2007

I am a Canadian who grew up in Pakistan and I can vouch that homosexuality is rampant in the Muslim world. Sexuality between men and women is repressed and it often leads men to men and women to women. Women are so poorly treated by men that they often find solace in the company of women, which leads to deeper, more physically intimate relationships. It is also common for men to use young boys (perhaps you are familiar with the novel "Kite Runner" which descriptively addresses this issue).

On the other hand, homosexuality should not be confused with a freedom of affection the men in that part of the world share. It is not uncommon to see men holding hands or laying in each other's laps in public places. I think that not only is homosexuality present in the Muslim society but bisexuality. Muslim men especially are inclined to engage either men or women.

Sent by K Burton | 7:06 PM | 10-2-2007

I am so disappointed that an entity like NPR that I have grown to respect and admire for the past couple of years did not do its homework.
Every true practising Muslim (I hate saying practising, because in Islam if you do not practise you are no longer a Muslim), anyway, every Muslim should know that Homosexuality in Islam is forbidden (Haram), and is a great sin. I will not talk about other religions and how all of them also state it as a sin also.
Ask the director when the last time he picked up a Quran, or prayed all 5 prayers in a day. If he doesn't then it is understandable how he could beleive in such things.

Sent by Feras Hamidaddin | 3:31 AM | 10-3-2007

Muslims were created from the same mold as non-Muslims; there is no reason not to expect to find among them the same inclinations toward good and evil as found in other communities. But Islam is a religion of submission to the will of God. We must struggle to submit our whole selves--including our sexuality--to God's will.

Sent by Yvonne Davis | 1:03 PM | 10-3-2007

I had no idea I would learn so much about subjects I thought I already understood. Hats off to you and your guest for a fascinating show.

Sent by Deborah | 5:19 PM | 10-3-2007

Wow - I heard this today (a day after the broadcast) on the podcast, and I am so glad that TOTN invited this articulate director to present his story, both personal and of the making of this film. I was reminded of the film of a few years ago - "Trembling Before God" - which explored the hidden lives of homosexuals in the orthodox Jewish community. It was interesting to hear the parallels between the Jewish and Muslim world. I look forward to seeing the film.

Sent by Janaki Kuruppu | 10:04 PM | 10-3-2007

Thank you to your guests for providing a very nuanced picture of life for queer folk in Muslim countries. Comparing the situation to the U.S. requires talking about "freedoms" not just one singular FREEDOM. While I'm saddened at the obstacles faced by queers in Muslim countries to openly celebrating long-term committments and/or facing persecution if they identify themselves as LGBT, I'm also saddened that queers in the U.S. are pressured into one model of celebrating their sexuality. The point is that queer folk are still marginalized, in both places.

Sent by Melissa | 10:46 PM | 10-4-2007

How can you ever be true to yourself when you are hanging out in a religion that forbids something you strongly feel you have a right to? Homosexuals have done a remarkable job swaying public opinion, but their argument--that it is not a choice--is specious; they will soon be left in the lurch. At any rate, there is no avenue for making durable changes to Islam.

Sent by Yvonne Davis | 10:33 AM | 10-8-2007

The film holds it's USA Premiere in NYC at the IFC on May 21st. Everyone should attend - it's AMAZING!

Sent by Steven Kopstein | 12:19 AM | 5-14-2008

We...who are Gay..not Gay...muslim...or not...whoever we are. Whether we are proud to be ourselves...or not.
One thing we can agree on..., is that we are human beings. And as human beings, we have an ability to bring joy to another...or inflict a terribly pain that can tear apart another person's entire being.
When you see the blood of your fellow human being running across his back....or the tears burning in her eyes...because...
of what?
Because of who they are.
This is, my dear friends, one of the single greatest sins we commit. And we do it, every day, willingly.
Forget being gay...or straight..or muslim...or christian...
We have, it seems, lost the meaning of what it means to be human.

Sent by Delna | 10:48 PM | 7-19-2008