The East is Pink

The conference was actually called "Being Gay in the Middle East", though it inevitably morphed early on into a discussion on what's called "Liberal Interventionism" - invading Afghanistan to stop them shooting their women, bombing Iraq to stop them persecuting their Jewish population etc. Forcing people to be nice by pointing a gun at them.

There's a lot of liberals around who take an interventionist stance. They're the ones who say "We're against war in general but this one is righteous because the enemy oppresses Group X", for each war that comes along. Some prominent liberals who avoided falling into interventionism for previous wars (Christopher Hitchens, Peter Tatchell) have fallen for it big time in the war on terror.

It was highly surprising therefore, and very pleasing, for these people to be absent from this debate. Surprising because they advertised it and anticipated it in the blogosphere. Pleasing because arguments about interventionism can get really vitriolic and unpleasant.

The first speaker was Jinan Coulter, and her spiel set the tone for most of what followed: Some Islamic countries kill and harass people for being gay, and some don't. Some christian, Buddhist and Hindu countries do, and some don't. Some used not to but do now, and vice versa. So to advocate going to war with "Islam" because it's uniquely homophobic is absurd, even in its own terms.

The second speaker was Nathan Shaked, aka "Mr Gay Israel" and "Mr Gay International". He had nothing to say beyond (paraphrasing), "I'm Israeli but I don't agree with the way my government treats the Palestinians, and I think if everyone could just get together and stop hating each other long enough to have a proper discussion, we'd be able to see we're not very different, and come to some mutually beneficial arrangement over our disputes."

Heartwarming, and in its way true, but not very useful.

The third speaker was Ali Hili, who is involved in setting up safe houses in Iraq for gays and women.

Prior to the occupation, homosexuality was illegal under Saddam Hussein, but the law was not enforced. Now that Iraq is reduced to dozens of warring splinter groups (including the puppet government), there are death squads roaming around, killing anyone they think might be gay, plus any women who aren't sufficiently covered up. Or collaborators, or anyone who doesn't follow exactly their line.

That lunatic fringe that Fox News presented as representative of all Arabs/Muslims...they've rushed into the power vacuum and there's no one left who can hold them back. Nice one, Mr Bush.

Most contributions from the floor were unremarkably sensible and filled in details of what the three "platform" speakers said. Though there was one mad woman at the back who, upon learning that the anti-sodomy laws of Asia and the Middle East were put in place by colonial occupiers (British, French, and Portuguese) and retained by the local rulers afterwards...demanded to know how anyone could say there was a link between homophobia and colonialism.

On the horizon, shadowing everything else, was the possibility of an attack on Iran. Which wouldn't fall instantly like Afghanistan and have the opium production back up to previous levels under new masters in under a year. And it wouldn't dissolve into civil war like Iraq.

It would...actually, no one know what it would do. Declare war on Israel? Start funding terrorist groups all over the world? Buy nuclear weapons from the Russian Federation? All the above? No one can say, but it would be bad. That's "bad" the same way the pacific ocean is "moist".

If you want an alternative view of the debate, from people who do this stuff all the time, go here. I'm sure you'll find it balanced and diplomatically phrased.

No comments:

Post a Comment