• Book Title:
 Homosexualities Muslim Cultures And Modernity
  • Book Author:
Momin Rahman
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  • Acknowledgments x
  • Introduction 1
  • The conceits of modernity and modernization 2
  • Muslim homo-eroticism in historical and
  • contemporary context 4
  • Political possibilities 6
  • In Search of My Mother’s Garden: Reflections on Migration, Gender, Sexuality and Muslim Identity 9
  • Introduction 9
  • History, narratives and narrators 10
  • Migration 13
  • Identities 15
  • Gender 17
  • My mother’s garden 21
  • Not quite Muslim, not quite gay, towards a queer
  • intersectionality 24
  • Islam versus Homosexuality as Modernity 27
  • Introduction 27
  • The drumbeats of Islamic ‘otherness’ 29
  • Democracy as Western exceptionalism 34
  • Equality and secularism versus multiculturalism
  • in the context of gender 37
  • Sexual diversity as the marker of Islamic otherness? 42
  • The conceits of the West and the resistance of the East 47
  • Problematic Modernization: The Extent and Formation
  • of Muslim Antipathy to Homosexuality 49
  • Introduction 49
  • Muslim regulation of homosexuality at the national
  • and international level 51
  • The attitudes of Muslim majority and minority populations 56
  • Explaining Muslim antipathy through the
  • modernization thesis 59
  • vii
  • viii Contents
  • The complexities of modernization and reactions
  • to homosexuality 62
  • Understanding Muslim homophobia in the contexts
  • of modernity and Islamophobia 66
  • Traditions and Transformations of Muslim
  • Homo-eroticism 70
  • Introduction 70
  • Homo-eroticism in traditional Muslim cultures 72
  • The transformation of Muslim homo-eroticism through
  • the ‘Gay International’ 78
  • Modernity misunderstood? Colonialism, post-colonial
  • cultures and the regulation of the sexual 82
  • Connected histories: the wider sociological basis of homosexualization during modernity 88
  • Homosexualization beyond westernization and
  • the politics of Muslim identity 92
  • Queer Muslims in the Context of Contemporary
  • Globalized LGBTIQ Identity 94
  • Introduction 94
  • The world ‘they’ have won 95
  • Connected contemporary histories: queer Muslims
  • in Muslim majority cultures 102
  • Connected contemporary histories: queer
  • Muslims in the West 108
  • From connected histories to queer Muslims as modern intersectional subjects 111
  • Towards an intersectional modernity? 115
  • The Politics of Identity and the Ends of Liberation 118
  • Introduction 118
  • The triangulation of Western exceptionalism: homocolonialism, Muslim homophobia and
  • monoculturalism 119
  • The political presumptions of homocolonialism: ‘coming out’ and the essential context of
  • political identity 125
  • Beyond homocolonialism: the ends of liberation
  • and equality as resource 130
  • Arriving at the terrain of dialogue and recognizing
  • queer as privilege 135
  • Contents ix
  • 7 Beginnings 137
  • Introduction 137
  • The homocolonialist ‘test’ for internationalized Western
  • queer politics and consciousness 138
  • Homocolonialism in multiculturalism 144
  • Embracing Western exceptionalism through homocolonialism: challenges for Muslim
  • consciousness and politics 149
  • The past and future imperfect, tense 154
  • Appendices                                                    156
  • Notes                                                                189
  • Bibliography                                                 213
  • Index                                                                228

Islam versus Homosexuality  as Modernity


Can we really doubt that Islam is opposed to homosexuality?

 Even if we cannot pin down why we think this, I am pretty certain that most of us do think this. The ‘we’ here is perhaps uncertain, but I have in mind most Muslims, most LGBTIQ1 people, Western and Eastern publics and politicians. I discussed my complicity with aspects of such beliefs in the previous chapter but I also reflected upon how personal experiences derive from the difficulties of negotiating a social world where racism, Islamophobia, and homophobia intersect.

Thus, as with the individual struggle to be a queer Muslim, so too do general populations use wider culture to make sense of their identities and beliefs. The plural ‘we’ therefore derives understandings from the ‘why’, and so in this chapter, I unpack the ways in which contemporary political discourses ultimately frame the opposition of homosexuality and Muslim cultures. This is not to ignore the historical differences in Western and Eastern cultures but it is a rejection of using those cultural divisions as a starting point.

 Instead, I argue that the contemporary political is a dominant framework through which the cultural and historical is currently under-stood. Moreover, this politics is widely conceived, drawing on issues of civilizational ‘clash’ between ‘Western’ nations and Muslim societies; characterizations of what progressive governance means within this context; assumptions about the inherent values of democracy; the relationship of religion to democratic governance and cultural values and the problems of multiculturalism in the West.

I argue therefore, that we have to understand the social significance of sexual diversity and LGBTIQ rights within this intersecting political context; a context that is tautologically creating the cultural divides it purports merely to 28 Homosexualities, Muslim Cultures and Modernity describe and thus structuring the perceived opposition of Islam and sexual diversity.

The underlying theme that weaves this politics together is a con-ceptualization of the modern world as a Western one, initiated by the Enlightenment exclusively in the West, and resulting in a dynamic movement, a momentum of progress towards more rational governance that has inevitably led to greater political and social equality, underpinned (often implicitly) by wealthy capitalist economic systems.

Moreover, the fundamental assumption about modernity as Western is that its social formation is exceptional and that is the reason why it has pushed European societies (and their offspring white settler societies) to surpass other civilizations in their inevitable triumph over the rest of the world (Bhambra, 2007; Callinicos, 2007).

 I begin, therefore, with a discussion of how Islamic ‘otherness’ has come to dominate Western political and cultural discourses, demonstrating the key aspects of its development and how these connect to historical accounts of funda-mental differences in modernity between the West and East.

 I focus on the primacy given to notions of democracy and equality within such accounts, showing how the historical inconsistencies in the emergence and development of both are ignored in favor of creating a narrative that positions these as inherent values and inevitable outcomes of Western modernity.

I move on to discuss gender equality because it has become a key test of democratic credentials, both in rendering Muslim cultures other to the West and in doing the same to Western Muslim immigrant populations.

I suggest that these contemporary debates about multiculturalism versus gender equality are important not only because they derive from the wider political discourse of Islamic other-ness, but because issues of sexual diversity are subsequently derived from this understanding of gender politics.

 I point out, however, that LGBTIQ issues in general, but particularly homosexuality, have a less certain and less consistent presence in accounts of Western democratic equality and therefore we must remember that absence is the most com-mon condition of LGBTIQ issues in the West. Perhaps precisely because discussions of LGBTIQ equality are uncommon in Western democracy, I demonstrate that when sexual diversity is present in civilizational debates, it is cast as a defining feature of Western exceptionalism, thus drawing it into the heart of definitions of Muslim incompatibility with modernity. In conclusion, I suggest, that we should not ignore that gay rights discourses and identities in particular, and LGBTIQ issues more generally, are drawn into a civilizational and racialized discourse of opposition to Muslim cultures.

 This is not to excuse the homophobia in Muslim cultures but to argue that we must recognize that gay rights can be used to promote Islamophobia and to question how useful or productive that is for the goals of sexual diversity, particularly if we want to challenge homophobia within Muslim cultures.

 I am conscious that I do not spend most of the chapter discussing sexuality; discussions of homosexualities in both Muslim and Western cultures, and of Muslim homosexualities in the West, occupy the subsequent chapters. However, my aim in this chapter is to precede those analyses with an understand-ing of the contemporary political formations that are the defining con-text for them, so that we might better work towards resolutions of the positioning of Islam versus homosexuality.

The drumbeats of Islamic ‘otherness’

I do not think that anyone can doubt that Islam as a religion and Muslims as its adherents are under intense global scrutiny. Nor is this a sympathetic enquiry when conducted by Western culture but an examination that is, above all, attempting in various ways to explain the ‘otherness’ of Muslims.

Indeed, Muslim identity has become the semiotic marker for all that is opposed to Western values. For example, during the 2008 American Presidential campaign, the New Yorker magazine published an issue with a cover that depicted Barack and Michelle Obama celebrating in the Oval Office dressed as radical, Osama bin Laden-worshipping, American flag-burning Muslims.

Both Obama’s campaign and that of John McCain – the Republican contender – simply described the cartoon as tasteless and inappropriate to the tenor of the contest for the Presidency and thus avoided any recognition of the sat-ire in the image and the discourse that made the satire so sharp: that to be thought of as Muslim in the USA had become a cultural accusa-tion of ‘un-Americanness’ and that ‘Muslim’ could serve as a trope for general racialization in a cultural era where people could not directly attack Obama’s ethnicity.2

Despite their disdain, the Obama campaign did make it clear that their candidate was not a Muslim, but a good old-fashioned Christian. The drumbeats of this discourse of Muslim otherness have obviously been louder since 9/11 but they have existed for some time, perhaps, indeed, for most of ‘modern’ time and not just within popular and political culture,3 but within academia as well.

 I hesitate to cite Weber in the context of this discussion, given that he was the most skeptical of the idea of progress of the classical sociolo-gists, but his description of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism as ‘impediments’ to the development of the modern rational capitalism – in

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