I’ve always feared that this day would come, when I found myself dragged as evidence into an argument against freedom. But it did. A while back, I received a request from a reporter at CNN who was preparing an article on gays and the Arab Spring. I had been told to be leery as it would likely be bad but I went ahead. It’s out now:
Thankfully, I don’t regret what I myself am quoted as saying. But the others … well, they provide the sort of pinkwashing that the enemies of Arab freedom have come to rely on increasingly in recent years. We’ve gotten used to being used rhetorically by the advocates of war, occupation, dispossession, and apartheid as ‘evidence’ that the primitive sand-people don’t deserve anything other than killing by the enlightened children of the West; we’ve seen this story used to advocate murder of Afghan villagers, Palestinian refugees, Iraqis and so on. It’s given as justification for genocide by the ranting bleach-blond buffoon in the Dutch parliament and as reason for reviving the worst of the Third Reich by neo-fascists across Europe and America. Now, it’s being used as an argument against democracy.
Those evil primitive Moozlims and Ayrabs, see, unlike the brilliant stars of tolerance who want to indiscriminately bomb any worshipper of Allah, are ho-mo-phobes … ‘cause there aren’t San Francisco style Gay Rights parades in Teheran or Damascus … and since religious conservatives here preach against same sex marriage (and of course no one opposes that in Antrim or Alabama save for Moozlims!), the whole religion be damned, nuke’em, gas’em, it don’t matter ….
Or so one would gather from some of the rhetoric. Reality, of course, is different. Having lived in both worlds, I can tell you this in all honesty; I have never once encountered any problem here on account of my sexuality that I would not have encountered were I straight as an arrow. I have never once been attacked or beaten or even screamed at for being a lesbian in an Arab land. On the other hand, I have had dung thrown at me in America for wearing a hijab, been attacked and struck by strangers for being an Arab …
So why pinkwashing? Others have brilliantly dissected the way this rhetoric has been used to turn gay rights into a weapon of imperialism, specifically in Palestine. (For those interested, read here http://www.pinkwatchingisrael.com/ or http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2011/02/16/queer-palestinian-activists-discuss-pinkwashing-and-more There’s a lot of great work being done on this). Liberals in the West are told not to criticize imperial wars or apartheid on account of those who are suffering ain’t as gay friendly as those who do the oppressing ….
Which of course is crazy. And like any tool of oppression needs to be opposed.
And now, the rhetoric is that democracy is BAD; earlier this year, John McCain proclaimed democracy a virus that needed to be stopped, because, of course, it would be terrible if Those People ever started determining their own futures. Now, we see it being disseminated in a liberal lavender guise: the wicked evil Muslim Brotherhood and the wicked evil sheikhs of al-Islam will get elected if the people are allowed to decide! Oh my! And then … well, there won’t be any freedom for party boys in Cairo to go cruising ….
Of course, such politics show a fundamental hatred of democracy, at least when it comes to US. (As a friend once aptly put it, ‘we don’t hate you for your freedom, we hate you because you hate our freedom’). The Arabs might decide how they want to live for themselves, they might stop living on their knees … and anything, anything at all to avoid that!
These pinkwashers loved Assad just as they loved Mubarak. They didn’t love them for what they did for LGBT Egyptians or Syrians but rather for the aid they gave to states bent on apartheid and imperialism; they know that, once the government that lost the Jaulan is gone, a democratic Syria won’t look kindly at the theft of Syrian land. They know that a more democratic Egypt already means the end of their siege of Gaza.
They want to pretend that us homos and queers will all come to forget that we have fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters and so on. We’ll forget that we have been oppressed not solely or even primarily as faggots and dykes but, instead, as Arabs, as Muslims, as Middle Easterners, as Palestinians and Iraqis and Syrians and so on. They want us to shed all those aspects of ourselves and embrace the oppressor if the oppressor lets us dance in his disco or make out in her coffee house.
It isn’t like that. I cannot speak for anyone else but I can speak for me. I will not be used as an excuse for oppression. I will not be used as a propaganda piece to undermine democracy. I for one believe in my people and, rather than condemn them, I want them to be free. Some will hate me. Some will cast aspersions on me. Far more will ignore me. But they will be free. No more dictators, no more occupiers. Free.
I do not fear the Ikhwaan; I have sat and drunk tea and coffee with their sheikhs and I fear them no more than I fear anyone else in this country. If, when the dictators are gone and elections are held, they win, I will work to beat them the next time around. Or maybe not. I will work to change this society from within but I will not work to bring any so-called ‘freedom’ that must be imposed at gunpoint or surrounded by barbed wires and mines to preserve it. That is not freedom.
Nor will I let myself be used as propaganda for the enemies of democracy. I do not want personal freedom if it comes at the cost of the oppression of millions. Freedom is merely privilege extended unless enjoyed by all.