Friday, March 31, 2006

Reply to Rosendall

Richard Rosendall, wrote a column in the 30 March 2006 issue of Boston's GLBTI paper, "Bay Window." As it encapsulated a lot of common clich├ęs of Islamophobia I thought it worth responding to. Editor Susan Ryan-Vollmar wrote that this response would run in the next issue:

As Richard Rosendall reports with apparent approval, Bruce Bawer has shifted focus from his bizarre revisionism of queer history. (Bawer has in the past gone to some length saying that the leftists, queens, bulldykes, and leathermen who catalyzed our community’s growth in the Stonewall Era are weirdos who denigrate our community.) Now Bruce is whipping up anti-Muslim hysteria. Indeed the integration of large Muslim populations in western societies is a problem, but one that needs a more nuanced and historical perspective than Bawer offers. Quelle surprise.

Projecting a homophobic dystopia arising out of current trends, Rosendall and Bawer ignore the fact that the trends they’re looking at follow a cycle of rise and ebb; not the linear trajectory they draw. Historical precedents abound. Immigrant ghettoes in early 20th-century America also had imported systems of law enforcement where the civic institutions chose not to tread. But immigrants do integrate into the larger society. Recent efforts to allow Shari’ah courts in Canada were squelched, thanks in large part to progressive Muslim groups who recognize that we can preserve our religion and thrive better in an integrated society.

“Honor killings” are a tribal custom, not condoned by anything in the Qur’an, and yes, they happen, but they are not “routine” any more than double-fisting is a routine gay sex practice. Really, gay men should know enough about sensationalist stereotyping to look beyond it. Hysterical exaggeration only causes “traditional” communities to circle the wagons and make a real problem worse.

Typically ignorant of reality is Bawer’s characterization of Pat Robertson as merely wanting to deny us marriage – and thus nicer than the Muslims. Excuse me??? Robertson is well on record preaching death for queers as fervently as any mullah, and has blamed us for incurring God’s wrath in the forms of earthquakes, hurricanes, and even the 9/11 attack. Bruce’s longstanding fetish for Republican bootleather comes off here as indecent slavering.

Much more typical than the terrorism espoused by Osama bin-Laden is his niece, Wafa Dafour, a singer who has posed for sexy photos in GQ. Islamic names are growing ever more noticeable in cast lists and movie credits. As more and more Muslims celebrate the freedoms and opportunities offered in western cultures so are more and more westerners embracing Islam. Feminist, Queer, and progressive Muslims are organizing and finding in the Qur’an support for personal autonomy and cultural diversity.

With a growing presence of Muslims in the West we have a growing number of Queer Muslims among us who are struggling to tear down the artificial barrier between their religion and their sexual/gender integrity. Rosendall’s parroting of Bawer’s polarizing twaddle only attacks our efforts at personal and social integration.

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