Middle East studies in the News
No Homosexuals in the Arab World [incl.Joseph Massad, Richard Bulliet]
by David Bernstein
Recall that at Ahmadinejad's recent speech at Columbia, he responded to a question about Iran's oppression of homosexuals by claiming that "in Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country." His statement was met with a chorus of boos and catcalls, the only thing he said that really riled up the politically correct crowd of Morningside Heights.
Well, it may come as a surprise to Columbia faculty and students to learn that a current professor at Columbia has argued that there are no homosexuals in the entire Arab world, except for a few who have been brainwashed into believing they have a homosexual identity by an aggressive Western homosexual missionizing movement he calls "Gay International." The article is called, "Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World," and it appears in Volume 14, issue 2 of the journal Public Culture, and was elaborated upon in a book, Desiring Arabs, published by University of Chicago Press (UPDATE: BTW, I read the article, which is accessible through my GMU library account, but not the book). According to the author, "It is the very discourse of the Gay International which produces homosexuals, as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist" (emphasis added).
The author doesn't deny that same-sex sexual contact exists in Arab countries, but claims that the category of "homosexual" is purely a Western one exported to the Arab world by Western cultural imperialists. He suggests that by encouraging Arabs to adopt a Western homosexual identity, westernized Arab homosexuals have naturally provoked a counter-reaction against the importation of decadent Western culture into their societies. The article, to say, the least, is not at all sympathetic with the Western gay rights movements, and the author could easily write, replacing "Iran" with "the Arab world," "in the Arab world we don't have homosexuals like in your country." (See here for a good critique of the author's thesis.)
Oh, and the author/professor is Joseph Massad, whose name has come up in this blog many times before because of his "creative" scholarship, such as claiming that the movie "Exodus tells the story of the Zionist hijacking of a ship from Cyprus to Palestine by a Zionist Haganah commander." (As I've noted previously, this is analogous to saying that Schindler's List was a movie about Jews taking a working vacation in Poland.)
Massad, of course, is a current darling of the far Left, because friends of Israel have raised questions regarding his alleged discrimination against Israeli students and pro-Israel students, and about his scholarship. I guess this means that in certain circles, even Ahmadinejad-ish ideology regarding gays can be forgiven so long as one can portray oneself as a martyr to the struggle against Israel and its American friends.
UPDATE: I just discovered that Columbia History Professor Richard Bulliet, who acted as the go-between arranging for Ahmadinejad's speech at Columbia, has this to say (in an interview to be broadcast Sunday morning) about the relationship between Ahmadinejad's and Massad's views (link to interview transcript here):
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