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Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle Eastby Brian Whitaker
Synopses & Reviews
I enjoyed and learnt much from Brian Whitaker's book, which is excellent. It was inspirational to me on the challenges to international law, and the uses of nationalism to suppress dissent within countries.” Fred Halliday, London School of Economics
It is high time this issue was brought out of the closet once and for all, and afforded a frank and honest discussion. Brian Whitaker's humane, sophisticated, and deeply rewarding book, Unspeakable Love, does exactly that.” Ali Al-Ahmed, Saudi reform advocate and director of the Gulf Institute, Washington
This book is a compelling read. It captures with detail and with disturbing accuracy the difficulties and dangers facing lesbians and gay men across the Middle East. It helps us to understand the social pressure, the sense of isolation, the anxiety and fear and trauma. And through it all we glimpse also the possibility of hope, of remarkable courage, and perhaps even in the longer term the chance of a more open and accepting society.” Chris Smith MP, Former UK Secretary of State for Culture
Brian Whitaker has given us a moving analysis of the hidden lives of Arab homosexuals. This genuinely groundbreaking investigation reveals a side of Arab and Muslim culture shrouded by the strictest taboos. Arab societies can no longer contain their cultural, religious, ethnic or sexual diversity within their traditional patriarchal definitions of the public sphere. Anyone interested in reform in the Arab world must read this book.” Mai Yamani, Research Fellow at Chatham House and author of Cradle of Islam
"While the mainstream media cover Middle Eastern cultural tensions over the interpretation of Islamic law and the position of women, little attention has been paid to the complicated place of same-sex affection and relationships in these countries. Whitaker, Middle East editor for the Guardian, delivers a modest but informative primer on the complex historical, religious, social and legal status of same-sex acts and identities in the Middle East. Aware of the complexity of this undertaking, he points out that words such as 'homosexual,' 'lesbian,' 'gay' and 'queer' are Western constructs and can be misleading or dangerously inaccurate when applied to non-Western cultures. Whitaker is best when describing the lives of the dozens of women and men, some of whom he interviewed, such as a young Syrian man whose therapist outed him to his family and two Saudi men who killed a third man they feared would report their relationship to authorities. He also offers a larger view of the religious and political implications of homosexuality: there's no uniform Islamic position about the legality of homosexual acts; the Iranian government will frequently use the charge of homosexuality to further stigmatize its Arab Ahwazi minority population. While Whitaker's findings aren't conclusive, this is an illuminating book on an important topic." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Homosexuality is a taboo subject in Arab countries. Clerics denounce it as a heinous sin, while newspapers write cryptically of "shameful acts." Although many parts of the world now accept sexual diversity, the Middle East is moving in the opposite direction. In this absorbing account, journalist Brian Whitaker calls attention to the voices of men and women who are struggling with gay identities in societies where they are marginalized and persecuted by the authorities. He paints a disturbing picture of people who live secretive, fearful lives and who are often jailed, beaten, and ostracized by their families, or sent to be "cured" by psychiatrists.
Whitaker's exploration of changing sexual behavior in the Arab world reveals that—while deeply repressive prejudices and stereotypes still govern much thinking about homosexuality—there are pockets of change and tolerance. The author combines personal accounts from individuals in the region with a look at recent Arab films and novels featuring gay characters and conducts a sensitive comparative reading of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic strictures around sexuality. Deeply informed and engagingly written, Unspeakable Love draws long overdue attention to a crucial subject.
Copub: Saqi Books
About the Author
Brian Whitaker is the Middle East Editor of the Guardian.
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