Brian Whitaker, reviewed by Alexandra Simonon in Democratiya says that those homosexual activists who diss "Islam" are in some ways the mirror image of the intolerant imams who diss homosexuality, and looks to a more hopeful (in his terms) future.
Fifty years ago, Muslims, Christians and Jews generally agreed that homosexuality was evil. While one could not say that Judaism and Christianity as a whole have come to terms with it, major bodies of opinion in these faiths have since moved forward and adopted a more tolerant approach to homosexuality. This is not the case in contemporary Islam, where, broadly speaking, there is no real debate on issues of sexuality.
You could say that. British understatement is not dead. Although the "major bodies of opinion" who have "moved forward" no more illustrate the position of the faithful than the views of Home Office officials on crime and punishment represent Dave Average. What that shows is the capture of institutions by the cultural left.
Western scholars, political commentators and gay rights campaigners who push an essentialist vision of Islam, or of Arab culture, as inherently homophobic, rely on claims and assumptions that they share with the fundamentalists ... Both sides acknowledge 'one' Islam, and both sides agree on its violently intolerant nature.
Sounds about right.
Whitaker proposes a more constructive way of addressing the problem, which is to place the focus of attention on the similarities between the West and the Arab-Islamic culture rather than on their differences. The homophobic rhetoric used in the Arab world today, which claims that homosexuality will lead to the collapse of civilisation and to social decay, is little different from the rhetoric used in Western countries until not so long ago (and sometimes still used).
Ah. These Islamic chaps are just a bit behind the curve. True enough again.
Acceptance of homosexuality in the West is only recent. It is also partial, and potentially reversible. Contemporary Arab attitudes to homosexuality were commonplace in the West fifty years ago, and those who single out Islam as being uniquely and essentially reactionary might do well to remember that Britain repressed homosexuality in the name of religion and social order over many centuries.
Absolutely. The 1967 speeches in favour of decriminalising homosexuality would today get their authors expelled from their parties - and probably prosecuted.
British society has come a long way in terms of sexuality, and no one would argue that either policy or public opinion in the 1950s were essentially Western, or essentially Christian.
You do have to wonder about that last bit. Up to the 1950s, and for at least a thousand years before that, disapproval (often expressed violently) of homosexuality was characteristic of 'Western' nations - and of Christianity for nearly two thousand years. Most Christians disapprove of it now - you just don't hear them on the BBC.
What Mr Whittaker (the Guardian's Middle East editor - I'd keep my head down if I were him) seems to be saying is "give these guys time - Rome wasn't built in a day". As he says in the linked Guardian piece, he hopes for "the moment when the tide of reactionary puritanism that has plagued their country (Egypt) for so long finally turns".
Only one problem. You can make this cheerful argument to secular Westerners, but I wouldn't try it on an intelligent Muslim. You'd be suggesting that Islam be - effectively - destroyed. Because what has happened in the last fifty years in the UK, the liberalisation which so pleases, is the result not of a change in Christianity, but a collapse of Christianity. People like Ekklesia and Thinking Anglicans do not represent the average Josephine in the pew of the shrinking Anglican or Catholic congregations - still less the average Olewayu in the rapidly rising black evangelical churches.
Take your intelligent, pious Muslim. Hold up the Christian Churches in the UK as an example of what Islam could be in 50 years. Watch him laugh in your face.
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