Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 24, 2006

More on Shia attacks on gays

Filed under: Gay — louisproyect @ 9:22 pm

From March 24 “Informed Consent,” the website of Juan Cole:

Readers have been asking me about the stance of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani regarding homosexuality. I take it they are inquiring about this entry at my colleagues’ great Pandagon site.

Let me begin by saying that the charge leveled by some, and mentioned at Pandagon, that Sistani has called for the killing of Sunnis, is completely untrue. The implication given by exiled gay Iraqi, Ali Hili, of the London-based gay human rights group OutRage, that Sistani has called for vigilante killings of gays, is untrue, though it is accurate that Sistani advises that the state make homosexual activity a capital crime; it is also accurate to call this “sick.”

In traditional Islam there was no conception of the “homosexual” as a permanent identity or social role. As in ancient Greece, the real distinction in sexuality (as Michel Foucault showed) was between the penetrator and the penetrated. Medieval and early modern Islamdom were like the Greece of Plato. Adult males were the penetrators. In premodern Muslim society, women could be penetrated if they were legally married to the man or if they were his slaves. Likewise, slave-boys (catamites) could be penetrated, although it was typically disapproved of by the Muslim clerics. Exclusive adult male-male sexual relationships are not recorded, and a taste for a slave-boy did not stop a wealthy man from being married or from having liasons with his female slaves, as well. About half the famous love-poems of the medieval Baghdad literary figure, Abu Nuwas, appear to have been addressed to boys.

As slavery was forbidden in the Ottoman Empire in the course of the mid- to late-nineteenth century, obviously the keeping of slave-boys by wealthy men ceased. As society modernized, notions of sexuality moved away from the penetrator/penetrated model similar to that of the ancient Greeks, and toward a modern male-female binary. Many Muslim societies in the course of the twentieth century also moved away from polygamy toward a model of one man, one woman as the family unit.

Modern homosexual identity has only slowly emerged in the Middle East, and has sometimes faced great hostility. I say sometimes because real-life Muslim societies are not as puritanical as outsiders or local elites imagine. It is obvious that American writer Paul Bowles liked living in Tangiers precisely because anything went as long as it stayed fairly private. In cosmopolitan Muslim cultures like Egypt, at best the modern gay subculture is winked at, but sometimes there are crackdowns. The situation resembles the US in, say, the 1930s and 1940s, when the police would arrest gays. In a radical Muslim regime like Taliban Afghanistan, gays were executed. This was in part an attempt to keep discipline in the Taliban military ranks, which were notorious for gay liaisons. So there is a spectrum. It should be underlined that Taliban Afghanistan was weird and not like most of the Muslim world.

So on to Sistani, who upholds a slightly modernized version of medieval Muslim canon law. The first two fatwas he gave on the subject have to do with adult men penetrating boys. That is, Sistani appears to take as the connotation of lawat that it is an adult man penetrating an under-age boy. Unsurprisingly, he deeply disapproves. The first two fatwas, however, come in response to questions about what this sexual relationship means for later marital relations between the two families. Say a 21-year-old man from Khazraj had relations with a 17-year-old boy from Ruba’i? Then, say the first man’s family wanted to marry him off to a girl from the Ruba’i family. Can they? And to what degree of relatedness? Can he be the husband of his former lover’s sister? The answer is “no.” In contrast, Sistani would allow a man who had an affair with a girl to later on marry her sister. Personally, I think the gay guy is getting the better advice here; having a brother-in-law or sister-in-law who is your former lover would be awkward at family reunions. Sistani does say that if a man has an affair with a married woman, and fathers her child, and she later gets divorced, he cannot in good conscience marry her, as a punishment for the earlier sin.


  1. This is pure bunk. Muslims HATE gays. It is in their Devil’s religion to hate everybody. For your info. ISLAM backwards is MALSI. MAL=EVIL (as in malpractice, malodorous,etc…) and SI=YES. The Devil hates everything that is close to love. In muslim controled countries women are stoned to death for having sex with men that are not their husbands, whether these poor women are married or not. Islam spread by the force of the sword in the 8th. Century. Otherwise that evil cult would have never taken hold. It conquered the Middle East, India, the Balkans, North Africa and Spain. It did it just like Hitler conquered East Europe, Greece, France, Holland and Scandinavia. Both movements by force. Islam is the communism of the 21st. century. Both are evil ways of living. Both are inflexible, dogmatic, absolutly disgusting ideologies. As Facism and Nasism brought the world to a World War, Islam will bring the world to the next World War. As Facism and Nasism, Islam will be destroyed. The Devil tries but the Devil will never succeed.

    Comment by Oscar — March 27, 2006 @ 5:35 am

  2. you guys do not know anything about shia

    shia’s are ALL bisexual

    they have ceremonies where everyone meets in a hall, and in the dark everyone has sex with everyone.

    prostitionion or ‘hiring of ones own or ones spouses sexual parts’ is high worship for them.

    swearing, deceit, and subterfuge is one of their highest worships.

    oh and comment 1 person…. the enemies of islam will bring forward the third world war against muslims. i respect your opinions however read a history book. also religious people do not hate people (only emotional slaves of their own desires hate people). religious people hate homosexuality. i also HATE smoking but i do not derive some sick pleasure out of seeing them freezing themselves standing outside in the snow on lunch break.

    Comment by ibrahim — October 25, 2010 @ 4:13 am

  3. khomeini and his followers think that after washing your private parts with water, that water is clean enough to drink.

    start googling what i said you’ll be shocked.

    oh and lastly for the record, sistani would allow him self to have anal sex in the dark with a stranger knowing full well that his brother or sister is in that same dark room and that their is a possibility it might be them!

    why do you think iran is one of the top countries in the world for sex change ops?


    check that story out.

    he should of just pretended to be a shia and married her for 3 hours under iranian law

    Comment by ibrahim — October 25, 2010 @ 4:28 am

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