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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 struggl 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 Brian Whitaker was Middle East editor at the Guardian for seven years and then an editor for the newspaper’s Comment is Free website. He is the author of What’s Really Wrong with the Middle East (Saqi Books, 2009). His website, www.al-bab.com, is devoted to Arab culture and politics. Unspeakable Love was shortlisted for the Lambda Literary Award in 2006.


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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 struggl 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 Brian Whitaker was Middle East editor at the Guardian for seven years and then an editor for the newspaper’s Comment is Free website. He is the author of What’s Really Wrong with the Middle East (Saqi Books, 2009). His website, www.al-bab.com, is devoted to Arab culture and politics. Unspeakable Love was shortlisted for the Lambda Literary Award in 2006.

30 review for Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lady H

    I'm Egyptian, so whenever I begin any book on the topic of homosexuality in the Middle East, I approach it with some measure of caution. When that book is written by a an American white man, that caution increases tenfold. Brian Whitaker has been a journalist for The Guardian since 1987 and was its Middle East editor from 2000 to 2007. A robust background to be sure, but not necessarily one that would automatically negate orientalist views, and so I began reading with some trepidation. But I was I'm Egyptian, so whenever I begin any book on the topic of homosexuality in the Middle East, I approach it with some measure of caution. When that book is written by a an American white man, that caution increases tenfold. Brian Whitaker has been a journalist for The Guardian since 1987 and was its Middle East editor from 2000 to 2007. A robust background to be sure, but not necessarily one that would automatically negate orientalist views, and so I began reading with some trepidation. But I was pleasantly surprised! Whitaker entire approach is based on nuance; he consistently and purposely shies away from making any sort of sweeping generalization about anything. He explores homosexuality in the Middle East as impartially as one could expect, balancing interviews with scholarly and popular publications to convey both a personal narrative and an overarching historical and societal one. Whitaker discusses various topics, from media coverage to Islamic legal analyses. While he never really delves fully into any one subject he succeeds in providing a broad overview, enough to give a decent primer on the issue. Focusing mainly on Lebanon and Egypt, Whitaker threads between case studies, historical analyses, religious arguments, and personal interviews. He cites several landmark books, such as Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle's Homosexuality in Islam, which delves deeply into Islamic legal arguments against homosexuality and their validity - or lack thereof. Deftly summarizing Kugle's work, Whitaker elucidates the shaky foundation for religious laws against homosexuality. Whitaker also brings up Joseph Massad, author of The Gay International, best known for critiquing the universalizing of gay rights and their exportation to the non-Western world. Whitaker counters Massad's main argument while acknowledging that Massad's thesis is not without its merits. One thing I would have liked to have seen more of is a discussion of lesbianism in the Middle East, but this is not necessarily a fault of the book. Whitaker acknowledges that gay women often tend to to fly below the radar. He terms this "lesbian invisibility" and goes on to say: “Lesbian invisibility does have some advantages. In the big cities of Egypt, two women living together as ‘flatmates’ would not arouse much curiosity, Laila said - though that would depend to some extent on their choice of district. Neighbours would first of all want to establish whether they were prostitutes and would probably quiz the bawwab, the doorman who watches all comings and goings in Egyptian blocks of flats. If satisfied on that count, they might then imagine other explanations for the girls’ presence – quarrels with parents, etc. ‘They would think of anything else but lesbianism,’ Laila said. She recalled how much one lesbian couple had been adored by their landlady. ‘I wish all my tenants were like you,’ the landlady told them, suspecting nothing.” Overall, this is a great introduction to a thorny topic. Whitaker delivers information objectively and manages to avoid wading into the waters of orientalist or condescending discourse (most of the time, anyway). The book, though, is a surface level examination of a dense, complex issue, and it left me wanting more.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gerhard

    Any (gay) expatriate working and living in Dubai will know there is a thriving, cosmopolitan and yet wholly discreet 'scene'. Travel outside the emirate, and it is quite amusing to see it has a reputation as the Sodom & Gomorrah of the Middle East. Yet you only have to speak to local gays to get a glimpse into a very different world, where men who engage in same-sex activities do not necessarily perceive themselves as being 'gay', as this is seen as a foreign (that is, Western) concept denoting a Any (gay) expatriate working and living in Dubai will know there is a thriving, cosmopolitan and yet wholly discreet 'scene'. Travel outside the emirate, and it is quite amusing to see it has a reputation as the Sodom & Gomorrah of the Middle East. Yet you only have to speak to local gays to get a glimpse into a very different world, where men who engage in same-sex activities do not necessarily perceive themselves as being 'gay', as this is seen as a foreign (that is, Western) concept denoting a particularly hedonistic and corrupt lifestyle practice. Indeed, 'active' (penetrative) gay males are often seen to be even more masculine, as this is seen to require greater physicality and sexual appetite ... Then there is the concept of family honour, marriage and tradition thrown into the mix, and you have a very complicated social situation largely predicated on invisibility and denial. Whitaker states early on that "sexual rights are not only a basic element of human rights, but should have an integral part in moves towards Arab reform." This is particularly difficult, of course, in a country like Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is punishable by death, and where bribery and secrecy rule the day. Added to this is the peculiar schizophrenia inherent in some Arab cultures, such as denouncing American imperialism on the one hand and then championing American brands, fast food and consumer goods on the other. This book is a fascinating introduction into the Arab mentality towards gender and sexuality in general. It is far more than being about homosexuality per se, as it touches on so many other aspects of social life: the family, law, language, religion, education. In addition, Whitaker provides cogent analyses of key Christian and Islamic texts often used to denounce homosexuality, and the implications for gays in the Arab world. In his suggestions for reform, he argues that Arab gays will inevitably have to band together for their rights and dignity, as the current policy of invisibility will only go so far. There is a fascinating side-discussion on controversial issues such as Israel championing gay rights as a means of legitimising the current regime, while cracking down hard on the Palestinians on the other. Another fascinating debate is to what extent a government can legislate what happens in a country's bedrooms, between consenting adults (Egypt was notorious for this apparently). Equally fascinating is how the technology of social media have liberated the Arab youth, both gay and straight, or just generally disaffected, right under the noses of oppressive governments. (Then again, to be seen to conform is often more important than the act of conformance itself). Commenting on the blanket religious conformity exacted by the authorities and religious police in Saudi Arabia, for example, Whitaker says: "All this is done in pursuit of a cultural authenticity that is not only unattainable in practice but often no more authentic than the England of thatched cottages, cream teas and croquet on the lawn." One thing that struck me while reading this is how diverse the Arab world is ethnically. Whitaker makes a partial listing: Alawites, Armenians, Assyrians, Baha'is, Berbers, Chaldeans, Copts, Druzes, Ibadis, Ismailis, Jews, Kurds, Maronites, Sahrawis, Tuareq, Turkmen (from Turkmenistan), Yezidis and Zaidis. He adds: "... Yet serious discussion of ethnic/religious diversity and its place in society is almost as big a taboo as discussion of sexual diversity. If the existence of non-Arab or non-Muslim groups is acknowledged at all, it is usually only to declare how harmoniously everyone gets along." Clearly this is not the case, and clearly sexual diversity is only the tip of a veritable iceberg of social issues that the Arab world is grappling with. Fascinating, and essential reading for anyone interested in this part of the world beyond the often sensationalist headlines often reported in the Western press.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It is a well thought out, well researched book which presents its arguments in a logical fashion. However, I was left feeling that the argument was flawed in some way. The main argument of the book was that we shouldn't try to change the religion, for that will just cause a push back in the name of protectionism. Thus, we must seek to change the culture (through secularization within the government). This is a fairly decent idea, except the author supports th Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It is a well thought out, well researched book which presents its arguments in a logical fashion. However, I was left feeling that the argument was flawed in some way. The main argument of the book was that we shouldn't try to change the religion, for that will just cause a push back in the name of protectionism. Thus, we must seek to change the culture (through secularization within the government). This is a fairly decent idea, except the author supports this position by using the examples of the United States and Israel. The flaw in this is that both these countries were founded with secularism in place from the beginning. They weren't trying to root religion out of a government when religion has BEEN the government for the past however many centuries. Thus, this approach would be doomed from the beginning. Then the second part is that this secularization would lead to more questioning and interpretation of the Qur'an, which is basically fighting to change the religion. It's not that I don't agree that there needs to be reinterpretation of some of the passages, but I think this will lead right back to the fundamentalist push back.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Badria Al Humaidhi

    A very well written and researched book on homosexuality in the middle eat. I loved how it covered all aspects of the issue, social, religious, cultural, legal etc. definitely a recommended read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nick Parkinson

    Whitaker's 'Unspeakable Love' paints a picture of queer life in the Middle East with broad brushstrokes. So broad, in fact, that it counts Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Sudan, Mauritania and Egypt as being part of the Middle East. Because of its breadth, the work sometimes seems to lack direction. This is clear when Whitaker turns back on his tail, repeating information needlessly. In the final chapter, he again returns to Arabic's lack of a synonym for "gay": a topic treated at least twice in earl Whitaker's 'Unspeakable Love' paints a picture of queer life in the Middle East with broad brushstrokes. So broad, in fact, that it counts Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Sudan, Mauritania and Egypt as being part of the Middle East. Because of its breadth, the work sometimes seems to lack direction. This is clear when Whitaker turns back on his tail, repeating information needlessly. In the final chapter, he again returns to Arabic's lack of a synonym for "gay": a topic treated at least twice in earlier chapters. Similarly, each chapter lacks a focus. His data is taken mainly from interviews, newspapers and websites. These are reported in a "he said, she said, they said" fashion so that it can be hard to keep sense of who exactly is taking because there is no characterisation. Of course, I wouldn't expect this in an academic monograph but Whitaker never really writes academically either. Neither journalistic nor academic, the result feels sometimes like reading an opinion piece, which is not in and of itself a bad thing. I can't help but wonder why Whitaker never states his own sexuality or identity. I assume he is white, but readers are left to guess this. I feel like a discussion of his implications as a foreign researcher would have helped to ground the text. Admittedly, he does say that the topic is little researched and he decided to look at queer life in the Middle East because many Arabs fear the reprisals if they publish on this issue. Still, some of the points raised were thoughtfully and concisely discussed. The first point that really interested me was Whitaker's discussion of the decline of homoeroticism in Arabic literature. "Classical literature reflects a period of self confidence and Arab-Islamic Empire," he writes. Now though, "his virility cannot be exerted as it was in the age of certainties". This, of course, doesn't encapsulate the invisibility of other non-heteronormative sexualities and gender identities in Arab literature. When he does discuss lesbianism, he also rebuts a fantastic point about same-sex attraction among women. He cites Iman al-Ghafari who warns that "the feminist discourse that turns lesbianism into a political choice is not liberating. Instead, it puts lesbians into a troublesome position where they have to play a major role in fulfilling the desires and fantasies of some heterosexual feminists at the expense of true lesbian desires." This reminds me of how (often cis, straight) men dismiss lesbians and harrass them to confess that they are bi (when they are not). Finally, Whitaker deftly rebukes Masaad and his clash of civilizations approach. For the author, advocating for gay rights is not cultural imperialism - homosexuality has always existed in the Arab world and pretending otherwise for "cultural authenticity" leaves no room for modern Arab self-expression. All in all, a good introductory read on the topic that sometimes lacks because of it's excessive scope and undecided voice.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brianna

    It's hard to say "really liked it" when it's a book about oppression, but I definitely learned a lot about how homosexuality was treated in the past (for instance, it "abounds" in classic Arabic literature, but started to disappear from books when literacy became more widespread, and the audience was wider), and how it's treated in the present (each country's penalties for sodomy, for instance, and how they tend to prosecute just enough to make an example of an unlucky few, but not enough to mak It's hard to say "really liked it" when it's a book about oppression, but I definitely learned a lot about how homosexuality was treated in the past (for instance, it "abounds" in classic Arabic literature, but started to disappear from books when literacy became more widespread, and the audience was wider), and how it's treated in the present (each country's penalties for sodomy, for instance, and how they tend to prosecute just enough to make an example of an unlucky few, but not enough to make people think homosexuality might be too common). On lesbians: In the Arab world ... the lesbian identity doesn't seem to exist, not because there are no lesbians, but because practices which might be termed lesbian in Western culture are left nameless in the Arab culture. Taking into consideration that the word 'lesbian' [suhaaquiyya] is rarely used in Arabic and, once used, it is charged with negative connotations, most lesbians avoid any public assertion of their identities. Besides, it is quite easy for Arab lesbians to deprive their emotional and physical intimacies of their lesbian connotations because it is common in a conservative Arab culture that advocates separation between the sexes to find intimate relations among members of the same sex, without having to call such relations homosexual. On the dangers of black and whiting the issue: To say that Islam prescribes 'death for homosexuals' is simplistic and misleading, even though religious conservatives and Western gay rights campaigners (each for their own reasons) like to claim that it does ... This sort of propagandising is particularly unhelpful to those gay and lesbian Muslims who are struggling to reconcile their sexuality with their religion. On the Qur'an: Despite the intolerance often found in Muslim societies today, [Scott Siraj al-Haqq] Kugle observes that the Qur'an 'positively assesses natural diversity in creation and in human societies'. In contrast to the biblical story of Babel, where God scatters the people and makes them speak mutually incomprehensible languages as a punishment, the Qur'an welcomes their differences: We created you different tribes and nations so that you may come to know one another and acknowledge that the most honourable among you are those that stay the most conscious of Allah. From among Allah's signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the difference of your tongues and the variation of your colours. With the Qur'an's vivid portrayal of diversity at so many levels of the natural and human world, it would be logical to assume that this diversity of creation plays out on the level of sexuality as well.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Drianne

    Kind of depressing, really, unsurprising given the book's subject. It wasn't as informative as I'd hoped, but I was most interested in the bits about growing acceptance in places like Beirut.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sam Berner

    I needed something on how alternative sexualities were portrayed in Arab media - this is good. Avoids the type of cheap orientalism I have seen in other publications on the subject.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Thuraya Al-otaibi

    Hands down, thee most comprehensive considerate book I've ever read. Whitaker covers every single aspect of the issue.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Kaddoura

    The book is designed for a western audience mainly. Also, it's a white man that tried to equate left-handedness to homosexuality in Islam..

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eslam Abdelghany

    A Panoramic view of a thorny subject: "Stephen Whitaker," The Guardian newspaper correspondent in the Middle East, between 2007 and 2000, provides an approach to the issue of sexuality "identity and sexual orientation" in the Middle East, which he of course lived through some of its chapters by virtue of his work and residence, and he sought to learn about the other chapters and aspects of them through conducting personal interviews with homosexuals and lesbians in person or at a distance, as we A Panoramic view of a thorny subject: "Stephen Whitaker," The Guardian newspaper correspondent in the Middle East, between 2007 and 2000, provides an approach to the issue of sexuality "identity and sexual orientation" in the Middle East, which he of course lived through some of its chapters by virtue of his work and residence, and he sought to learn about the other chapters and aspects of them through conducting personal interviews with homosexuals and lesbians in person or at a distance, as well as looking at content related to the issue via the Internet or through reports and writings that dealt with the matter and presented it for support or condemnation. Whitaker made a remarkable effort in trying to present the various dimensions of the issue, which are complex in nature and the nature of the societies to which they relate. His approach to the informational part was perhaps more accurate and thoughtful than it is in the analytical side, which will undoubtedly be controversial, especially regarding religious texts, their interpretations and varying adaptations to different realities temporally and spatially. The book revealed - by monitoring the reality of homosexuality and homosexuals in different Arab countries, specifically Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, as well as Middle Eastern, if we added Iran and the Zionist entity - a package of laws through which governments try to put a framework and establish a position to deal with gay men and women, as well as the positions of families and acquaintances of those who declared their homosexuality or revealed the truth of their own gender in one way or another ,and as it seemed, that religious concepts are mixed with social and even economic considerations, making it difficult for the observer to take a specific firm position if he was not directly concerned with the matter.. Every writer must have his own bias and Whitaker’s bias here, based on the principle that personal freedoms are close to the entity of every human being, which no one should narrow or derogate from, whether it is an institution or an individual, and personal ethics should not be imposed or controlled through an institution or an individual other than the relevant person as long as he does not harm others, and Whitaker presents in his analysis other views that support this approach. He also transmits views that oppose his opinion of course and its fundamentals are religious, social and moral in the first place and see in homosexuality a deviation from the nature of creation, a challenge to the will of the Creator and then the established traditions of eastern societies ,the concept of natural sexual desire For hetero and community structure and family entity based on only normal relationship between individuals of two different sexual types.. In the end, I admired the book - despite the necessary amount of difference, of course - and the information it provided and the presentation of many points of view and details that I was not sufficiently aware of - it must be noted here that the book was issued in 2006 and there have been a lot of developments since then - and it is one of the few books that approached the topic of homosexuality, which we still either do not recognize its existence from the ground up on the official level and we do not deal with it except as a symbol or according to broad categories that are not related to dealing with the matter directly. Or we recognize its presence on a social level, but the phantom freedoms which are often not available in our Arab countries don’t allow the issue to be dealt with in a scientific and academic manner that allows ,in turn, presenting the issue in a realistic manner, and in its various spectrums, at which time it is left for every researcher or reader to determine his position or bias towards it, which didn’t happen until now and unfortunately I do not see it happening in the next few years. My affection

  12. 4 out of 5

    zzzz

    Well that was depressing. Two things that stood out - 1)colonising Europeans remarking on how horny and bisexual Muslim societies are back in the 18th century or whatever, only for today's Muslim societies to view homosexuality as a western product 2)ayatollah khomeini saying trans issues are separate from gay issues and Iran actually having high rates of sex change operations...meanwhile homosexuality is punishable by death. Ok his double edged impact I love/hate to see it

  13. 5 out of 5

    JALEN

    It is gay and lesbian. homosexuality is not a topic to speak on its is disgusting and very rude to mankind and it goes against the bible and is disrespecting GOD our lord and savior

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hassane Charafeddine

    A well researched book about LGBT rights and mainly, freedom, in the Middle East. It tackles different humanitarian themes besides sexuality, and its thriving existing in the MENA region.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Whatthelog

    Published by the truly fabulous Saqi Books, Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East by Brian Whitaker is a non-fiction book about LGBT+ individuals living in the Middle East. I’ve wanted to read this for a while, because attitudes towards LGBT+ people is a perceived part of Islam and Islamic culture that is often denigrated, but rarely looked at in detail. So when I saw it at my local library, I knew that I just had to give it a whirl! Obviously, there were always going to be fl Published by the truly fabulous Saqi Books, Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East by Brian Whitaker is a non-fiction book about LGBT+ individuals living in the Middle East. I’ve wanted to read this for a while, because attitudes towards LGBT+ people is a perceived part of Islam and Islamic culture that is often denigrated, but rarely looked at in detail. So when I saw it at my local library, I knew that I just had to give it a whirl! Obviously, there were always going to be flaws with this book. To give an account of the full experiences of LGBT+ individuals in every Middle Eastern country would be impossible. Similarly, there simply wasn’t the room to discuss the social policies of all Middle Eastern countries. He therefore focuses on specific countries, such as Egypt, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. While I totally understand why he did this, it would have been interesting to have a small breakdown of the different policies/social attitudes in various countries, and a look at any similarities or differences. However, saying that, I was pretty impressed by Whitaker’s attempt to be non-biased, and to break down stereotypes both about Islamic countries and Western countries. His critiques on Western media and how Middle Eastern social policies are reported in the news are especially good. Although he clearly wishes for increased social and legal freedom for LGBT+ individuals in Middle Eastern countries, he in no way sensationalises the realities of life, which I greatly appreciated. There are gay clubs, organisations and people in the Middle East – and he did his very best to dispel all myths about what they might be like. Also, this is a bit of a nerdy point, but it has a fabulous notes section at the back. There is a full list of all the non-fiction, fiction, and film that has been referred to within the book, as well as a glossary. I’m definitely going to be checking some of these out – I’d never heard of a lot of the LGBT+ Islamic fiction that Whitaker references. I’d love to hear from anyone else who has read this – or from any LGBT+ people who live in the Middle East! This was a fascinating book, and I would love to talk about it further.

  16. 5 out of 5

    JOSEPH OLIVER

    If there is one point I took from reading this book it is that freedom for men and women to love whom they please in the Arab world may seem completely unreal when you consider the set up in most Arab countries today. However if you look back to the late 1960's in the UK you can find many similar stories and court cases. Who would have thought that change could come about so quickly? The author believes that the same can happen in Arab countries too. It should be kept in mind that the author is a If there is one point I took from reading this book it is that freedom for men and women to love whom they please in the Arab world may seem completely unreal when you consider the set up in most Arab countries today. However if you look back to the late 1960's in the UK you can find many similar stories and court cases. Who would have thought that change could come about so quickly? The author believes that the same can happen in Arab countries too. It should be kept in mind that the author is a journalist and the book shows that in the way it discusses homosexuality in some of the countries. Egypt and Lebanon are the two most explored. There is a lot of repetition in the earlier chapters which is to be expected as the author relies on newspaper reports and interviews which seem to have the same themes running through them. The newspaper reports are largely to be read with a pinch of salt as they are not written to tell the truth but to moralise those who would wish to imitate those caught. From the middle of the book onwards, having given particular examples the writer moves on to a more general examination of Islam and why it has such a horror of homosexuality.He puts it in the context of human rights in general in these countries. The final chapter touches briefly on the 'revolutions' in the Arab world and what prospects there are for a limited change in the law to liberalise it for gay men and women. It is too early to tell but from what we read in the papers it doesn't bode well. A very good background read. Not too involved and written in an accessible style. You will be wiser after reading it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hatem

    I read this kind of books for two reasons. First, I get an insight into how the west is perceiving the Middle East. Issues like homosexuality are closer to be taken for granted in western societies. However, the Arab community is still in its first baby steps to absorb this concept. When I deal with people from the US or any other place, mostly are not politicians or journalists, I get a glimpse of how individuals. What is the first thing that pops to somebody's mind when I say I am an Arab Musli I read this kind of books for two reasons. First, I get an insight into how the west is perceiving the Middle East. Issues like homosexuality are closer to be taken for granted in western societies. However, the Arab community is still in its first baby steps to absorb this concept. When I deal with people from the US or any other place, mostly are not politicians or journalists, I get a glimpse of how individuals. What is the first thing that pops to somebody's mind when I say I am an Arab Muslim? What if I say I'm a Palestinian? What if I even say I'm from Gaza? Wouldn't that make a prejudiced impression in this person's mind, even if he's consciously tried to avoid this? Second, I also find this content very informing, the sources talking about taboos like this are very rare in Arabic. My overall view is that I encourage this kind of interpretation and intra-communities connections. The Middle East is very different from western cultures, but it's getting closer, and this is for many reasons, these kinds of extensive research are one of the reasons. It may be as well disappointing for Arab readers, who expected more accurate interpretation instead of relying mostly on anecdotes, but I need to reiterate that the writer of the book is not an Arab and obviously the targeted readers are non-Arabs as well. One last point, I hope for anybody who's reading this either before or after finishing the book, will abandon any judgmental views and instead focus on understanding and attempting to solve problems instead. Having a prejudiced opinion will not contribute to fixing these problems.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Naji Tawk

    Being almost a pioneer to initiate such topics and deep researches about homosexuality in the Middle East, it deserves, I think, much credit. I learnt a lot of stuff through the book: some places they use Electric Shocks to 'cure' homosexuals; the Quran doesn't say anything about homosexuality _however if we want to overanalyze, we can conclude that it was gay-friendly_ but in the ahadith which were fabricated after the death of Muhammad, Islamic scholars wanted to condemn homosexuality; Sodom a Being almost a pioneer to initiate such topics and deep researches about homosexuality in the Middle East, it deserves, I think, much credit. I learnt a lot of stuff through the book: some places they use Electric Shocks to 'cure' homosexuals; the Quran doesn't say anything about homosexuality _however if we want to overanalyze, we can conclude that it was gay-friendly_ but in the ahadith which were fabricated after the death of Muhammad, Islamic scholars wanted to condemn homosexuality; Sodom and Gomorra is the worst fairytale and it says nothing about homosexuality, still Christians Muslims and Jews wanted to analyze it as a symbol for homosexuality and even calling every gay person whether a saint or not a sodomite! and they don't know the second part of the story where Lot and his two daughters have incestuous sex in a cave and bear children. Why didn't the scholars talk about that?! However, the language used is slightly difficult. I think it should have been easier so more people would read it. There is a lot of redundancy. Hence, you'll learn about the crackdown in Egypt (Queen Boat) and in Britain (1950), about many persons living in hell on Earth, about much injustice.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Maitha hasher

    I found this book in a fair in Sharjah, and was completely astonished, since this is a subject that has never been brought up other than the little talks spread here and there from schoolgirls and students. I'm grateful to have found this book, because it covers up almost every aspect of one out of the many shunned-upon dilemmas, in terms of religion, politics, and culture. From couples committing murder hand-in-hand in order to keep their reputation from spreading, to the angry yet confused Mus I found this book in a fair in Sharjah, and was completely astonished, since this is a subject that has never been brought up other than the little talks spread here and there from schoolgirls and students. I'm grateful to have found this book, because it covers up almost every aspect of one out of the many shunned-upon dilemmas, in terms of religion, politics, and culture. From couples committing murder hand-in-hand in order to keep their reputation from spreading, to the angry yet confused Muslim who decides the only way of ending his sin is by taking his own life. In a country where 'two men holding guns is better than two men holding hands', Whitaker gathers advices and sayings from both sides, along with religious leaders and clear, thoroughly explained contexts from the Quran, to bring us this intriguing book that ends you up with more questions than when you have started.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rick Perez

    This book is a great introduction for non-Muslims to understanding the current treatment of gays and lesbians in many Middle Eastern countries. In a scholarly voice it discusses how gay Muslims live in relation to the teachings of the Qur'an. Clearly there are some very sad stories, but "Unspeakable Love" explains the situation openly and clearly. It seems, as well to be addressing the growing voice for change toward homosexuals in Islamic communities. If you are interested in this subject, the This book is a great introduction for non-Muslims to understanding the current treatment of gays and lesbians in many Middle Eastern countries. In a scholarly voice it discusses how gay Muslims live in relation to the teachings of the Qur'an. Clearly there are some very sad stories, but "Unspeakable Love" explains the situation openly and clearly. It seems, as well to be addressing the growing voice for change toward homosexuals in Islamic communities. If you are interested in this subject, the film "Jihad for Love" is a must.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    This is a chatty book based mostly on interviews with people throughout the Middle East. Most in testing is his assertion that being gay is more about actions than identity of many people in the Arab world...seemed like he was getting at a very different way of framing ideas about gay and lesbian lives than in the US...but since the set up is pretty anecdotal, it was taking him a while to develop. I read a chunk of this, think it is accessible and I could use parts of it in class...had to move o This is a chatty book based mostly on interviews with people throughout the Middle East. Most in testing is his assertion that being gay is more about actions than identity of many people in the Arab world...seemed like he was getting at a very different way of framing ideas about gay and lesbian lives than in the US...but since the set up is pretty anecdotal, it was taking him a while to develop. I read a chunk of this, think it is accessible and I could use parts of it in class...had to move on to more topics I am teaching now... Will revisit next time I teach the region.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Piers Haslam

    An interesting look at LGBT issues in the Middle East from about 2000 to 2010. The chapters stand on their own, each exploring various themes. Not an academic work, but it did a great job of colouring my understanding of the subject. One idea sticks out to me in light of reading this book: legal and cultural reform is most problematic in countries that perceive themselves as enemies of the 'West', because homosexuality(primarily male) and gender transgressions are considered to be a 'Western' imp An interesting look at LGBT issues in the Middle East from about 2000 to 2010. The chapters stand on their own, each exploring various themes. Not an academic work, but it did a great job of colouring my understanding of the subject. One idea sticks out to me in light of reading this book: legal and cultural reform is most problematic in countries that perceive themselves as enemies of the 'West', because homosexuality(primarily male) and gender transgressions are considered to be a 'Western' import. The animosity towards the 'West' entails a homophobic/transphobic backlash.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    In interesting anecdotal overview of gay life in the Middle East. There are sweeping passages that are written to give context but seem less supported by actual research and fact than by feeling and society memory. That a book such as this has been written and was written based on interviews with members of the gay community about which it was written tells us that there are people speaking about gay love (and it's a good thing).

  24. 5 out of 5

    Crescentm

    This was a really informative and well-written book. It is the only comprehensive book that I've found on this subject matter. My one complaint is that the author presupposed the reader's belief in his argument and thus skipped over scientific and physiological proof of homosexuality not being a choice. I enjoyed it because this is my belief but would not compel non-believers.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lynne

    This was a work-related read. It's good, though I disliked the last chapter or two of Quran textual interpretation. I wasn't convinced by all of the author's arguments on the texts, and I don't know if he should have gone there in this type of book to make his case anyway. It was a pretty quick read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cairo Hamdy

    Read this book a couple of times before. I loved how the author brought about real life events that have occurred. I feel it was like a long report but nonetheless, I loved it. I also like how he divided the book into different sections. Each chapter encompasses a different topic than other chapters. For example, one chapter was about religion, another one was about society, etc.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amira Hanafi

    It's high time a book like this exists, but this is just a rickety start. While I found it informative, Unspeakable Love lacked a rigor I think the subject necessitates. Reads at a sort of guidebook level. Still, worth the read for those interested.

  28. 4 out of 5

    M.

    This is a real informative book, full of information. I learned some things I had never even thought about, dealing with the Middle East culture. I recommend it for all in the ME area and LGBTQ/Gender studies.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    Your heart goes out to the brave human beings that live in the world that Whitaker introduces us to in this masterpiece. A gut-wrenching account that is informative, balanced and a must-read for those endeavouring to understand how people live with forbidden feelings.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alexis Sherman

    This book addresses some very important issues in the Middle East and is relatively well-executed and a rare book of its kind.

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