In a region of Al-Qasim, that is full of the alluring beauty and magic of the desert, specifically near the rural village of Qutn, my friend Dr. Khalid al-Hamoudi, dean of the Al-Qasim University, erected a tent where he hosted a wonderful gathering of scholars, writers, academics, and intellectuals. Thrilling and exciting discussions took place throughout the day, and into the night. The topics on discussion ranged from social and political topics, to history and literature, in addition to old anecdotes and jokes being told. All of those present came from a variety of cultural backgrounds. The best thing about these discussions is that, like the open desert, they manage to escape the shackles of time and space.
One of the guests – who is also a friend of mine – wanted to joke with me by reminding me of an article that I previously wrote entitled “Munasaha” about a debate I had with a number of homosexual intellectuals at Speaker’s Corner, in London’s Hyde Park. This led us to discuss the issue of homosexuality among young men and women in conservative Arab societies. The topic focused on those afflicted with homosexuality; whether this was a psychological problem caused by sexual molestation at a young age, or whether this is a genetic or hormonal disorder that afflicts some people regardless of their morality or conservatism? Has the issue of homosexuality in some Arab countries reached a stage where this can be regarded as a phenomenon, so that it can be discussed openly and explicitly in order to find a cure for it? Or rather is homosexuality among young men and women [in some Arab countries] an anomaly, and therefore something that must be dealt with in a restricted manner behind closed doors and without media attention that could have a counterproductive effect [in this regard]? This is after some people expressed their opposition to this problem being discussed and diagnosed openly and overtly, saying that this could make the situation worse and ‘open the eyes” of some people, who previously knew nothing, about this [homosexuality].
In my opinion, the “closed eyes” [of those who know nothing about homosexuality] has become a feature of a bygone era which does not exist anymore, in light of the satellite and internet media breakthroughs. Our sons and daughters, and at an early age, may – in one way or another – find themselves exposed to this problem, or in fact some of them may already have been caught up in such immoral behavior without the knowledge of their parents. The problem is that fathers and mothers are unconscious of the real size of the problem, and when faced with this problem, fathers find themselves lost in a world of uncertainty; they do not know how do deal with this, how to raise this subject with his son or daughter, or whom to ask for assistance. There is a dire need for surveys to be carried out in order for us to discover the true size of this dangerous problem, however at the same time we should not completely ignore this problem until such surveys and studies are available. Similarly, researchers, academics and reformers in Arab societies – regardless of how conservatives these societies might be – should not be frightened to discuss and deal with the issue of homosexuality. It is their duty to begin studying, diagnosing and curing this phenomenon – if it is a phenomenon – or consider means of preventing and curbing this to prevent it becoming one. This is because symptoms of illness in society, just like physical illness, are best dealt with at an early stage. I applaud both Dr. Mohamed al-Arifi and Dr. Ibrahim al-Darwish for breaking the silence regarding this thorny issue. Dr. al-Arifi interviewed a number of homosexuals on television, whilst Dr. al-Darwish is trying to cure this problem, through his Ro’ya Center for Social Studies.