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[Editor’s note: In a recent Frontpage interview, Prof. Fred Gottheil told Jamie Glazov that he compiled a list of 675 email addresses from 900 signatures on a 2009 petition authored by Dr. David Lloyd, professor of English at the University of Southern California, that denounced Israel for “human rights violations.” He asked these 675 academics to sign onto a statement expressing concern about human rights violations against women, gays and lesbians in the Muslim Middle East. Only 27 agreed to sign it – less than 5 percent of the total who had signed Lloyd’s petition. Below we publish Prof. Gottheil’s statement.]
A Statement of Concern
Calling for Support Regarding Discrimination in the Middle East against Women, Gays, and Lesbians.
This document is not a petition. It is, instead, a statement of concern addressing the problem of human rights abuses that appears to be pervasive in the Middle East. Having offered your name last January to the list of academics on American campuses who petitioned President Obama to reconsider our relationship with Israel, we ask that you now join us in expressing your concern about human rights abuses practiced against gays and lesbians and against women in many of the Middle Eastern countries, including the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority. There are other gender-based human rights violations in the region but by concentrating on these particularly egregious ones, we will be able to focus support for the victims of these abuses, and perhaps in this way help change the environment that fosters such long-practiced violations.
This statement of concern, along with its list of academic signatories, will be put in the public domain; to be made available to our colleagues, to members of Congress, to government people in the Middle East, and to the media. To repeat: It does not call upon any persons, organizations, or governments to take specific action.
The information offered below is meant only to highlight the ideas held and practices condoned by people in authoritative positions in the Middle East. Documentation is derived from sources as widespread as United Nations agencies, survey research units, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, academic journals, NGOs such as Asylum-Law and Human Rights Watch, and from media reporting offered on the Internet, such as BBC.
Discrimination against Gays and Lesbians
Allegations and evidence of discrimination against gays and lesbians is compelling. Asylum-Law, an organization aiding asylum-seeking persons worldwide reports that treatment of gay men in Arab countries is particularly distressing. Punishment for acts of homosexuality varies. In Saudi Arabia, capital punishment – beheading – applies. Syrians convicted of practicing homosexuality serve three years’ imprisonment. Most other sources describe the physical abuse of and long-terms prison terms for gays in Egypt, the West Bank and Gaza. Specific laws against homosexuality exist in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria, Sudan, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Syria, and Libya. The 2001 amendment to Iraq’s 1990 Penal Code made homosexual behavior between consenting adults a crime. The 1991 Iranian Constitution allows execution for sodomy. Specifically, Articles 108-113: “Sodomy is a crime, for which both partners are punished. The punishment is death if the participants are adults, of sound mind and consenting; the method of execution is for the Sharia judge to decide.” A documented testimony from a 19-year old Palestinian homosexual claims that he had been pressured by the al-Aqua Martyr’s Brigade to become a suicide bomber in order to purge his moral guilt.
Religious authority supports and even promotes these practices. According to prominent Muslim clerics, Sharia law mandates the death penalty for homosexuality. Among such authority, Cleric Sheikh Ali Amar offers that “Muslims believe that homosexual behavior is an offence against Islam and anyone who behaves this way should be sentenced to death without compassion.” Egyptian scholar Shaykh Dr. Yusuf Abdahhal al-Qaradawi, director of the Sunna and Sira Council, Qatar, cites Sharia law to declare that a Qatari Prince, ousted from political office on grounds of homosexuality, should be stoned to death. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraqis’ Shitte Muslims concurs. Kuwaiti cleric Dr. Sa’d al-‘Inzi cites article 203 of the Kuwaiti Penal Code as sanctioning death: “According to Islamic law, a homosexual should be thrown from a tall building.”
Gender discrimination – wife beating, honor killing, and genital mutilation – against women is sanctioned by both legal and religious authority and has been planted in varying degrees into cultural habits and institutions. The legitimacy and justification for wife beating is found in the Surra 4:34: “Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others … good women are therefore obedient … and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them.”
Various clerical interpretations of this Surra range from beating doesn’t mean physical, to beating means only open-handed slaps, to beating must avoid delicate parts of the body, to beating is a beating. That clerics differ on this matter is acknowledged, but the legitimacy of and justification for wife beating is nonetheless appreciated. Dr. Muhammas al-Hajj, lecturer on Islamic faith at the University of Jordan argues that the central issue is guardianship of the family and that domination and subordination are properly gender based. Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former president of the Islamic Society of North America, answers the question “Does Islam allow wife beating?” by replying that wife beating is permissible in cases of persistent insubordination.
Algerian-born Iman Abdel Qader Bouziane was expelled from France for advocating wife beating. Professor Sabri Abd al-Rauf of Al-Azhar University argued that the beatings are intended to instill fear. Sheik abd Al-Hamid al-Muhajir explained that the Koran stipulates when a husband can beat a disobedient wife. Sheik Muhmmad al-Mussayar, an Egyptian professor at Al-Azhar University describes what kind of woman may be beaten. Sheik Yousuf al-Badri, member of the Egyptian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, asserts that since wife beatings are noted in the Koran and Sunna, it “means we’re allowed to beat.” Egyptian Cleric Galal al-Khatib is straightforward and blunt: “only a rod would help.”
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