Search This Blog

Friday, 24 April 2009

Human rights or Islamic sensitivities?

So much for some human-rights activists, it seems, if this piece by Wayne Besen is anything to go by.

Readers of our print issues of Gay & Lesbian Humanist (for the online issues, see the sidebar) will remember Wayne Besen as the author of a book called Anything But Straight, and you can see his websites here and here, and read his own G&LH article about the “ex-gay” movement here.

In a disturbing article in the online Falls Church News Press, Besen takes to task one Scott Long, director of the LGBT programme at Human Rights Watch, who seems to think that gays should rein in their natural desires and their universal human right to be what they are in order to appease Muslim sensitivities.

After writing about all kinds of disturbing and atrocious stuff concerning the treatment of gays in Burundi, Iraq, Uganda, Nigeria and others, Besen says:

Unfortunately, the GLBT community is not currently up to meeting the new global challenges. Passive and overly cautious bureaucrats staff some of our leading human rights organizations. They are good at reporting violence, but not very effective at countering it.

Even more disturbing, they sometimes serve as apologists in the name of cultural and religious sensitivity. Exhibit A is Scott Long, director of the GLBT program at Human Rights Watch. In the publication Contemporary Politics he lashed out at some of the world’s top gay activists and chided them for demanding that Muslims actually respect the right of GLBT people to exist.

“The incessant insistence that Muslim communities accede to the political agenda of LGBT identities actually forecloses politics altogether,” Long wrote. “It fences off the arena of shared interests . . .”

So, in other words, GLBT people should put their human rights on the backburner to assuage the grievances of religious people. We should also not act on our own behalf until all of the world’s problems are solved.

Quite. This puts me in mind of marching in the seventies and with us were some members of this or that Left-wing organisation (Workers for This or That, or the Socialist Something or Other), one of whose (prominent) members said of gay rights, more or less, “Wait till the revolution, brothers.” No, not the exact wording, but you get the drift. Let’s put gay rights on the backburner for now because, come the revolution, we’ll sweep away all oppression.

Oh, yeah?

Now, if Besen is reporting accurately – and he’s an experienced journalist who’s been reporting on gay matters for years, so we’re apt to give him the benefit of any doubt – we get so-called human-rights activists saying that, when it comes to what should be universal human rights and dignity, all humans are equal, but some humans are more equal than others.

Besen is not entirely pessimistic, though:

Fortunately, there are a growing number of GLBT activists who will no longer allow culture, history or religion to be employed as a rationalization for homophobia. We do not believe that a state’s sovereignty enables it to brutalize and marginalize gay people within its borders.

Earlier in the article – while writing about gay rights in various countries – Besen has this to say of Burundi, where, in March, tens of thousands of people demonstrated to outlaw homosexuality:

This destitute nation is the kind of place that you may have seen in late-night infomercials where flies buzz around the lips of starving children. Eighty percent of Burundi’s population lives in poverty. Famines and food shortages have occurred and the World Food Program reports that 56.8 percent of children under age five suffer from chronic malnutrition. Yet, the good citizens of Burundi have time to chant and hold signs demanding the imprisonment of homosexuals.

He also talks of the reports from Iraq that we reported on yesterday. Do read the article. It’s worth five or ten minutes or your time.

No comments: