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Muslims And Gays: Sexual Citizenship Good For All Dutch Citizens

by Gert Hekma in General , 23 mei 2012

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

Over the past decade, a contrast between gays and Muslims arose. While Muslims are being criticized for their sexual ethics, gays went from misfits to the pampered children of Dutch politics and the Dutch media since 2001 (gay marriage, Pim Fortuyn). Because Muslims supposedly do not accept gays, their perceptions about sexuality are heavily criticized by society and politics. Gays feel that (orthodox) Muslims pose a threat to their free and open lifestyle.

This might also be true for orthodox Christians, but those hardly manifest themselves in larger cities, where Muslims and gays are concentrated. Furthermore, white gays are familiar with those Christians.
The contradiction between Muslims and homosexuals has important limitations, such as the existence of gays and lesbian among Muslims.

Nowadays, there are active organizations for this group, such as the Arabic Secret Garden, the Turkish Homoloket, the interethnic foundation Malaica and the Habibi Ana bar. Politicians with an Islamic background are (or were) defending them. Examples are Ahmed Marcouch, Ahmed Aboutaleb, Haci Karacaer, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Khadija Arib wrote about lesbian Muslims. There are big problems when it comes to the connection between Muslims and homosexuals.

In the first place, there is the problem of terminology. The word homosexuality has a very western feel to it and is about the identity of a certain minority, about “coming out,” visibility and being true to yourself.

In the world of Islam, many men and fewer women have homosexual contacts, but those are kept hidden. Most men have an active role, but never identify themselves as gay. The passive partner is a “zemel” (Moroccan) or “ibne” (Turkish) and an object of disfavor. But also passive partners, who are perceived as queeny or feminine, will hardly identify themselves as gay because of the disgrace that comes with it.

Not just for themselves, but mostly because of their family. In white Dutch society, that problem exists as well. Queens are given the cold shoulder, not just by straights, but also by many gay men, who are looking for a so-called “straight acting” boyfriend or describe themselves as such.

The cruelest manifestations against homosexuals take place in their immediate environment, around families and schools. It might be a small group of Caucasian and non-Caucasian boys who often and nastily scold queens on schoolyards and sports fields, but they can set the tone, as school management, teachers, and umpires do not take action against it.

Out In The Open

In cooperation with colleagues from the University of Amsterdam, I researched the acceptance of homosexuality in Moroccan and Turkish (as well as Surinamese, Chinese and orthodox protestant) circles for The Netherlands Institute for Social Research, “Steeds gewoner, nooit gewoon” (2010, on The conclusion was evident: gays, lesbians and bisexuals from all five groups rarely admit to their homosexuality, or, at the most, partly open their closet door. Otherwise, they would put their families to shame.

Being gay is sometimes accepted, practicing gay sex is a bigger deal, but admitting to it is usually a bridge too far. Partly coming out of the closet will cause social and psychological problems, something that will not make you happy in The Netherlands.

Because here, sexuality nowadays is a public matter: getting married or not, coming out of the closet or not, allowing yourself or others to lead a gay lifestyle or not. Of course, people should decide for themselves whether or not to be out in the open about their sexual preferences. But because in those circles, very few people come out of the closet and homosexuality is not visible in any other way, there is a problem that is here to stay.

Negative opinions and nasty gossip about gays, lesbians and bisexuals continue to spread behind closed doors, not to mention worse things such as discrimination and aggression in the family circle or anti-gay violence. Homosexuality has become an important theme of sexual citizenship, and all Dutch citizens, including Muslims, will have to deal with it.

What to do? I am in favor of an integrated strategy that concerns both whites and Muslims. Behind a curtain of tolerance, there are still a lot of negative feelings among the white Dutch. Ninety-five percent of the Dutch say they are tolerant towards homosexuality, but all the same, forty percent would rather not see gay men kissing in public. Thirty percent of gay guys today would rather not be gay, not to mention their even more widespread desire to be “normal,” in other words not visible, not feminine, not overly sexual. The boys do not want to be a queen, and the girls do not want to be a dyke or a slut.

Sexual Emancipation Machine

As so much prejudice, ignorance and invisibility remains when it comes to homosexuality in particular, and sexuality in general, I would argue to start with wide range sex education on primary and secondary schools.

It should not so much be about biology, but about sexual citizenship lessons and the language and history of sexuality, for example Dutch and Arabic sexual history.

In our lives, we all have to deal with sexuality: Not just as a gay or straight individual, but certainly as a civilian. At home, in family life, with neighbors, in medical care, in education, in law enforcement, in shops, on the streets, on public transport, in short, everywhere. And all Dutch citizens should be prepared for that.

And that preparation deserves concrete language, not the cloaked or general terminology that so often is being used nowadays, such as “respect.” Biological knowledge is superfluous, but knowledge about sexual citizenship essential. Secondly, it would be a good thing if Amsterdam would not only develop itself as an ethnic emancipation machine (wording of the Green party GroenLinks), but also as a sexual emancipation machine. With enough space in the public domain for erotic and sexual manifestation. That should apply to gay, lesbian and bisexual living, but also to the Red Light District.

By removing sexuality from the street, the alderman for the Dutch Labour party (PvdA) Lodewijk Asscher is creating space for white and Moroccan gay bashers to decrease the visibility of homosexuals. A culture of hiding and rubbing out is on the rise among both politicians and rascals, which is bad for gay emancipation and sexual liberty. It takes us even further from the once liberal impulses of the sixties and critically recapturing that history.

Sexual openness and visibility are important for all ethnic groups, including the white Dutch. It will solve the problem of Islamic gays, lesbian and bisexuals having to play hide-and-seek, and hopefully will resolve the insecurity of young gays and lesbians, not to mention other varieties, on how to deal with their sexual desires.

Photo: Scene from the Dutch documentary I'm Gay and Muslim, directed by Chris Belloni and shown during the Pink Movie Days.


Using slightly different terminology, Gert Hekma gave this lecture on February 16 at a meeting about “Islam and Sexuality” at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam. More than half of the audience of about one hundred people consisted of young men and women from an Islamic and mostly Moroccan background.

Half of these students in higher education turned against Zakaria Buhktari of the Stichting OntdekIslam (Discover Islam), who emphasized that homosexuality is not a sin according to the Koran and the sharia.

With quotes in Arabic, his opponents enforced their conviction. They also opposed the visibility of homosexuality, and sometimes sex education. Some were annoyed that “homosexuality is forced upon Muslims.”

Perhaps it is a positive sign that they attended this evening about (homo) sexuality, organized by a mixed group of students, but it is alarming that such a large group is resisting homosexuality, something they undoubtedly have to deal with later on in both their family or professional life.



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