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Gay Media's Failure to Accurately Report Adds to
Growing Hatred Towards Islamic World
by Faisal Alam
Faisal Alam is the Founder of Al-Fatiha (LGBTIQ Muslims) in the USA
ATLANTA, August 1 – In the wake of the recent London bombings, the Western world has been propelled into another vicious cycle of revenge against Muslims and the Islamic world. While mainstream media around the world have more accurately represented the outpouring of condemnation by Muslim organizations and institutions against the attacks in London, the gay and lesbian media in the U.S. has unfortunately succumbed once again to the false belief that Islam condones acts of violence including suicide bombings, executions of civilians and even the killing of homosexuals.
On July 19, a number of exiled Iranian organizations reported that two teenagers, one aged 18 and the other a minor (who’s age is reported to be either 16 or 17) were hanged in Iran, a country that President Bush infamously labeled as part of the ‘axis of evil’.
The news of this horrific execution was blasted across gay and lesbian media websites with pictures that depict the final moments of the teenagers as they were escorted to face their inevitable death.
On June 20, the largest gay and lesbian political organization in the United States, the Human Rights Campaign issued a press release condemning the execution and calling on Secretary of State Condalezza Rice to condemn the brutal killings in Iran and similar attacks on sexual and gender minorities in other countries.
While the gay and lesbian media in the United States and even the Human Rights Campaign jumped quickly to condemn the executions, government officials in Sweden and the Netherlands announced that they would halt any extraditions of gay people to Iran.
OutRage!, a queer political organization in the UK even went as far as calling for the European Union to institute trade sanctions against Iran for its on-going assault against sexual and gender minorities. While these Western organizations and governments quickly came to the judgement that Iran was displaying a brutal form of oppression, very few people took the time to research the details of the case or even consult with experts who deal with such news on a daily basis.
In fact it was almost a week later that we began to read more accurate accounts of why the teens were executed from international human rights groups including Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission – all of whom have contacts in Iran and ways to confirm news of such incidents from independent sources.
While no one will ever know why these two young men were executed in Iran, what remains clear is that the hysteria surrounding the executions was enormous and only fed to the growing Islamaphobia and hatred towards Muslims and the Islamic world.
The fact that the executions occurred in Iran also fed the frenzy of rumors that Iran will be the next target in the so-called ‘War on Terror’. While it may not seem that the execution of two young men propagates the notion that Iran is part of the ‘axis of evil’ one must only look at the lack of outrage expressed at the recent news of three men who were sentenced to be stoned to death in Nigeria for their supposed ‘homosexuality’.
Unfortunately the graphic pictures that accompanied the news from Iran only added fuel to the fire that is burning around the world in the minds of those that continue to perceive Islam as a religion of violence and terror. Furthermore, the lack of investigation into the case before a world-wide call to action was proclaimed will probably only perpetuate the cycle of violence against sexual and gender minorities in countries like Iran.
There are two lessons that should be learned from this tragic case.
Firstly, it is imperative for Western organizations, queer and non-queer, to build connections with progressive NGOs and other groups on the ground in countries like Iran. While many feminist groups and HIV/AIDS organizations have done a tremendous job in reaching out to sister organizations around the world, queer groups in the West have done very little to help become part of the growing international queer movement.
Apart from efforts of organizations like Amnesty International and its LGBT program, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the Astraea Foundation and the Human Rights Watch in the United States, very little effort has been made to educate Western LGBT communities about the real and accurate situation faced by sexual and gender minorities abroad and how to support them in ways that will not cause further backlash.
By creating a movement of solidarity, we can begin to more accurately report news and accounts of human rights abuses, while also calling upon our own communities to take action and speak out against such abuses – but only when the time is right and when it is in the best interest of those that we seek to help.
Otherwise we will fail to accomplish our real objective – to help alleviate the suffering of queer people in countries like Iran. In fact our actions if not conducted properly may very well add to the targeted arrests of gay men and the subsequent torture and death that they may face, in a country such as Iran.
And secondly, we must begin to view our gay and lesbian liberation movement through a broader lens of social justice and human rights. While we seek to condemn the executions of gay teens in Iran, we must remember that our own country (the United States) is one of only five in the entire world that executes juvenile offenders.
In fact it was only in March 2005 that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the death penalty could not be applied to juveniles who committed crimes when they were under the age of 18. Since 2000, countries that have been known to have executed juvenile offenders include China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Pakistan and the United States. Of these 21 executions of young people, 13 have occurred in the United States.
While other governments in the Western world continue to move toward a consensus that the death penalty is an inhumane form of punishment - no matter what the crime – the United States refuses to outlaw capital punishment.
In 2004, China, Iran, the United States, and Vietnam accounted for 97% of the executions recorded by Amnesty International. While activists in the United States are quick to condemn the executions of people in the Islamic world, we refuse to look at the issue of capital punishment as it applies to all people – regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The outlawing of capital punishment is not a ‘gay’ issue – but it is a matter of social justice and human rights.
In a time when Islamaphobia flourishes in Europe and the United States, it is imperative for the gay and lesbian media to look beyond its Western ‘pink’ glasses. We must not feed into the hysteria surrounding the so-called ‘war on terrorism’, and the assault on law-abiding Muslims.
Nor must we let our anger and outrage against regimes like those in Iran interfere with our work to strategically condemn human rights abuses against sexual and gender minorities, in consultation with individuals who's lives will be affected by our actions.
Gay and lesbian media, together with LGBT activists must work together with international human rights organizations that have great experience in dealing with news of horrific human rights abuses. Together, with building connections and supporting LGBT organizations abroad, we can continue our work to build a truly international queer movement for equality and liberation.
Faisal Alam is a queer Muslim activist of Pakistani descent. As the founder of Al-Fatiha, Faisal has represented the LGBT Muslim community at national and international conferences and forums, speaking out about the many challenges facing queer Muslims around the world. Faisal's professional work has included HIV/AIDS education and prevention, LGBT political organizing, and women's reproductive rights. Faisal currently resides in Atlanta, GA where he continues his social justice work to build a world of peace, love and justice. He can be reached at FaisalAlam at aol.com
Iran Majlis Deputies Endorse Execution of Minor.
13:00 (UK) July 21: Iran Executes Two Gay Teens In Public Hanging (UK Gay News)
July 21 update from PageOneQ.com
22:00 (UK) July 22: Condoleezza Rice Urged to Condemn Execution of Gay Iranian Teens. The Human Rights Campaign sent a letter today to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking her to condemn the recent execution of two gay teens in Iran as well as other horrific human rights abuses against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people across the globe.
19:45 (UK) July 23: Following Gay Executions, Putin Asked to Stop Diplomatic and Trade Relations With Iran. Russian gay leaders have sent a letter to the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, asking him to condemn executions of teenage gays in Iran on July 19.
20:30 (UK) July 23: Nobel Peace Prize Winner Condemns Execution of Gay Iranian Teens. Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace, has condemned the execution of two teenagers in Iran earlier this week.
18:00 (UK) July 26: Activists Condemn Execution of Gay Teens. Human rights groups the world over have strongly condemned the recent execution of two gay teenagers in northeastern Iran.
23:00 (UK) July 26: Despite Executions, There Is Hope For Gays in Iran. Gay Iranians speak from inside Iran to Nikolai Alekseev, head of GayRussia.ru, about life in their country in the wake of the horrific execution of two gay teens last week. [This is a "reposting" of the GayRussia.ru originally published yesterday]
11:00 (UK) July 27: Executed Gay Iranian Teens: London Embassy Protest Set. A London protest over the execution of two gay teenagers in Iran has been arranged by gay human rights group Outrage! for Thursday August 11 outside the Iranian Embassy in Prince’s Gate, SW7.Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni were publicly executed by hanging last week in Mashhad, north east Iran on, July 19.
15:00 (UK) July 27: Iran and USA Account for 78% of World’s Child Executions. The use of the death penalty against child offenders – people under 18 at the time of the crime – is prohibited under international law, yet a handful of countries still persist with child executions, says Amnesty International.
15:00 (UK) July 28: Flaws In Blade Report of 'Gay' Executions in Iran, Outrage! Says. News reports in the US Washington Blade and New York Blade newspapers on the execution of two teens in Iran are flawed, according to the British LGBT human rights group OutRage!, which helped break the story to the international media and human rights groups.
1 August 2005