Being a queer Arab in London can be a lonely experience.
My relatives live in the Middle East – where it’s not safe for me to live freely – and London, for all its bounty, can feel inhospitable.
Differences once defused by distance and a sense of superiority have become an imminent threat.
That makes a good combination for obstructing desire or guilt-tripping and marginalizing those who feel any.And it’s a far cry from the delicious licentiousness of the writings of the Muslim golden age, like Sheikh Nafzawi’s “The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight,” which tackled eroticism and the Kama Sutra without any hang-ups.Anxiety about making last month’s rent occupies 95 per cent of my mental energy, and no matter how many parties I go to, I always seem to be sitting on trains alone.And with up to a third of LGBTQI venues thought to have closed since the recession, there are fewer spaces that provide safety and queer collectivity. Those movements have come to look imperfect, even ugly: For one thing, they have failed to touch ideas, culture, religion or social norms, especially the norms relating to sex. The attacks on Western women by Arab migrants in Cologne, Germany, on New Year’s Eve evoked the harassment of women in Tahrir Square itself during the heady days of the Egyptian revolution.
The Arab revolutions of 2011 aroused enthusiasm at first, but passions have since waned.
But today, with the latest influx of migrants from the Middle East and Africa, the pathological relationship that some Arab countries have with women is bursting onto the scene in Europe.
What long seemed like the foreign spectacles of faraway places now feels like a clash of cultures playing out on the West’s very soil.
During the summer in Algeria, brigades of Salafists and local youths worked up by the speeches of radical imams and Islamist TV preachers go out to monitor female bodies, especially those of women bathers at the beach.
The police hound couples, even married ones, in public spaces. Benches are sawed in half to prevent people from sitting close together.
In some countries, they are allowed access to the public sphere only if they renounce their bodies: To let them go uncovered would be to uncover the desire that the Islamist, the conservative and the idle youth feel and want to deny.