The article, which can be found at http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2007/05/the-kingdom-in-the-closet/305774/ offers a frank discussion of homosexuality in the country where Islam is practiced most faithfully. But I’m wondering how accurate it is because a couple of people I know who are from there have told me that it is incorrect in a number of areas.
Here is a summary of the article: It is against Islam for genders to appear like the other sex. Therefore, it is not appropriate for men to have longer hair, or to wear any type of jewellery (this is one area where a student told me that the assertion is false). According to one young man who is quoted in the article, gay people are everywhere in Saudi Arabia, and one of the reasons is because of the segregation of the sexes.
In fact, this young man states, it is easier to be gay than straight in his country. That is because the religious police, the mutawwa’in, who try to ensure that the sharia is obeyed, do not bother you if you are inside a home with your family, and you have a ‘date.’ However, if a single young man is caught with a woman, there are bad consequences. Such a punishment will usually involve a police station. Single young men are not encouraged to go to malls, since these shopping centres are for families, so if a single young man wants to go to the mall, he needs to be accompanied by a female relative.
If you ask people in Saudi Arabia their opinions on homosexuality, they will generally tell you that they find it repugnant. However, in spite of this public adherence to the rules of sharia as implemented by believers in Wahabbism, an extremist sect of Islam, there is a lot of homosexuality practiced in private in Saudi Arabia. According to this article, if a man engages in sodomy but is the active one, rather than the passive one receiving the homosexual act, he does not consider himself to be gay. Sometimes Saudi men who identify as heterosexual will have gay sex when their wives are menstruating or pregnant, since they are not allowed to have sex with their wives during those times. A book entitled Saudi Arabia Exposed: A Kingdom in Crisis goes into much more detail on this subject.
As long as a man in Saudi Arabia marries, has children, and generally fulfills his familial responsibilities, then the society around him does not question him too intently on what his sexual preferences might be. When men are younger, it is accepted that they will want to experiment but then as they get older, they will be less interested in homosexual activity.
During the holy month of Ramadan, most people do not engage in sexual activity, out of respect for the sacred ritual. The young man quoted in the article believes that as long as you are discreet, and feel guilty about what you are doing, God will forgive you for engaging in homosexual activity. Certain scholars have indicated that Islam is very strict about sexual relations between men and women, but the rules are less clear about homosexuality. However, in an important hadith, a collection of sayings that supplement what is taught in the Quran, it is made clear that when it comes to homosexual activity, both the active (top) and the passive (bottom) are to be punished (killed).
Now, because of the Westernization of Saudi Arabia, homosexual men are beginning to think of themselves as being gay, and homosexual women are beginning to think of themselves as being lesbian. This is in sharp contrast to before, where as long as a man was the “top” participant in the activity, he remained heterosexual in terms of how he identified himself.
I just published a book entitled He Talks To Me, Too. This is based on the true story of my life, but it’s fictionalized. I’m proud of the way I weave fantasy and reality in the novel. If you have ever been discriminated against due to your race, or sexual orientation, or weight, or any other issue in your life, and especially if you want to grow closer to God, then this is the book for you! I’m very pleased with how it turned out. It’s available on Amazon, at this link: http://www.amazon.com/He-Talks-To-Too-ebook/dp/B00CQO0PYY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1369246357&sr=8-1&keywords=He+talks+to+me+too!
The novel is about a girl who wants a deeper relationship with God, and joins an organized religion when missionaries come to her home and interest her (and her mother) in their Church. The island in the novel is a metaphor for the religion itself. Catherine, the heroine, learns that she does not qualify to be on the island because of an excerpt from the Handbook of Policies and Procedures, which states that you cannot have a certain physical abnormality. When Catherine goes swimming, her head grows to ten times its normal size. This is an indirect way of saying that she is discriminated against. Later in the book, when she gets wet, her skin becomes a darker colour, and she becomes obesely overweight. So the Church leaders discriminate against her in a way that almost seems like a conspiracy among them, because of her body, something over which she absolutely has no control! They gradually treat her worse and worse, through lying and sheer cruelty until finally one of the Church leaders tells her that she will never receive mercy! This is too much for Catherine to bear, and she breaks. She does something that she will regret for the rest of her life, but after descending lower than she ever thought she would, she begins to recover and comes to her own realizations about her relationship with God.