February 20, 2006
Let’s Do the Time Warp: Gay Pride vs. Islamic/Official Intolerance in Russia
It seems Andrew Sullivan’s rant of the week is that Chief Russian Mufti Talgat Tajuddin has called for the prohibition of a planned gay pride parade in Moscow, recommending that marchers be beaten – and in a rare show of solidarity with the Russian Orthodox Christian community, recommending that they join together in beating gays. Tajuddin was joined in his opposition to the parade shortly thereafter by Russian Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar, though the Rabbi stopped short of recommending violence.
Before Andrew Sullivan leaps to the conclusion that Russian Muslims are at the forefront of homophobia and gay-bashing in the Russian Federation, he may want to bear in mind that the occasion for the parade was to be the 13th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexual behavior in the Russian Federation.
That’s right, though Muslims of any stripe comprise only about 10% of the Russian population, a proportion which is larger now than when homosexual behavior was first criminalized, until 1993 any homosexual act was liable to land the actor in prison. And even thirteen years after the decriminalization of homosexuality, the City of Moscow is currently refusing to grant a parade permit.
It’s hardly fair to blame Russian Muslims for behavior that much of the industrialized world views as a violation of human rights when Muslims were not well represented among the nomenklatura that implemented the legislation to begin with. In fact, for the vast majority of the period when homosexuality was illegal in Russia, some of you may recall that observance of any religion at all (remember the Jewish refuseniks?) was frequently persecuted, as it was throughout the (officially atheist) Soviet Union. So any given group of Russian Muslims can hardly be held responsible for Russia’s long history of anti-gay behavior and legislation.
For that matter, the Mufti in question hardly speaks for all Russian Muslims. The religious body he represents, the Central Islamic Board of Muslims of Holy Russia, is a quasi-official organization dating back to the rule of Catherine the Great. The organization survived Soviet rule, albeit at a reduced level of activity, a claim almost no religious organizations of any faith could make.
Under Soviet rule, state-sponsored (and state-permitted) religious organizations were frequently infiltrated by intelligence operatives, and therefore had very little credibility or trust among actual believers. The result was that the overwhelming majority of religious activity occurred outside official structures: in private, within unofficial religious organizations, and/or in secret. This phenomenon continues to this day throughout the FSU – particularly among groups currently subject to intense official scrutiny and even persecution, such as many Muslim ethnic groups of the Russian Federation. So I’d be quite skeptical of any claim that Mr. Tajuddin speaks for anyone but registered members of his organization, much less that he speaks for every Muslim in the Russian Federation.
(For that matter, as someone who claims interest in gay rights issues, Mr. Sullivan might consider that Stonewall wasn’t so long ago, after all, and numerous U.S. jurisdictions still have anti-sodomy laws on the books.)
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Funny how self-righteous, knee-jerk Islamophobia has turned into something of a fashion trend. Like carrying small dogs around in one's purse, etc.
Posted by: eerie at February 20, 2006 11:46 PM
Thanks Eva. Spot on.
Perhaps we should draw Andrew's attention to his little Jihad's factual impairments.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at February 21, 2006 02:20 AM
Here's to hoping we already have, and for that matter, feel free if you are so inclined. Damn insomnia will probably leave me semi-functional tomorrow (that is, today) anyway.
Posted by: Eva Luna at February 21, 2006 03:25 AM
Eerie: have you seen this Ken Macleod piece on "the liberalism of fools", comparing modern Islamophobia with early 20th-c. anti-Catholicism?
Posted by: Tom Scudder at February 21, 2006 05:54 AM
Pakistan, though tecnnically not MENA, but technically quite Muslim, has this kind of functional ambivalence on the subject.
Posted by: matthew hogan at February 21, 2006 08:52 AM
Link failed re: above, Pakistan. Retrying here.
Posted by: matthew hogan at February 21, 2006 08:54 AM
Interesting link re: Pakistan.
For that matter, look in the Men Seeking Men personals in any US paper or on any US website, and you will see all kinds of ads placed by men seeking men for various non-hetero activities, insisting on “straight only” partners. It boggles me how anyone engaging in such activities could self-identify as entirely straight, but then not being a gay man myself, I’m only familiar with the dynamics of that community on a secondhand basis.
(BTW Col, I blame you for keeping me up past my bedtime last night. I meant to dash off something quickly, but as always it took longer than I’d expected, and I wanted to watch the DVD I’d rented before it gets returned today. Oddly enough, it was Kinsey. The film was a stark reminder of how much U.S. society has changed in the past few decades as far as sex is concerned.)
Posted by: Eva Luna at February 21, 2006 11:22 AM
Eva: U.S. society has not changed much in the past few decades, or since the Salem witch hunts for that matter.
The old prudery is still very much with us; as are the religious fanatics.
You've been paying attention to the wrong things.
Posted by: Andre R at February 21, 2006 11:28 PM
Andre - I don't know about you, but even here in flyover country, we had quite explicit sex ed in the public school system, starting in 5th grade. The H.S. school class (part of the required statewide Health curriculum, though parents could opt out on behalf of their children) included complete information on abortion and contraception, including the use of condoms for STD prevention. The old prudery is certainly to be found in many places, but not everywhere by any means.
(Random trivia: my middle school math teacher was a direct lineal descendant of the judge at the Salem witch trials. So I guess in a certain literal sense, those people are still very much with us.)
Posted by: Eva Luna at February 21, 2006 11:48 PM
Sodomy laws in the U.S. are now considered unconstitutional; so whether or not they are on the books they have been effectively, uh, neutered, by the United States Supreme Court in 2003.
Posted by: Rick at February 22, 2006 04:31 AM
One of hte earlier sodomy cases was named Loving versus [the State of] Georgia. The key earlier one was Bowers versus Hardwicke. Could one have invented better names?
Posted by: matthew hogan at February 22, 2006 10:16 AM
Loving v. Virginia, actually. It involved a law against interracial marriage, I believe.
Posted by: kao_hsien_chih at February 23, 2006 01:33 AM
As long as we're doing updates, hey, Andrew Sullivan - check this out - and note how there is zero mention of any Muslims beating up gay marchers; that joy was left to Russian nationalists, skinheads, and other charming subsectors of Russian society. Also note the Moscow mayor's refusal to grant a parade permit on the grounds that homosexuality is unnatural.
I think that deserves its own full comment.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at May 29, 2006 01:16 PM