Friday, October 27, 2017

Fear of the Rainbow Flag: Cynical Scapegoating of Gays in Egypt.

Last week in a post I noted the rising tide of homophobia around the world, including here in America under the regime of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, the latter of whom is a Christofascist himself.   Now a piece in the New York Times looks specifically at the growing anti-LGBT zealotry in Egypt, a country where technically homosexuality isn't illegal, but where thuggish rulers and religious fanatics are scapegoating gays as  (i) a means to distract the populous form the failures of both groups to bring prosperity and freedom to the country, and (ii) a way to fabricate an external enemy - western tolerance - to rally support for leaders who could care less about the best interests of the populace.  Ironically, these are  similar to the tactics Der Trumpenf├╝hrer is employing to bolster his support among evangelical Christians and outright Christofascists here in America. Stated another way, America's would be strong man is mimicking the tactics of real life strong men.  Here are highlights from the article:
On Oct. 21, militants fired rockets and detonated explosives in the desert southwest of Cairo, killing at least 59 Egyptian police officers and security officials in the worst assault on security forces since 2015. The shocking attack is the latest reminder of the very real threat that armed militants pose to Egypt’s security forces.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi seems incapable of quelling this menace. . . . So with such a real and present danger, why would Mr. Sisi’s government, aided by a team of media personalities and religious authorities, spend the past month whipping up a frenzy over another kind of “threat” altogether?
As part of what can best be described as hysterical homophobia, more than 65 people, mostly gay men, have been arrested in the crackdown against L.G.B.T. Egyptians. At least 20 people have received prison sentences, ranging from six months to six years.
This wave of arrests and raids began after gay-pride rainbow flags were flown at a concert by a Lebanese indie-rock band, Mashrou’ Leila, whose lead singer, Hamed Sinno, is openly gay. It was not the first time fans displayed rainbow flags at a Mashrou’ Leila concert, a gay friend who has attended some of the band’s previous concerts in Cairo reminds me. He also reminds me that rainbow flags were flown in Tahrir Square during the 18 days of protest that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Same-sex relationships are not illegal in Egypt, but gay men are arrested under “debauchery” laws. So why now? Why the parade of men “confessing” to being gay and “repenting” on TV talk shows, and the psychiatrists touting “conversion therapy”?
It would be easy to label the crackdown a distraction. There is much that Egyptians need distracting from: disastrous economic austerity policies, the insurgency in Sinai, 60,000 political prisoners.
And it does make for a convenient topic. Egypt’s political parties might disagree on how to remedy any or all of those issues — but homophobia cuts across disagreement. . . . . my friend told me. “Some people think gay people should be stoned, others recommend burning them after stoning, while some sheikhs are saying their hands and legs should be cut on opposite sides of their bodies, and ask in the softest of voices for their imprisonment or deportation.”
But there is more than just distraction at play. A talk-show host who suggested that both terrorism and homosexuality were being used to “ruin our youth” by a nameless external enemy offered perhaps the most honest explanation for this vicious round of homophobia in Egypt: the conflation of a security threat with a “moral” threat.
Across the Middle East and North Africa, increasingly bold expressions of sexual freedom are clearly unsettling regimes accustomed to being guardians not just of “national security” but also of our bodies and sexualities. Mr. Sinno is unapologetically “brown, queer and from a Muslim family” by his own description. . . . . Armed with social media and audacity, more people are questioning taboos around religion and sexuality.
Egypt, of course, is far from alone in its witch hunt. From Chechnya to Azerbaijan and from Tanzania to Indonesia there are similar crackdowns by governments obsessed with policing people’s sexuality. (And let’s not forget that President Sisi’s booster, President Trump, is no friend to L.G.B.T. rights.)
Morality crusades unite military regimes and religious zealots alike. Mr. Sisi, a former army general who became president after forcing out Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, understands the potency of connecting the catchall “national security” to “inciting debauchery” as a deliberate reminder that the Islamists do not hold the copyright on piety.
On Oct. 19 — a day of global solidarity with L.G.B.T. Egyptians — I saw Mashrou’ Leila in concert in Montreal. That day, a protest had been held outside the Egyptian Consulate there. Some concertgoers flew an Egyptian flag alongside a rainbow flag. Mr. Sinno told the audience that the best way to fight the crackdown in Egypt was to keep up international pressure. He understands the importance of visibility — for safety and for solidarity.
 Human rights around the world used to be a concern for America. Now, under Trump/Pence, not so much.  Indeed, America voted against a United Nations resolution that condemned the death penalty for gays due to their involvement in consenting relationships between adults.  America has indeed fallen and will likely only increase in ugliness under the current misrule. 

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