Amina Araf was never as interesting to Arabs on the internet as she was to Westerners who are always looking for Arabs that they can identify with. For Americans it’s easier to see some humanity in a lesbian blogger who writes about making out in airports in the Middle East with her partner than with an Arab woman who might be covered head to toe. It’s a part of our sensationalist culture, we want to support people who we perceive as pushing the envelope and a woman who defies norms and traditions and does things out in the open that no straight couple would ever dream of doing is the right kind of edginess that Americans are willing to stand behind, even if it’s not exactly the type of attention that gays in the Middle East are looking for. They want to be accepted as part of the fabric of the Arab world, they aren’t trying to turn their societies into something they’re not. It was dangerous for the LGBT movement in the Arab world for this man to create a storyline about gay Arabs that included erotica and risky behavior such as making out in public, anyone paying attention to that would think that those are the intentions of Arab gays. Though gay rights is an issue in the Middle East, it certainly is not the most important one and it certainly doesn’t trump any of the other issues in Syria or anywhere else right now.
Last month I posted a video about an Arab lawyer who was slapped across the face by an Israeli police officer simply because she dared address him and ask a question. At the time I said that no feminist Jewish women or Israeli Jewish women’s rights organizations would speak up for that woman. I said that nobody would demand his immediate resignation and that he would not be punished in any way for his violence against women, because, apparently Israeli society isn’t bothered much by violence against Arab women if it’s done by Jews. No one in the MSM picked this story up, no one in the MSM wants to talk about women’s rights unless it fits into their preconceived notions of what the Middle East is like. It is somehow only OK to discuss the plight of Arab women if it is Arab men that are doing the subjugation–and if there is no immediate story to be told, as with Amina Araf, then it is invented.
How many real Arab women have been thrown in jail by the Israelis for being political activists and fighting for the cause of the masses and not just one small group within the population? When did they ever get the attention that the West was so willing to pour on a woman just because they could identify with her because of her sexuality? Can anyone name a single Palestinian woman who is rotting away in an Israeli prison? Anyone?
Here’s more by the Angry Arab on the stupidity and damage of what Tom Macmaster has done:
When the White Man poses as the Native “girl”, As’ad Abukhalil
The admission by Tom Macmaster that he was the man behind the blog “a gay girl in Damascus” should not end the conversation. I thank may friends and readers who kept on investigating this case until it was cracked, but the primary credit goes to Electronic Intifada. This story is bothersome on so many levels, but i was even more upset when I read Macmaster’s remarks to the Guardian in which he criticizes Western media coverage of the Middle East and even took a shot at Orientalism. Macmaster should know that he is worse than a classical Orientalist (and clearly does not possess the knowledge, erudition, and rigor of classical Orientalist). This man is delusional and racist: he took it upon himself to fabricate an identity of a native “girl” (I mean, is there anything more Orientalist than the White Man of the West posing as a Damascene “girl” and writing on her own behalf? Is there anything more racist, sexist, patronizing, and offensive?) Macmaster does not know what he has done and he has the chutzpah of writing this: ”While the narrative voıce may have been fictional, the facts on thıs blog are true and not mısleading as to the situation on the ground.” What did he mean by that? He basically is saying–if I now pose as the racist White Man in the West for a second, and I don’t mind taking that license from somebody posing for a long time as a lesbian “girl” and even exposing and communicating with many in the gay and lesbian community in Syria and the Arab world–that while he lied and fabricated but that his lies and fabrications are true and accurate. He really sounds delusional and is divorced from reality. This is the White Man privilege, which permits MacMaster to lie and fabricate and to arrogantly claim that his lies and fabrications are not inaccurate. This mentality behind the creation of this identity is the same one that was around during colonial times. The natives can’t speak for themselves: that they have to be represented by the White Man who can best explain them to the West. Beyond all that, Macmaster damaged the efforts of well-meaning and sincere Syrian dissidents (I am not talking about the lousy Ikhwan or Khaddam or Ma’mun Humsi or Rif`at Asad or other pro-Saudi tools): this scandal is a great help to the propaganda of the Syrian regime. Macmaster should not only apologize to the readers of the blog: he owes a bigger apology to the people of the Middle East and to gays and lesbians in the region, and even to Middle Eastern studies. This is a smug and arrogant and delusional White Man. I bet he hears voices in his head: probably the voices of Lord Cromer.