“Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World”

(This article was originally posted on blogger.com on Oct 26, 2005)

A very good friend of mine from high-school, Khaled El-Rouayheb (Ph.D. in History from Cambridge University and moving to the History Department at Harvard University next year) just published an interesting (and for some, I guess, rather thought-provoking) book entitled: Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800. The book is based on his Ph.D.-thesis from Cambridge U.

Hope to read it soon. Here is an excerpt from the book:

Attitudes toward male homosexuality in the premodern Arab-Islamic world are commonly depicted as inconsistent. On the one hand, Arabic love poetry, biographical works, and bawdy satires suggest that homosexuality was a visible and tolerated part of Arab-Islamic elite culture before the nineteenth century. On the other hand, Islam supposedly considers homosexuality an abomination and prescribes severe punishment for it.

In Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800, Khaled El-Rouayheb shows that this apparent paradox is based on the anachronistic assumption that homosexuality is a timeless, self-evident fact to which a particular culture reacts with some degree of tolerance or intolerance. Drawing on poetry, belles lettres, biographical literature, medicine, physiognomy, dream interpretation, and Islamic legal, mystical, and homiletic texts, he shows that the culture of the period lacked the concept of homosexuality. […]

The first book-length treatment on the perceptions and evaluations of male homoeroticism in premodern Arab-Islamic culture, this book will become a welcome and frequently referred to addition to the bookshelves of readers interested in the history of sexuality, Islamic history, Arabic literature, gay and lesbian studies, and the history of ideas.

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