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Unspeakable Love

Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East

Brian Whitaker (Author), Anna Wilson (Other)

Available in North America

Paperback, 264 pages
ISBN: 9780520250178
November 2006
$34.95
Homosexuality is a taboo subject in Arab countries. Clerics denounce it as a heinous sin, while newspapers write cryptically of "shameful acts." Although many parts of the world now accept sexual diversity, the Middle East is moving in the opposite direction. In this absorbing account, journalist Brian Whitaker calls attention to the voices of men and women who are struggling with gay identities in societies where they are marginalized and persecuted by the authorities. He paints a disturbing picture of people who live secretive, fearful lives and who are often jailed, beaten, and ostracized by their families, or sent to be "cured" by psychiatrists.

Whitaker's exploration of changing sexual behavior in the Arab world reveals that—while deeply repressive prejudices and stereotypes still govern much thinking about homosexuality—there are pockets of change and tolerance. The author combines personal accounts from individuals in the region with a look at recent Arab films and novels featuring gay characters and conducts a sensitive comparative reading of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic strictures around sexuality. Deeply informed and engagingly written, Unspeakable Love draws long overdue attention to a crucial subject.

Copub: Saqi Books
Brian Whitaker is the Middle East Editor of the Guardian.
“Casts light on a critically underreported subject matter.”—Washington Blade
“With all the reams of Western paper devoted to the study of the Middle East, remarkably little has been said about the status of gay men and lesbians in Arab and Islamic cultures and religious texts. U.K. journalist Whitaker builds an important first bridge across this gap. “—Out
“The book boldly delves into one of the biggest taboos in modern Muslim societies with subtlety and sensitivity, addressing both Arab reformers and interested Western readers. [It] provides fascinating insights into the lives of ordinary gays and lesbians, and how society views and treats them.”—Toronto Globe & Mail
“This is an illuminating book on an important topic.”—Publishers Weekly
“While directing readers toward the pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel, Whitaker clearly demarcates tradition and family honor as two powerhouses eternally keeping Middle Eastern alternative lifestyles in the dark. . . . Strong, condensed, world-weary portrait infused with hope.”—Kirkus Reviews
“I enjoyed and learnt much from Brian Whitaker's book, which is excellent. It was inspirational to me on the challenges to international law, and the uses of nationalism to suppress dissent within countries.” – Fred Halliday, London School of Economics

“It is high time this issue was brought out of the closet once and for all, and afforded a frank and honest discussion. Brian Whitaker's humane, sophisticated, and deeply rewarding book, Unspeakable Love, does exactly that.” – Ali Al-Ahmed, Saudi reform advocate and director of the Gulf Institute, Washington

“This book is a compelling read. It captures with detail and with disturbing accuracy the difficulties and dangers facing lesbians and gay men across the Middle East. It helps us to understand the social pressure, the sense of isolation, the anxiety and fear and trauma. And through it all we glimpse also the possibility of hope, of remarkable courage, and perhaps even in the longer term the chance of a more open and accepting society.” – Chris Smith MP, Former UK Secretary of State for Culture

“Brian Whitaker has given us a moving analysis of the hidden lives of Arab homosexuals. This genuinely groundbreaking investigation reveals a side of Arab and Muslim culture shrouded by the strictest taboos. Arab societies can no longer contain their cultural, religious, ethnic or sexual diversity within their traditional patriarchal definitions of the public sphere. Anyone interested in reform in the Arab world must read this book.” – Mai Yamani, Research Fellow at Chatham House and author of Cradle of Islam

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