"As recent incidents in Iraq show, in many Islamic countries, gays are ostracized, persecuted, even murdered". From Salon here (originally appeared in Der Spiegel).
More than 30 Islamic countries have laws on the books that make homosexuality a criminal offense. In most cases punishment ranges from floggings to life imprisonment. In Mauritania, Bangladesh, Yemen, parts of Nigeria and Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, convicted homosexuals can also be sentenced to death.
In those Muslim countries where homosexuality is not against the law, gay men and women are nonetheless persecuted, arrested and in some cases murdered. Although long known for its open gay scene, Egypt has recently started to clamp down hard. The lives of homosexuals are monitored by a kind of vice squad that taps telephones and recruits informants. As soon as the police have accumulated the kind of evidence they need, they charge their victims with "debauchery." . . .
In Istanbul there is a free gay scene, Christopher Street Day is celebrated, and even religious Muslims are among the fans of transsexual pop diva Bülent Ersoy and the late gay singer Zeki Müren. But outside the world of show business it is considered both a disgrace and an illness to be a götveren, or "queen." In the Turkish army, homosexuality is cause for failing a medical test. To identify anyone trying to use homosexuality as an excuse to get out of military service, army doctors ask to see photos or videos showing the recruits engaging in sex with a man. And they have to be in the "passive" role. In Turkey being in the active role is considered manly enough not to be proof of homosexuality.
It looks as if a wave of homophobia has swept over the Islamic world, a place that was once widely known for its open-mindedness, where homoerotic literature was written and widely read, where gender roles were not so narrowly defined, and, as in the days of ancient Greece, where men often sought the companionship of youths.
Islamists are now a dominant cultural force in many of these countries. They include figures such as popular Egyptian television preacher Yussuf al-Qaradawi, who demonizes gays as perverse. Four years ago the Shiite grand ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a fatwa saying that gays are to be murdered in the most brutal way possible. These religious opinion leaders base their hatred for gays on the story of Lot in the Koran: "Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation [ever] committed before you? For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds." Lot's people suffered the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins. The prophet Mohammed has a number of dicta in which he condemns these acts by Lot's people, and in one of them he even goes as far as to call for punishment by death.
European prudery exported to the colonies
The story of Lot and related verses in the Koran were not interpreted as unambiguous references to homosexual sex until the 20th century, says Everett Rowson, professor of Islamic studies at New York University. This reinterpretation was the result of Western influences -- its source was the prudery of European colonialists who introduced their conception of sexual morality to the newly conquered countries.
The fact of the matter is that half of the laws across the world that prohibit homosexuality today are derived from a single law that the British enacted in India in 1860. "Many attitudes with regard to sexual morality that are thought to be identical to Islam owe a lot more to Queen Victoria than to the Koran," Rowson says. . . .