Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Outsiders

A very interesting and controversial episode occurred on Thursday with the publication of an article titled 'The Outsiders' in the weekly magazine The Week.
The article briefly discussed Oman’s ‘gay community’ and how they are ‘findings ways to live life the way they want to’ or something to that effect.’ I looked at the cover page with bulging eyes and the first words that popped in my head were ‘ouch’.
The piece was a brave introduction of the word ‘gay’ to the Omani public in official print, but to be honest I found the piece to be poorly written. The Week can always be counted on to introduce controversial topics and I applaud them for that. However, the topic of LGBT issues is extremely sensitive.
If you’re going to introduce it to the public for the first time, it has to be done with great care and tact. The article failed to do that and it appears to have backfired. This morning I found a big apology on their website and the article appears to have disappeared.
As a Muslim, religious scholars and interpretations of religious texts tell me that homosexuality is a disease. As a human, I respect all humans regardless of their religion, race or sexual orientation. I have gay friends from my time abroad and they are some of the nicest people I know. Reconciling faith and my view of humanity is not an easy task, and I continue to think, struggle, accept, and question constantly.
Regardless of what I believe, I don’t think Oman was ready for the piece. It was a bit graphic and it’s worth noting that Omanis in general are not comfortable with discussing their personal lives in public, let alone their sexuality. When you ignore all this and introduce a piece on same-sex relationships, you can only expect readers to get offended. We are a tolerant country, but then again we are a Muslim one. To suggest that 6-10% of the Omani population is gay was pretty stupid, even if it’s simply a suggestion. Anyway, I hope the author of the piece is safe and that Apex publishing doesn’t suffer too much because of this. My overall view? Oman wasn’t ready.


  1. Couldn't agree more. I read it and cringed. I am a married hetero-sexual British man, coming from a society where 'tolerance' has increased hugely over the years. Like others I am not interested in someone's sexuality - I base my opinions on the person and their personality.

    However, in Britain the article would have been brave - but here, it is just stupid.

    The people they interviewed were not looking for long term relationships - merely cruising under assumed names.

    It was an immature piece - as you say, I hope it doesn't cause too many problems.

  2. thanks for this Nadia. my thoughts exactly. it was a stupid piece and I think it offends normal gay people (does the author really think gay men walk around in makeup? Seriously?)


  3. A single person's controversial ideas, especially if it can influence the cultural and social norms of a society or country should handle with extreme care and should get the approval from the concerned authority before it gets printed.

  4. Thanks Nadia indeed.
    I did not have a chance to get the news. Since the message appeared, I had been trying to know what the message the week published to apologize this big!!
    Well balanced analysis! Aptly said, "NOT READY"

  5. Too bad we can't read the article anymore. Would have been interesting. Anyway, there seem to be quite a lot of gays in Oman/ Salalah (I remember seeing many of them in center point all though they were very overt-the-top with their make-up.) although most of them are "in the closet".

  6. I was surprised that The Week chose to run this piece: frankly, it wasn't worth the fuss. There wasn't anything new or newsworthy in the article- it looked like it belonged in a high school newspaper.

    Additionally, I thought it ill-advised that they put it on the cover, with an image. Anyone walking in Costa Coffee who never would have picked up The Week could see the article and be upset.

    Finally: such an uproar over homosexuality- but what about the fact that this article also talked about child molestation. (The man said his first encounter took place when he was 8 with an older cousin.)

  7. I think the statistics, in reality are far higher. Just saying. I know that may be a hard pill to swallow but trying to pretend it is not happening doesn't make it go away, nor does it help tolerance!

  8. I've only heard of the article and didn't get a chance to read it. But with regards to your comments that Oman isn't ready to hear the word or see the word GAY in big letters. You couldn't be more wrong.

    Humans are selfish, and fearful by nature ( read something called the Selfish Gene). Change must be forced on people, look at America and gay rights, slavery, look to the rest of the world and their view on human rights in general. No one is ever ready. It must be forged by the brave and strong.

    I would risk my life to declare my homosexuality. I lived openly in Oman. I am not a gay man. And I don't wear a sign, and didn't whilst there. But if asked, but a seemingly normal person, I would say YES I AM to them.

    Let the pieces fall where they may. Mind you i have learnt from bad country and western music not to gamble with my salary or house. Therefore I would not risk losing my job. But I have never denied it.

    I have done nothing wrong, so I fear nothing.

    There is no evil God that says women are a mistake and I made their hair and face by mistake, now cover up ! Shame on you who don't.
    There is no cruel sick God who calls love between adults a sick disease.

    There are men and women however who are cruel and sick, and enjoy belonging to 'religions clubs' as I call them. They like to wear the shirt of the TEAM. They feel safe in the TEAM. They don't know how to stand in this world and live amongst all those that are so very different in color, smell, and vibrancy.

    I chose team life. If there is any maker in the Universe I am perfect to them. I live enjoying this world, with respect and not with fear.

    If you want to kill I will send you my address. Come and get me.

    There is no God that will applaud you.

    The end.

  9. well said, Nadia. As for the person above, it's not about Oman being ready for the word 'gay' or not. It's more about graphic details including as someone said, child molestation which is serious.

  10. Well, I have finally found the article on the net. It wasn't much of a controversy, and it quoted stats about numbers and only suggested that perhaps Oman has up to 10 percent gays. Well there are far more I can tell you far more. As in most countries those stats are closer to 35% of any population.

    Graphic? Yes, that part of the article was poorly written I agree. Sounds like some Indian wrote it. There-in lies the problem. Their lack of natural use of the English language.

    But, honesty is good no matter how ugly. Child molestation and rape in Oman public schools is discussed with fear by Omani families So is Aids. I lived deep in the Omani communities and know this.

    Child molestation is not a gay issue, but it is a Gulf issue with all the sexual repression and separation of the sexes. I read years ago in the GULF paper that rape amongst males and females is probably at 4 out of 5. And it is almost always family members.

    When Oman loosens it's grip on censorship only then can healthy debate and action take place. Living like the Saudis will produce fear and rage when the truth is finally spoken. I applaud Dhofar Gucci for her brave blog.

  11. It is not about timing Nadia, its about our religion. In Islam we can only form a family in way that suits human nature; a man + a woman= family & children. A gay man/woman + gay man/woman = ......
    You can guess the results that might appear from such abnormal relationship that might affect the couples themselves, the growth of society and the fate of some children from the third world( who are adopted) by gays.

  12. Lol this outrage.. So ironic. People should get a grip

  13. I don't think you understand what sort of impact the article has had on queer youth. Yes, this article could have been written better and maybe the general public wasn't ready for it. But can you imagine what it's like to grow up in the closet, constantly being told that people like you are abominations? Then you see an article like this in the newspaper saying that what you are ISN'T such a terrible thing. That there are people like you and you are not alone.
    The lack of representation in the media is a huge reason why suicide rates among queer youth is so high in other countries. Although there aren't any statistics on this here for obvious reasons, I shudder to imagine how many LGBTQ people have killed themselves because of the abuse they have received.
    So, maybe Oman as a country wasn't ready. But condemning a man for reaching out to people that have faced injustice all their lives is counterproductive and cruel.

    1. Nice comment. Nice to know the blogosphere can help.