A Crisis of Dialogue in the Gay Muslim World

A pressing issue has been called to attention in the Arabic speaking world. Gay Travels in the Muslim World is a book written by Mike Luongo and is the first gay American book ever to be translated into Arabic by a Lebanese publisher, Arab Diffusion. It was published last week, followed by some contraversy. When translated, the publishers chose to use the word شاذ, (shaath) for the term gay, which literally translates to “deviant” or “pervert.” This term is commonly used in Arabic society; Arab Diffusion meant no harm by it. But many Gay Arabs, as well as others are looking to change the dialogue so that there are no negative connotations constantly tied to the word gay. Katharine Ganly gives a few accounts of the frustrations with Arabic dialogue in her article Arab World: Trouble for Gay Travels in the Muslim World. You can also find an interview with author Mike Luongo here at GoNOMAD.com. Here are some of the excerpts from Ganly’s article:

“The publisher, however, chose to translate the word gay as شاذ, (shaath), a word with the literal meaning of ‘deviant’, or ‘pervert’;- much to the dismay of both the authors and the gay community in the Arabic speaking world.
The concern over the translation chosen by the publishers reflects a broader concern over the negative terminology used by Arabic media in general to descibe homosexuals. Gay rights organisations and individuals across the Arabic speaking world have been pushing for media adoption of the word مثلي (mithlyy)- a term without the negative connotations associated with shaath.”

“However, during the last years of the twentieth century, some sociologists, psychologists, and journalists whose professional conscience was alive, started to use the positive expression of “junusiya misliya”, which is an accurate translation for homosexuality — a word that was first used in the European languages around 100 years ago.”

“While more positive terminology has been adopted by some major publications such as Lebanese Al-Akhbar, the only Arabic newspaper that advocates for LGBTQ rights and covers LGBTQ issues in a positive light, in the majority of cases homosexuals are portrayed negatively by the media, the same negative terms are churned out again and again.”