Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $4.49
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 85%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (13) from $4.49   
  • New (4) from $18.18   
  • Used (9) from $4.49   


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

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
While the mainstream media cover Middle Eastern cultural tensions over the interpretation of Islamic law and the position of women, little attention has been paid to the complicated place of same-sex affection and relationships in these countries. Whitaker, Middle East editor for the Guardian, delivers a modest but informative primer on the complex historical, religious, social and legal status of same-sex acts and identities in the Middle East. Aware of the complexity of this undertaking, he points out that words such as "homosexual," "lesbian," "gay" and "queer" are Western constructs and can be misleading or dangerously inaccurate when applied to non-Western cultures. Whitaker is best when describing the lives of the dozens of women and men, some of whom he interviewed, such as a young Syrian man whose therapist outed him to his family and two Saudi men who killed a third man they feared would report their relationship to authorities. He also offers a larger view of the religious and political implications of homosexuality: there's no uniform Islamic position about the legality of homosexual acts; the Iranian government will frequently use the charge of homosexuality to further stigmatize its Arab Ahwazi minority population. While Whitaker's findings aren't conclusive, this is an illuminating book on an important topic. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The distressing, archaic treatment of Middle Eastern homosexuals is addressed in straightforward, documentary fashion. The persecution of homosexuals, described in Lebanese as "shawaadh" ("perverts"), continues to thrive. Interviews with a variety of gay Arabs, Syrians and Egyptians finds many depressed and lonely, with support and understanding as rare as rainbow flags in Lebanon. Conflicted by an intense sense of family loyalty and an awareness of the devastating, family-wide consequences of exposure, gay and lesbian Arabs often find suicide to be their only salvation. Some manage to outsmart the system and emigrate while others become ingeniously resourceful in manufacturing an outward appearance (marriage to a gay partner of the opposite sex) that will appeal to conventional domestic expectations yet enable them to cultivate covert homosexual affiliations. Coming out to family is often fruitless and considered a "high-risk strategy," though often, Whitaker asserts, it is parents who will question their children's sexuality, suggesting that it has become "time for marriage" and children: an inevitable, obligatory stipulation in Arab households. But all is not lost as the author deftly underscores cultural changes at play in places like Beirut, where members of gay-rights organization Helem hand-stitched a multi-colored flag for a ten-person marching contingent against the war in Iraq; where the gay dance club Acid flourishes; and where Dunkin' Donuts remains a well-known (albeit controversial) gay hangout. Though Saudi Arabia is thought to be the most militant against open sexuality, the author proffers quotes from Saudi gay youth to the contrary. Many declare stories of gaypersecution as being greatly exaggerated and point to the Internet as the ultimate resource for same-sex liaisons (and entrapment). Most interestingly, Whitaker takes into account the varied contradictions and evolutionary growth of Arab media, literature, cinema, etc., juxtaposing harsh current-day restrictions with notions of emerging freedoms. 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.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520250178
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 11/6/2006
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 1,481,774
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Whitaker is the Middle East Editor of the Guardian.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

1 A question of honour 17
2 In search of a rainbow 41
3 Images and realities 65
4 Rights and wrongs 109
5 'Should I kill myself?' 143
6 Sex and sensibility 177
7 Paths of reform 201
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)