Is homophobia the new anti-semitism?

by on May 21, 2009  •  In Criminal law

From The American Prospect:

…[Anti-gay] hatred comes in many guises and from many different directions. But there are some underlying themes, enough so that it's possible to talk about global homophobia as a single concept, akin to anti-Semitism. Indeed, worldwide, the rhetoric of homophobia recapitulates the tropes of classical Jew hatred. Gay people are seen as a subversive internal enemy with dangerous international connections. Even in places where they've been cowed into near invisibility, they're viewed as having an almost occult power. They represent modernism and cosmopolitanism, the bete noirs of every type of fundamentalism. …

Meanwhile, just as the gay-rights movement has been globalized, so has the religious opposition. "There are currently two major sources of homophobic thought globally," says Hossein Alizadeh, the Iranian-born communications coordinator of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. "One is primarily Christian conservative movements that are mainly based in the United States. We see a lot of that fitting into the hatred and violence in Africa, the missionaries that go into different African countries and bring with them the message of hate. The second is Islamic fundamentalism."…

In Iraq, the scapegoating of gays and lesbians as agents of the West has been particularly deadly. "The country was invaded back in 2003, and ever since then things have been going south rather than getting better," Alizadeh says. "People have to blame somebody, and gays seem to be the easiest target. There are lots of comments about how homosexuality did not exist in Iraq before the U.S. invasion. People think the least they can do in order to protect their culture is just to go after gay people and kill them."

… In Africa, despite the near-invisibility of gay people on much of the continent, there's a full-blown gay panic underway, much of it stoked by evangelicals with ties to the American right. Last month, Burundi passed draconian anti-gay legislation, making gay sex punishable by up to two years in prison. Nigeria is currently considering a bill that would criminalize the "coming together of persons of the same sex with the purpose of leaving [sic] together as husband and wife or for other purposes of same sexual relationship." In Uganda, where same-sex relations are already punishable by life in prison, Christian-right organizations have been accusing homosexuals of "recruitment," leading to calls for even more punitive anti-gay legislation.

Scott Lively, a key figure in the global anti-gay movement, spoke in Uganda in March. Indeed, wherever one sees really furious Christian anti-gay activism, one often sees his name. Lively is the co-author of a book called The Pink Swastika, which posits that Nazism was a homosexual movement and that the modern gay-rights movement is its direct descendant. He's also written a book called The Poisoned Stream, a kind of anti-gay Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which traces the machinations of "a dark and powerful homosexual presence" through "the Spanish Inquisition, the French 'Reign of Terror,' the era of South African apartheid, and the two centuries of American Slavery."

Lively has been particularly influential in the former Soviet Union. "The Pink Swastika has become Lively's passport to fame among anti-gay church leaders and their followers in Eastern Europe, as well as Russian-speaking anti-gay activists in America," reported the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2007. "Lively frequently speaks about the book and his broader anti-gay agenda in churches, police academies, and television news studios throughout the former Soviet Union."

Lively is close to Pastor Alexey Ledyaev, whose New Generation Church, an influential megachurch based in Riga, Latvia, has satellites all over the region. As the SPLC reported, he's known for staging large-scale Christian rock operas "replete with lasers, smoke machines, and spandex-clad actors in ghoulish makeup. One of the rock operas, which young Russian-speaking anti-gay activists promote on video-sharing web sites, features a hero character wearing a tuxedo battling men in black tights armed with tiki torches. Over heavy-metal guitar riffs, a military-like chorus sings of ‘victory over the gays.'"

… Anti-gay bigotry, like anti-Semitism, has its local particularities everywhere it surfaces, but it's also increasingly part of a bigger phenomenon, one knit together by overarching conspiracy theories. … Worldwide, those most fervently opposed to gay rights are organizing across borders. The people standing up to them need to do so as well.


One Response to Is homophobia the new anti-semitism?

  1. Theresa May 22, 2009 at 4:01 PM

    Thanks for posting this.

    Being defined, at least partly, by behaviors, of varying levels of visibility, leads to issues of closetedness and passing. It seems to me that Jewish communities have grappled with this too in many ways.

    Both queers and Jews seem to face the dilemma: If we are obvious, they attack us for being different. If we’re not obvious, we are the Hidden Enemy. If we integrate, we’re pushing our values on everyone else. If we self-segregate, we’re acting superior or plotting a conspiracy.

    The situation also creates tension within the community over integration, assimilation and how we define progress for our community.

    Finally, it may be helpful for us working for GLBT rights to remember that Jews have (mostly) achieved governmental tolerance of mutable, chosen behaviors. The mainstream view may be “oh, how quaint, maybe they’ll find Jesus someday”. But better to face that attitude than “poor things, it’s their hormones/brain/genes, they can’t help it, maybe we’ll cure it someday.”

    This is from a non-Jewish perspective, so if I am off base please correct me

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