Gay, Muslim, and Free

10.21.2011

By Abdella Taia

In the wake of Gaddafi's death, a Moroccan writer looks back on the effects of the Arab Spring.

Arabs are finally in the process of exiting the prisons in which many dictators have tried to imprison them. The Arabs -- this people that have been called fatalistic and submissive -- are staging a revolution. Better than that: They are reinventing the idea of revolution.

It’s like a dream -- a dream that no one would have dared take seriously. But it’s becoming reality. In the midst of pain and courage. With obstinance. It won’t stop today or the next day. A profound change in the Arab world and mindset is already here, in the streets, in their cries.

This uprising overwhelms me, brings tears to my eyes and allows me, as an Arab writer, both Muslim and gay, to dare to feel hope. The determination I’ve always had, since childhood, to be myself, to tempt the truth, despite insults and misunderstanding-- I see it now among other Arabs. Not only in my own country of Morocco, but also with Arabs who, until recently, were far from my thoughts and my heart.

Before, the Arab world seemed like a fiction, a unified façade invented by the elite in order to dominate the people, to maintain them in poverty, unemployed and silent; to impose upon them a religion in order to control them; to keep them from thinking or from becoming free.

Now, a miracle is emerging in front of our eyes daily. Nightly. Arabs are emerging from their fear, defying power, sacrificing themselves. This moment is historic. It comes from within itself. And it’s there because free voices continue to emerge. We want a lay society, freedom of religion, freedom of the body. We want equality, justice. We want to define our own existence. We want individuality, not only recognized by the legal system, but protected by the laws. For heterosexuals, as well as homosexuals.

Danger and extremists aren’t far off, of course. Detractors and opportunists as well. But what we’re seeing today in the Arab word is going to allow the essential elements of the democratic idea: contradiction and debate. To recognize the existence of a voice that represents the opposite to what you represent is no longer a reason to ignore or to kill the speakers. On the contrary. To talk, even to argue with those who are unthinkable to us, that’s real luxury. That’s liberty.

I hear that this Arab revolution will bring the Islamists to power. Nothing could be less sure. I remain an optimist. For the first time, I have hope for the world from which I come. I know it takes time. But I also know that you must plant seeds, ask the right questions, raise your head, no longer fear.

I know some homosexuals who stood daily with the millions of Egyptians on Tahrir Square, in Cairo, in order to topple the regime and force President Mubarak to resign. I know homosexuals in Morocco, in Syria, in Tunisia who participated actively in the revolution.

I speak of homosexuals because I am one. And this revolution is also mine -- ours.

I am not a dreamer. I am not an idealist. For the first time in my life, I see that the Arab world can change. Will change. Has even started to change.

Writing will bear all of this change. My writing is changing as well. I write as a revolutionary now, more political than ever. To join Arab history as it moves is a duty. I feel like Arthur Rimbaud. I see. To clean the slate is imperative.

This article is translated from French by Natalie Dietz.

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