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Civilise this: Being Gay in Malawi and Muslim in France

May 30, 2010

Unless you’ve been living in a big (totally non-gay) hole, you will probably have heard recently about the fact that Malawi hates gay marriage more than (G W Bush + Rick Warren) x Sarah Palin, which for those who couldn’t be bothered to do the math is quite a lot.  28 combined years in prison worth of hate in fact (I think that’s like 20% more in gay years).

As we all know Europe did not spend all that time colonizing Africa only for Africans to use laws we wrote for them outlawing homosexuality to lock up gay people. Naturally then Malawi was forced incentivised to do (the new) right thing by threats to withhold substantial amounts from their aid-dependant budget, and just as soon as you could say “presidential pardon” they were free men again.  It’s our own fault anyway for pushing that story of the magic jew and his special rules onto them I guess.  Who knew it would stick?

We’ve moved on of course…now we mainly hate Muslims. We all do, but naturally it’s the French  that do it with the greatest flair.  It stands to reason of course. When they’re not getting their surrender on French do have a certain style.  And so it is that they are at the vanguard of the clash of civilizations, standing on the brink of ‘liberating’ muslim women within their borders from the niqab. Not content with waiting for the legislation to pass into law, recently a French lawyer and her daughter attacked a woman in shop for wearing the veil.  Why am I suddenly shifting focus to this of all subjects? Because Malawian homophobia and French Islamaphobia need to be seen as two sides of the same coin.

In both cases we have case of a national identity crisis in the 21st Century.  A cultural force, in the Malawian case ‘homosexuality’, in the French Islam, being constructed as something alien, something outside, in opposition to which a sense of what it is to be Malawian and French is defined.  But yet in both cases the Other, is decidedly non-Other.  The veiled woman shopping in Paris was a French-born Muslim convert; homosexuality penetrated Malawian culture long before Steven Monjeza probably ever penetrated Tiwonge Chimbalanga (or the other way around, I’m just guessing).   The difference of course is that to the European eye, one is more easily understood as form of liberation, the other as oppression.

The civilising impulse of the European is alive and well, just dressed (pun intended) now in different garb.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. sysh permalink*
    May 31, 2010 8:18 pm

    The thing is, it’s a shame that gay people in the West are quick to point out the case of Malawi, and quick to post articles calling for the release of the two gay men, but rarely, if ever, think to apply the same principles to the Muslim population of Europe. Similarly, Muslims are often quick to talk about discrimination, but turn a blind eye to the case of Malawi. Ultimately, they are both the simple case of using minorities as a scapegoat for other problems that exist in your country, or, as you say, a crisis of national identity.

    • 2bob_commentator permalink*
      July 15, 2010 10:36 am

      I agree with Sysh, it is a shame.
      I think people are essentially self-interested. But, I don’t think this is a bad thing.
      At the end of the day people do what they can for their community to lead a pleasant and peaceful life.

      I don’t think you’re going to find Gay men in Malawi advocating for Muslim women’s rights in France or vice-verse. Only a few, usually privildged by power, education, travel… tend to be able to coordinate this kind of global activism..

  2. Ariel permalink
    June 2, 2010 9:13 am

    The French state has a longer/more solid relationship with the Islamic world than he UK does. They base a true democratic life on banning religious influence on state businesses (like schools and hospitals)
    There’s always going to be idiots that take this to the extreme (like that woman and her daughter) and they too were influences by the general islamophobia promoted by America after 9/11 but the reasoning behind banning the burka is based on France being a secular state. 57% of the population are either Atheism or Agnosticism. The sad thing is that in times of uncertainty like this religion is becoming more and more important for a lot of people around the world.

    • snugglebus permalink*
      June 2, 2010 2:49 pm

      Hi ariel – sure France prides itself on being an aggresively secular state and this is something about which I can understand French pride in a lot of ways. But surely there is more to this ban than that; isn’t there a question of why the need for this ban has arisen now? And why it is not for all religious symbols, but only the niqab? Obviously the niqab has become some kind of symbolic embodiment of an excess in Islam that is considered somehow unFrench. The rhetoric around the ban is also frequently about the niqab as a form of oppression.

      I don’t think it is important to ask if the French are more or less Islamaphobic than other Europeans. The question is instead to ask what is it that Muslims have come to embody or represent in our cultures? My point was to suggest there is an interesting parallel between what homosexuals represent in a context like Malawi, and Muslims in Europe, but we are perhaps blinded to it because of our unconcious, but nevertheless still very fixed, conception of ourselves as the civilizers.

  3. June 28, 2010 1:22 pm

    My english it teacher is GAY

  4. June 28, 2010 1:25 pm



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