.يولد جميع الناس أحرارا متساوين في الكرامة والحقوق. وقد وهبوا عقلا وضميرا وعليهم أن يعامل بعضهم بعضا بروح الإخاء‎
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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Obama makes gay ad buys in Ohio, Texas

Full-page ads are set for Friday in four queer papers as the campaign lavishes some of its cash advantages on LGBTs in the days before critical March 4 primaries.

The Obama campaign is lavishing some of its cash advantage on the LGBT community with targeted ad buys in Ohio and Texas leading up to the critical March 4 primaries in both states (Rhode Island and Vermont also vote that day).

According to Eric Stern, a member of the Obama LGBT steering committee, the campaign has just completed an ad buy with queer newspapers in the four largest LGBT markets of those two states -- Columbus, Cleveland, Dallas and Houston.

Full-page ads will appear starting Friday in Outlook Weekly of Columbus, the Gay People's Chronicle of Cleveland, the Dallas Voice and OutSmart, which is based in Houston. Buying a full-page, four-color ad that appears one time typically costs anywhere between $1,000 and $2,000 in weekly publications. In the Gay People's Chronicle, for instance, the ad cost about $850, according to the paper's advertising manager; the same ad went for about $1,500 in the Dallas Voice.

Stern called the coordinated buy "the icing on the cake" in terms of the Obama camp's outreach to the gay community in Ohio and Texas.

"It's a direct appeal to LGBT voters asking for their support," he said, adding that the ad includes information about how people can get involved with the campaign.

The Obama campaign has actively been trying to cut into the long-standing ties between gay men and lesbians and Hillary Clinton. Stern paraphrased the message of the ad as a "call for the country to come together and unify around creating national progress toward equality for LGBT Americans."

(Kerry Eleveld, The Advocate)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Gay Travels in the Muslim World

Michael T Luongo

Homosexuality doesn't officially exist in Muslim countries. These stories beg to differ

Like many Westerners, my knowledge of the Muslim world is limited. My only direct experience is of visiting Dubai, where homosexuality is illegal and homophobia is rife. I can't say it's a place I'd revisit in a hurry. Like everyone else, I've the heard the horror stories emanating from Iran and Saudi Arabia. So I must confess that my first thought when faced with a book called Gay Travels in the Muslim World was "Why?". Why travel to places where attitudes towards homosexuality are still stuck in the dark ages? Why pay your pink pounds into enconomies where gay rights aren't recognised? Why risk discrimination and worse in countries where gay men and women are locked up, publicly hanged or flogged to death? Why not go somewhere else instead?

The reailty, of course, is that what we commonly refer to as "the Muslim world" isn't monolithic. As this collection of true-life stories shows, there are many ways to be a Muslim. Editor Michael T Luongo was prompted to put this book together after calling for submissions for an earlier book, Between the Palms, and being surprised at the number of stories involving gay men's travels in the Middle East and experiences with Muslim men who had migrated to other countries. So there's the story of a nice Jewish boy who settles down in Mauritania, West Africa, and enjoys sex with local men, none of whom identifies as gay. There's the man in Bangladesh who takes a tour of the local cruising spots and discovers a world of prostitution and rooms rented for less than a dollar an hour. There's the editor himself in Afghanistan, where he's surprised to learn that, even under the Taliban, gay wedding ceremonies were taking place in Kandahar. And there's the gay soldier's tour of duty in Iraq, and touching encounter with a man he calls "The Gay Iraqi".

Luongo would probably take issue with the idea of a "gay Iraqi". In his introduction, he stresses that "a tremendous difference exists between how homosexuality is expressed in the Western world and the Islamic world... To simplify a very complex issue, in Europe and America and places under Western influence, homosexual desire and acts become the very definition of a person, they create an identity that separates him or her from the rest of society.

In much of the Islamic world, homosexual desire and acts are simply one aspect among others, something people do but not something that defines a person above all other traits". I must say I'm not entirely convinced by this argument. People who identify as gay are not necessarily guilty of separating themselves from the rest of society, any more than people who are Muslim are automatically guilty of separating themselves from those who are not. Many gay people are happily integrated with their heterosexual friends and family, just as many Muslims are integrated with the wider communities in which they live. And in cities like London at least, there are men and women who are both Muslim and openly gay.

Among the most cheering sights at Gay Pride recently were the gay Muslims with a banner proclaiming "Allah Doesn't Make Mistakes". On the other hand, there are large numbers of people in Europe and America who regularly have homosexual sex but do not identify as gay, either because they're genuinely bisexual or, more often, because they're riddled with guilt and have internalised homophobia. The refusal of a gay identity isn't an expression of free choice but a symptom of oppression. I dare say a similar thing occurs in countries more repressive than ours, where Pride marches are outlawed and homosexuality is so taboo that its very existence is denied. It was only a few months ago that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared to the audience at a university in New York: "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like you do in your country." And maybe they don't. Maybe they have homosexuals who are far too terrified of ever coming out the American way, and who choose to see themselves as "men who have sex with men" because, quite frankly, it's their only chance of survival.

But survive they do, and their tales make illuminating reading. This book hasn't prompted me to change my holiday plans, but it has made me think seriously about what it means to be gay and Muslim. And that, surely, is a step in the right direction.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pentagon Charges Sept. 11 Suspects

The Pentagon has charged six detainees at Guantanamo Bay with murder and war crimes in connection with the Sept. 11 terror attacks, and officials said Monday the United States will seek the death penalty.

Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann said the charges lay out a long-term sophisticated plan by the al-Qaida terrorist network to attack the United States of America. The attack over six years ago killed nearly 3,000 people.

Hartmann, the legal adviser to the U.S. military tribunal system, said the six include Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the attacks, in which hijacked planes were flown into buildings in New York and Washington. Another hijacked plane crashed in the fields of western Pennsylvania.

The military will recommend that the six men be tried together before a military tribunal. But the cases may be clouded because of recent revelations that Mohammmed was subject to a harsh interrogation technique known as waterboarding -- which critics call torture.

Asked what impact that will have on the case, Hartmann said it will be up to the military judge to determine what evidence is allowed.

Prosecutors have been working for years to assemble the case against suspects in the attacks that prompted the Bush administration to launch its global war on terror.

The other five men being charged are: Mohammed al-Qahtani, the man officials have labeled the 20th hijacker; Ramzi Binalshibh, said to have been the main intermediary between the hijackers and leaders of Al Qaeda; Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, known as Ammar al-Baluchi, a nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has been identified as Mohammed's lieutenant for the 2001 operation; al-Baluchi's assistant, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi; and Waleed bin Attash, a detainee known as Khallad, who investigators say selected and trained some of the hijackers.