In what could be termed as new-Orientalism, the Middle East is constructed as space that is uniformly patriarchal and homophobic. The lack of rights for LGBTQ populations in some Middle Eastern states is thus presented as evidence of these states supposed undemocratic tendencies. In response, LGTBQ activist groups in the Middle East have become the poster child for funding and support by human rights and development agencies from the Global North. Yet, this discursive representation and construction of sexuality in the Middle East requires critical enquiry and contestation. This panel takes up this challenge by engaging with the complexity of sexual identities and politics in the Middle East. This international panel of scholars will cover a number of themes in the presentations. The following paper themes are – at this stage – indicative rather than rigidly set
Merouan Mekouar investigates the reasons why some Islamic groups (al-Nahda, the Muslim Brotherhood) and personalities (Salman al-Ouda, Moqtada al-Sadr) take a relatively progressive stance on LGBTQ rights in the region. Janine A. Clark explores the strategies and the factors that shape the strategies of Helem - the first LGBT rights group in the Middle East - putting Helem in context of other LGBT organizations in the MENA region. Tamirace Fakhoury analyses how LGBT movements interrogate the politics of sectarianism in Lebanon. She further examines the various structural constraints that thwart their mobilization and induce their fragmentation. John Nagle examines the consequences of post-war power sharing on LGBT rights claims and the forms of social movement activism in the context of power sharing.