Notes from Lebanon toward (Queer) Liberatory Alternatives

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03/11/2024

During the first week of August 2023, Lebanon made international headlines for (a failed, performative) attempt to ban the movie Barbie by a (Muslim Shia) government minister in a country long lauded for its ‘freedoms’. The minister’s narrative focused on the movie’s proclaimed (yet, I would argue, deeply wanting) ‘homosexuality’ and consequent corruption of ‘moral values’ in a space already grappling with insidious patriarchy and the violent marginalization of queer communities. Beyond the sheer absurdity of this attempt, especially given the small country’s current crises, this incident is part of a broader pattern of orchestrated statements and actions targeting the LGBTQ+ community that have escalated in the country (and more broadly globally) over the past years. Within this, both Christian and Muslim Lebanese groups have played significant, multiple, and converging roles as physical attacks on drag shows and ‘LGBTQ-friendly’ venues as well as rising homophobic narratives across social media platforms have gained momentum. In a relatively new development during the latter parts of 2023, Lebanese political parties, including the Muslim Shia party Hezbollah, became particularly vocal and aggressive actors within this. In the case of Hezbollah, this included public statements by the party’s leader denouncing and issuing threats against gay people, a draconian draft law to criminalise homosexuality prepared and published by a party-backed civil society organisation, as well as various statements made by affiliated and related scholars across the party’s powerful network of religious and non-religious institutions and spaces. This, I posit, has a violent impact on the possibility of producing liberatory (queer) alternative Islam(s) (see Ahmad 2016) – in addition to its material and emotional violent aggression against queer bodies and selves in the contemporary moment.

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