Queer Sheik

Bradley, John R.
March 2004
New Republic;3/15/2004, Vol. 230 Issue 9, p11
The author reports that officials in Saudi Arabia are becoming increasingly tolerant of homosexuality. Traditionally, self-identified gays and lesbians who openly displayed their sexual preferences lived in mortal fear in Saudi Arabia. Homosexuality has long been illegal here, and, in theory, the official punishment for sodomy is death. But, in some Saudi cities, the authorities have started to look the other way. In part, the government has realized that the thousands of Saudis who have recently returned from the United States because of stricter visa policies, and who are relatively liberal-minded, are unwilling to countenance such harsh anti-gay policies. Saudi Arabia's domestic reform initiative and the government's eagerness to shed its international reputation for intolerance also have contributed to acceptance of gays and lesbians. Riyadh even seems to have informed some of its officials to show tolerance when they comment on homosexuality. What's more, the kingdom's Internet Services Unit, which is responsible for blocking sites deemed "un-Islamic" or politically sensitive, recently unblocked access to one website's homepage for gay Saudi surfers after being bombarded with critical e-mails from the United States. The Jeddah gay community also frequents malls, supermarkets, restaurants, and a disco catering to gay men, whose existence is an open secret. The upper crust of Saudi society is becoming more open as well.


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