Homosexuality is still a taboo subject in the
Arab world. While clerics denounce it as a
heinous sin, newspapers, reluctant to address it directly, talk
cryptically of ‘shameful acts’ and ‘deviant behaviour’.
Amid the calls for reform in the Middle East,
homosexuality is one issue that almost everyone would prefer to
ignore. In this absorbing account,
Guardian journalist Brian Whitaker calls attention to the
voices of men and women struggling with gay identities in
societies where they are marginalised and persecuted by the
authorities. He paints a disturbing
picture of people who live secretive, often fearful lives; of
daughters and sons
beaten and ostracised by their families or sent to be ‘cured’
Deeply informed and
engagingly written, Unspeakable Love reveals that, while
repressive prejudices and stereotypes still govern much thinking
about homosexuality, there are pockets of change and tolerance.
This updated edition includes new material covering developments
since the book's first publication.
Brian Whitaker, a former Middle East editor of the Guardian,
is currently an editor on the paper’s Comment
Is Free website. He is also the author of What's
Really Wrong with the Middle East (to be published by Saqi
Books in September 2009) and The
Birth of Modern Yemen (an e-book available online).
"It is high time this issue was brought out of the closet
once and for all, and afforded a frank and honest discussion.
Brian Whitaker's humane, sophisticated, and deeply rewarding book,
Unspeakable Love, does exactly that."
al-Ahmed, Saudi reform advocate and director of the Gulf
“This book is a compelling read.
It captures with detail and with disturbing accuracy the
difficulties and dangers facing lesbians and gay men across the
Middle East. It helps us to understand the social pressure, the
sense of isolation, the anxiety and fear and trauma. And through
it all we glimpse also the possibility of hope, of remarkable
courage, and perhaps even in the longer term the chance of a
more open and accepting society.”
Chris Smith, former Arts Minister in the British government
"This is an important, timely book, and
lucid to boot – a must-read for anyone who believes in human
Rabih Alameddine, author of 'Koolaids'
"Brian Whitaker has given us a moving
analysis of the hidden lives of Arab homosexuals. This genuinely
groundbreaking investigation reveals a side of Arab and Muslim
culture shrouded by the strictest taboos. Arab societies can no
longer contain their cultural, religious, ethnic or sexual
diversity within their traditional patriarchal definitions of the
public sphere. Anyone interested in reform in the Arab world must
read this book."
Mai Yamani, Research Fellow at Chatham House and author of
'Cradle of Islam'
"A fascinating insight."
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall
"The book boldly delves into one of the
biggest taboos in modern Muslim societies with subtlety and
sensitivity, addressing both Arab reformers and interested Western
readers. [It] provides fascinating insights into the lives of
ordinary gays and lesbians, and how society views and treats
Khaled Diab, Toronto
Globe and Mail
"I learnt much from Brian
Whitaker's book, which is excellent. It was inspirational to me on
the challenges to international law, and the uses of nationalism
to suppress dissent within countries."
Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics
"While directing readers toward the
pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel, Whitaker clearly
demarcates tradition and family honour as two powerhouses
eternally keeping Middle Eastern alternative lifestyles in the
dark. ... Strong, condensed, world-weary portrait infused with
"An illuminating book on an important
"Never before has such a comprehensive
study of gay civil rights been published."
The Middle East Gay Journal
"Boldly delves into one of the biggest
taboos in modern Muslim societies with subtlety and
Globe and Mail
"A remarkable example of what
ill-informed journalism can produce when inspired by social
Darwinism and racialised Eurocentrism."
Massad, Columbia University
(Europe, Middle East)