A Run-in With Hatred Leads to an Ugly Lesson

Jan. 15, 2011, is a date that I will remember for a while. I will not dwell on it for very long, but it is a day worthy of a story.

Over the years, I’ve been called many different names, in many different languages by many different people. This has happened in many different countries, including our own.

Jan. 15 was just like the day before, nothing earth-shattering, except for the fact that I was called “faggot.” And it really wasn’t that I was called “faggot” that made me look back at the person calling me names. As I said, I have been called names before. The day was different because I was called “faggot” by a handful of Muslims proselytizing on the streets of New York.

And it wasn’t that I was doing anything “faggot-like” either, unless you could say walking arm-in-arm down the streets of Manhattan with Sherman is a “faggot-like” action.

I turned and faced these men, and as I did, the largest of the four called me a “bacha bazi,” which meant nothing to me at the time. With my best manufactured South Carolina drawl, I turned to them and said, “Fuck you.” As those words escaped my lips, two lesbians came up and asked Sherman whether we were OK. Of course we were, but I was left with questions that only Wikipedia could attempt to answer.

That’s because “bacha bazi” is not one of the common names that thugs and bullies call people. That is, unless you are 12 years old, sold into sexual slavery in one of several Arab or Islamic countries and a victim of a particular sort of wickedness: bacha bazi.

From Wikipedia, I learned that bacha bazi, which means “playing with boys,” is a practice that has arisen amid the restrictive nature of being Muslim. Pre-marital sex, adultery and homosexuality are strictly forbidden. In fact, they are grounds to be stoned to death. So where do the Muslim faithful in countries like, say, Afghanistan go for entertainment if they cannot commit adultery or get caught having sex with another man? These men buy boys around age 12, dress them up like women with long hair and makeup, and force them to dance for a crowd of men at, say, a bachelor party. Once the party is over, these faithful Muslim men sexually abuse these young boys.

It should come as no surprise in a city a large as New York that there are adult male Arabs who practice Islam and have come to reconcile their sexuality and their religion. After all, a Baptist or a Catholic can reconcile Christ and the Virgin in their minds.

New York gatherings of LGBT Arabs were the subject of a recent article in The New York Times. This nomadic monthly dance party is called Habibi.

Here’s how Mohammad Shamsi Ali, the imam at the city’s biggest mosque, explains in that article how his mosque has reconciled sexuality and religion in this case:

“Homosexuality is grouped with adultery, fornication, all of them very severe sins, but you don’t need to talk about it,” Ali said. “It is between you and the creator.”

He told the Times that gays and lesbians were welcome at his mosque. “But we don’t need to know about their sex lives,” he said.

At the other end of the spectrum of tolerance, Junaid Aleef, a Muslim blogger, responded to the Times article like this: “They’re actually radical extremist fanatics!  Being G.A.Y. is just a cover.”

He goes on: “I think it is quite possible that these people — these so-called G.A.Y. Muslims — are actually not G.A.Y. at all. Perhaps they are extremists radical bad guys with a warped sense of Islam who want to commit acts of terrorism, but they don’t want to get caught so they’ve donned this G.A.Y. cover.”

He finishes with this: “Either way, we sinless, pious, devout and upright Muslims who are heterosexual, monogamous and shun pre-marital sex, lying, cheating, drugs, alcohol, back-biting, missing prayers, cheating on taxes, running red lights and being rude, ought to be outraged by ‘Habibi.’  I know I am.”

While claiming his own piety and claiming to know the mind and will of Allah, Aleef has chosen to ignore the beam in his own eye and instead to try and pick the splinter out of mine. While Aleef spouts hatred and bigotry toward gay Muslims, there are Muslims who rape young boys without fear of punishment.

I find the name “playing with boys” and the forced participation particularly abhorrent considering the age of these boys, the lack of laws to protect them and the sheer nature of this wickedness.

It almost leaves me without words, but I do have this comment. You are free to come to our country and make it your home. You are free to worship any god, goddess, spirit or wild midnight rider you choose. You are free to work in our businesses and shop in our stores. But you are not free to associate gay men with boys who have been lured into your own personal sex dens.

To have sex with boys is really not having sex at all. Well, actually it is. It’s called by many different names — “rape” and “child sexual abuse” are just a few.

To further understand the culture that allows this to happen to the most vulnerable, please visit www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/dancingboys/.

You can read the New York Times story at

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