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Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East
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Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  164 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
Homosexuality is a taboo subject in Arab countries. Clerics denounce it as a heinous sin, while newspapers write cryptically of "shameful acts." Although many parts of the world now accept sexual diversity, the Middle East is moving in the opposite direction. In this absorbing account, journalist Brian Whitaker calls attention to the voices of men and women who are struggl ...more
Paperback, 264 pages
Published November 6th 2006 by University of California Press (first published 2006)
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الشريفة هاله
Feb 23, 2015 الشريفة هاله rated it did not like it
على قدر رغبتي في قرائة الكتاب لأعرف مالسر فيه و بالذات و انا اساعد هذا النوع من الناس بقدر المستطاع. اصابني بخيبة أمل شديدة. فكل ما في الموضوع قصص وقصص عن فتى في لينان او اخرى بسوريه ارجل في البادية. فقط قصص لا تغني ولاتسمن جوع يتحث فيها انهم يعانون من الإضطهاد و انهم ليس لهم حقوق في بلادنا العربيه. ابكتاب لم يقدم اي نظريات علمسة تحليلية على الأقل لو كان متحمس و غير مستهزء على الاقل تحليل للبيئة العربية المسلمة و خصائصها. انما السرد و الاستدلال عن ان البيئة متاخرة في تقبل هذه الظاهرة. فلم يقدم ف ...more
Mar 22, 2010 Melissa rated it really liked it
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It is a well thought out, well researched book which presents its arguments in a logical fashion. However, I was left feeling that the argument was flawed in some way. The main argument of the book was that we shouldn't try to change the religion, for that will just cause a push back in the name of protectionism. Thus, we must seek to change the culture (through secularization within the government).

This is a fairly decent idea, except the author supports th
Badria Al Humaidhi
A very well written and researched book on homosexuality in the middle eat. I loved how it covered all aspects of the issue, social, religious, cultural, legal etc. definitely a recommended read.
Apr 18, 2013 Gerhard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, non-fiction
Any (gay) expatriate working and living in Dubai will know there is a thriving, cosmopolitan and yet wholly discreet 'scene'. Travel outside the emirate, and it is quite amusing to see it has a reputation as the Sodom & Gomorrah of the Middle East.

Yet you only have to speak to local gays to get a glimpse into a very different world, where men who engage in same-sex activities do not necessarily perceive themselves as being 'gay', as this is seen as a foreign (that is, Western) concept denoti
الشريفة هاله
الكتاب لايحمل عنوانه انه فقط يروي قصص واقعية و بطريقة لا تشد القارئ و طبعا المؤلف مع المثلية الجنسية.
و هكذا القصص التي يكتبها كلها تعاطف غير مبني على أسس علمية.
Jan 02, 2011 Drianne rated it liked it
Kind of depressing, really, unsurprising given the book's subject. It wasn't as informative as I'd hoped, but I was most interested in the bits about growing acceptance in places like Beirut.
Sam Berner
Aug 10, 2011 Sam Berner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own
I needed something on how alternative sexualities were portrayed in Arab media - this is good. Avoids the type of cheap orientalism I have seen in other publications on the subject.
Thuraya Al-otaibi
Jul 23, 2012 Thuraya Al-otaibi rated it it was amazing
Hands down, thee most comprehensive considerate book I've ever read. Whitaker covers every single aspect of the issue.
May 13, 2014 Margaret rated it it was ok
Shelves: partial-read
This is a chatty book based mostly on interviews with people throughout the Middle East. Most in testing is his assertion that being gay is more about actions than identity of many people in the Arab world...seemed like he was getting at a very different way of framing ideas about gay and lesbian lives than in the US...but since the set up is pretty anecdotal, it was taking him a while to develop.
I read a chunk of this, think it is accessible and I could use parts of it in class...had to move o
Apr 15, 2013 JOSEPH OLIVER rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gay, history
If there is one point I took from reading this book it is that freedom for men and women to love whom they please in the Arab world may seem completely unreal when you consider the set up in most Arab countries today. However if you look back to the late 1960's in the UK you can find many similar stories and court cases. Who would have thought that change could come about so quickly? The author believes that the same can happen in Arab countries too.
It should be kept in mind that the author is a
Jan 05, 2009 Brianna rated it liked it
It's hard to say "really liked it" when it's a book about oppression, but I definitely learned a lot about how homosexuality was treated in the past (for instance, it "abounds" in classic Arabic literature, but started to disappear from books when literacy became more widespread, and the audience was wider), and how it's treated in the present (each country's penalties for sodomy, for instance, and how they tend to prosecute just enough to make an example of an unlucky few, but not enough to mak ...more
P.H.G. Haslam
An interesting look at LGBT issues in the Middle East from about 2000 to 2010. The chapters stand on their own, each exploring various themes. Not an academic work, but it did a great job of colouring my understanding of the subject.

One idea sticks out to me in light of reading this book: legal and cultural reform is most problematic in countries that perceive themselves as enemies of the 'West', because homosexuality(primarily male) and gender transgressions are considered to be a 'Western' imp
Jan 14, 2015 Jack rated it really liked it
In interesting anecdotal overview of gay life in the Middle East. There are sweeping passages that are written to give context but seem less supported by actual research and fact than by feeling and society memory. That a book such as this has been written and was written based on interviews with members of the gay community about which it was written tells us that there are people speaking about gay love (and it's a good thing).
Maitha AlFalasi
Nov 11, 2013 Maitha AlFalasi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book in a fair in Sharjah, and was completely astonished, since this is a subject that has never been brought up other than the little talks spread here and there from schoolgirls and students. I'm grateful to have found this book, because it covers up almost every aspect of one out of the many shunned-upon dilemmas, in terms of religion, politics, and culture. From couples committing murder hand-in-hand in order to keep their reputation from spreading, to the angry yet confused Mus ...more
Sara Comuzzo
Apr 22, 2014 Sara Comuzzo rated it liked it
L'Amore che non si può dire è un libro-inchiesta in cui Brian Whitaker e collaboratori o comunque gente che intervista analizzano e indagano la situazione dell'omosessualità in Medio Oriente, specie in Libano, Palestina, Egitto, Iran e Arabia Saudita. storie che devono essere spesso nascoste, storie ricche di violenza, repressione, omofobia, stupidità, ignoranza.

Interessante per sapere qualcosa in più di questo argomento così delicato. e così assurdo pensare a come le cose stiano nel 2014, dove
Rick Perez
Sep 06, 2009 Rick Perez rated it really liked it
This book is a great introduction for non-Muslims to understanding the current treatment of gays and lesbians in many Middle Eastern countries. In a scholarly voice it discusses how gay Muslims live in relation to the teachings of the Qur'an. Clearly there are some very sad stories, but "Unspeakable Love" explains the situation openly and clearly. It seems, as well to be addressing the growing voice for change toward homosexuals in Islamic communities. If you are interested in this subject, the ...more
Sep 13, 2008 Crescentm rated it really liked it
This was a really informative and well-written book. It is the only comprehensive book that I've found on this subject matter. My one complaint is that the author presupposed the reader's belief in his argument and thus skipped over scientific and physiological proof of homosexuality not being a choice. I enjoyed it because this is my belief but would not compel non-believers.
Jan 07, 2009 Lynne rated it liked it
This was a work-related read. It's good, though I disliked the last chapter or two of Quran textual interpretation. I wasn't convinced by all of the author's arguments on the texts, and I don't know if he should have gone there in this type of book to make his case anyway. It was a pretty quick read.
Maulik Thakkar
Feb 27, 2016 Maulik Thakkar rated it it was amazing
Your heart goes out to the brave human beings that live in the world that Whitaker introduces us to in this masterpiece. A gut-wrenching account that is informative, balanced and a must-read for those endeavouring to understand how people live with forbidden feelings.
Amira Hanafi
It's high time a book like this exists, but this is just a rickety start. While I found it informative, Unspeakable Love lacked a rigor I think the subject necessitates. Reads at a sort of guidebook level. Still, worth the read for those interested.
Jul 26, 2014 M. rated it really liked it
This is a real informative book, full of information.
I learned some things I had never even thought about, dealing with the Middle East culture.
I recommend it for all in the ME area and LGBTQ/Gender studies.
Ariel Kestenbaum
Definitely ground-breaking, considering that nobody's really paid much attention to this particular issue in the Middle East. Only semi-informative, though, I think. I want a more detailed version.
Jun 06, 2013 Sonja rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not exactly 'enjoyable', but very informative. Gives a good idea of the complexity of the situation and how it varies between different Muslim states.
Sarah Kaddoura
Dec 31, 2015 Sarah Kaddoura rated it liked it
Shelves: feminist-reads
The book is designed for a western audience mainly. Also, it's a white man that tried to equate left-handedness to homosexuality in Islam..
Alexis Sherman
Jul 08, 2007 Alexis Sherman rated it liked it
This book addresses some very important issues in the Middle East and is relatively well-executed and a rare book of its kind.
Moeko Nagai
“I don't believe in a country where it's more acceptable to see two men holding guns than two men holding hands.”
Hans Klis
Nov 22, 2012 Hans Klis rated it really liked it
Fijn inzicht in hoe de Arabische wereld omgaat met homoseksualiteit, en dan niet met een veroordelende westerse bril.
May 04, 2010 Bradley rated it it was amazing
Well Researched and Discussed
Brooke marked it as to-read
Jun 22, 2016
Selma Taha
Selma Taha rated it it was amazing
Jun 21, 2016
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Brian Whitaker was a journalist for the The Guardian since 1987 and its Middle East editor from 2000-2007. He is currently an editor on the paper's "Comment is free". He also writes articles for Guardian Unlimited, the internet edition of the paper. He runs a personal, non-Guardian-related website,, about society and politics in the Arab world.
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“I don't believe in a country where it's more acceptable to see two men holding guns than two men holding hands.” 3 likes
“There is an important distinction to be drawn between tolerance of homosexuality and tolerance of sex tourism.” 2 likes
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