Monthly Archives: October 2014

sexuality in ancient Egypt

Sexuality in ancient Egypt was open, untainted by guilt. Sex was an important part of life – from birth to death and rebirth. Singles and married couples made love. The gods themselves were earthy enough to copulate. The Egyptians even believed in sex in the afterlife. Sex was not taboo. Even the Egyptian religion was filled with tales of adultery, incest, homosexuality and masturbation… with hints of necrophillia! Masculinity and femininity itself were strongly linked with the ability to conceive and bear children.

..Revel in pleasure while your life endures
And deck your head with myrrh. Be richly clad
In white and perfumed linen; like the gods
Anointed be; and never weary grow
In eager quest of what your heart desires –
Do as it prompts you...

Lay of the Harpist

 

Homosexuality and Lesbianism

There is little evidence for lesbianism in ancient Egypt. There are two possible mentions, one being The Book of the Dead in Papyrus Nestanebtasheru (c. 970 BC) which mentions that she had never had sexual relations with the wife of a male – however, this may be because the text was mistakingly copied from the male version of the Book of the Dead instead of the correct female version. The other is related to a book of dreams, the Papyrus Carlsberg XIII (c. 2nd Century AD), which shows that lesbianism was at least recognised late in Egypt’s history:

If a married woman has intercourse with her, she will have an ill fate, and one of her children will [lacuna] … If a female has intercourse with her, she will lie.

— Manniche, L. 1987, Sexual Life in Ancient Egypt, pp. 102-103

There is, however, much more evidence for homosexuality, other than that occurring during the battle of Horus and Set:

Ancient Egyptian culture is shrouded in mystery due to its age and the paucity of sources which detail the average Egyptians’ life, and what does exist focuses more on the elite than the layman. This study delves into a highly intimate and secretive aspect of Egyptian life: same-sex desire. Through an examination of primary source documents and artifacts from Egypt, and existing Egyptological research, this study will catalogue homosexuality amongst males in Ancient Egypt in an effort to better understand the origins of documented queer history. The results of this study indicate that while same-sex desire amongst males was officially condemned, in practice the attitude seemed to be more accepting. Understanding that modern hetero-normative relationships do not monopolize history, and that in many cultures the family unit was not bound by modern day constructs is crucial for queer youth and other members of the queer community and better contextualizes our understanding of history.

Clayden, A., (pers. comm., 2013)

Depictions of possible homosexuality

Nyankh-khnum and Khnum-hotep kissing.

Nyankh-khnum and Khnum-hotep

The best known case of possible homosexuality in Ancient Egypt is that of the two high officials Nyankh-Khnum and Khnum-hotep. Both men lived and served under pharaoh Niuserre during the 5th Dynasty (c. 2494–2345 BC).[1] Nyankh-Khnum and Khnum-hotep each had families of their own with children and wives, but when they died their families apparently decided to bury them together in one and the same mastaba tomb. In this mastaba, several paintings depict both men embracing each other and touching their faces nose-on-nose. These depictions leave plenty of room for speculation, because in Ancient Egypt the nose-on-nose touching normally represented a kiss.

Egyptologists and historians disagree about how to interprete the paintings of Nyankh-khnum and Khnum-hotep. Some scholars believe that the paintings reflect an example of homosexuality between two married men and prove that the Ancient Egyptians accepted same-sex relationships.

Other scholars disagree and interprete the scenes as an evidence that Nyankh-khnum and Khnum-hotep were twins, even possibly siamese twins. No matter what interpretation is correct, the paintings show at the very least that Nyankh-khnum and Khnum-hotep must have been very close to each other in life as in death.

King Pepi II and his general officer Sasenet

A well known story, dating back to the Middle Kingdom and handed down on three time apart from one another documents, tells about an anonymous citizen, who comes to the audience hall of king Pepi II (here named by his birth name, Neferkarê). The citizen wants to lament about an unnamed circumstance, but the king does not want to listen to the laments, so he orderes his royal musicians to drown the strangers speech with noise. Disappointed, the stranger leaves the palace. When this happens several times, he orders his friend, the high official Tjeti, to follow the king. The king in turn is frequently leaving the palace during the night. Tjeti finds out that king Pepi II keeps visiting his loyal general officer Sasenet for several hours, then returning back home.

The chapter in which king Pepi II visits his loyal general officer is subject of passionate discussions. Espacially one certain phrase stays in the centre of investigations: the text says, that “his majesty went into Sasenet’s house and did to him what his majesty desired.”. The phrase “doing what ones desires” is commonly an flowery paraphrase to describe sex. For this reason, some scholars are convinced, that the papyrus reveals king Pepi’s homosexual interests and his same-sex relationship to his general officer.

But other scholars are instead convinced, that the precarious passage is merely an allegoric pun to religious texts, in which the sun god visits the underworld god Osiris during the middle four hours of the night. Thus, king Pepi II would be taking the role of Râ and Sasenet would take the role of Osiris. The phrases about “doing what ones desires” would therefor be overrated and misinterpreted.

A Ramesside period ostracon, depicting a homosexual couple in coitus (two men having sex together)

Horus and Seth

A further famous story about same-sex interactions can be found in Papyrus Illahun, dating back to the Middle Kingdom. It contains the nearly completly preserved story of the Osiris myth and the legendary fight for the throne of Egypt between Horus and Seth. The chapter in question reports that Seth was unutterably jealous about his young nephew Horus, because Horus was very young and popular. He got literally pampered by the other gods. Seth instead had very few companions and he was comparatively unpopular because of his choleric and vindictive behaviour. As a result, Seth tried to either chase away or even kill Horus, no matter what the cost. When Seth constantly fails, he plans to humiliate his rival so badly, that Horus would be banned from Egypt for ever. Seth invites Horus to some kind of slumber party and convinces the teenage Horus to drink more booze than Horus could normally cope with. When Horus is boozed, Seth seduces him to sleep over the night in one bed together. When lying together in one bed, Seth grabs Horus and rapes him. But Horus has tricked Seth, his drunkenness was staged. He catches Seth’s semen with his hands and hides it. At the next morning, Horus runs to his Mother, Isis, to tell her what happened. Isis is first speechless with rage and disbelieve. Then she decides to return the like on Seth: she cuts off Horus’ hand and lubricates Seth’s semen on Seth’s own favorite food (Egyptian lettuce). Totally clueless, Seth eats the manipulated lettuce, then he goes to the divine court to inform on Horus. At first, the divine judges swear at Horus, but when Thot, the scribe of the court, calls for Seth’s semen to come out of the body of Horus, the semen instead comes out of the body of Seth. Seth blushes in embarrassment and shock, then flees. Horus is acquitted.

The famous rape of Horus by his jealous uncle is also subject of passionate discussions. While most scholars agree that the papyrus clearly describes rape, it must remain open, if it actually describes an homosexually driven deed. Background of the dispute are Seth’s motives: he does not love Horus, in contrast, he hates his nephew and the rape was clearly performed to humiliate Horus. The only common ground between the rape and homosexuality is that the act was of same-sex nature.

But some scholars are not so sure and point out, that Seth was often credited with questionable sexual interests. For example, Seth once tried to seduce his own sister Isis. In another story, taking place before the great fight for the throne, Seth makes clear overtures to Horus. Basically, Seth was often mentioned in sexual contexts that could be interpreted as “unnatural” or even “perverted”.

Ancient Egyptian views

It remains unclear, what exact view the Ancient Egyptians fostered about homosexuality. Any document and literature that actually contains sexual orientated stories, never name the nature of the sexual deeds, but instead uses stilted and flowery paraphrases. While the stories about Seth and his sexual behaviour may reveal rather negative thoughts and views, the tomb inscription of Nyankh-khnum and Khnum-hotep may instead proof, that homosexuality was likewise accepted. Ancient Egyptian documents never clearly say that same-sex relationships were seen as reprehensible or despicable. And no Ancient Egyptian document mentions that homosexual acts were set under penalty. Thus, an straight evaluation remains problematic

Further Information about Sexuality in Ancient Egypt

Abdulaziz Al-Qahtani

An Interview with Abdulaziz Al-Qahtani

 profiled Abdulaziz Al-Qahtani’s “An Intimate Geography” exhibit at the Lahd Gallery. an interview with the artist himself.

Sara for MMW: I noticed that you never explicitly mention Islam in your work. Was this intentional?

Abdulaziz Al-Qahtani: I wanted to move away from Islam, because I do not like to classify based on religion. I do this because I feel as though everyone is spiritual, and that is the best way to be in touch with your inner self. I also wanted to steer clear of stereotypes.

MMW: While the hijab was not a focus of your work, it was still featured. What was it meant to symbolize, or what was its role?

AQ: I showed a hint of everything—religion, belief, culture. Hijab is just a part of what many people wear.  I am not really concerned with the political issues around hijab, I just used it in a playful way. The hijab was supposed to represent being Arabian or Middle Eastern.

MMW: What was the central message to this particular exhibition?

AQ: I wanted to critique the double standard that exists. People are expected to follow cultural rules and guidelines like sheep, yet they believe that they are open-minded because they wear ‘cool clothing’. Some believe that things such as drinking or wearing different clothing makes you “progressive” but I disagree with this.

MMW: One criticism I had of the exhibition was that you state that this is meant to represent the Middle East, but I felt as though it might be more representative of the Gulf (your own background). What is your response to that?

AQ: I was critiquing gender roles in general. While there might be a Gulf based theme, I feel as though many of the ideas can be applied to the entire Middle East, such as arranged marriages, or gender roles and responsibilities within a marriage.

MMW: What was your motivation for this particular exhibition?

AQ: Throughout the years, I’ve seen so much. Many of the double standards or taboos are seen, but not spoken about in a formal way. Usually spoken about in whispers, and so I was trying to show the human side of the Middle East, through a visual critique.

MMW: So, the divide between public and private played a large role in your work?

AQ: Yes, I wanted to bring such things out in the open, because they should be discussed.

MMW: So from what you are saying, you seemed to have a particular aim for visitors from Middle Eastern backgrounds. What was your intended impact on non-Middle Eastern visitors?

AQ: I wanted to address an issue. Terrorists are the minority, and there are other people in the Middle East. People are still human, and still impacted by pop culture—and many of the same struggles and cultural experiences.

MMW: Earlier, we spoke a bit about double standards. Could you elaborate on some of these double standards in relation to Islam?

AQ: I am critical of how people allow traditions to change and manipulate religion. Some can make religion appear to be harsh because they read what they want from their respective holy books, and do not look at the entire picture. When religion is manipulated according to tradition, that is when I think many misunderstandings occur, and abuse of religious texts for personal gain. As I mentioned before, I do not like to delve into religion, because I think it is far more important to be spiritual within yourself, rather than focusing on classifying oneself within a particular religion.

MMW: What is the future direction of your work?

AQ: In the future, I will be doing a more photographic series, featuring film and illustrations. I have a controversial perspective that I use to make my argument, and this will be central to my future work.

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Malcolm X and Sudan

This article was originally published in Sudanese Community and Information Centre – London.

Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) is by far one of the most influential activists of our time and increasingly so among the current Muslim generation that has gained ‘a new  kind of consciousness’. In  a time where Islamophobia has been on the rise in the West since 9/11 and Muslims are seeing their civil liberties being violated, Malcolm X remains a source of inspiration of strength, critical observation of the establishment and need for greater grassroots mobilisation.

For many people within and outside of the US context, Malcolm X holds a great place of respect and admiration as a man who advocated not only the rights of African-Americans but for the oppressed people of the third world, in Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia. Even Rosa Parks whose act of refusing to move from a white only seat triggered the civil rights movement, stated that Malcolm X – not Martin Luther King who capitalized on her act – was her hero.

Throughout his active political years with the Nation of Islam until his death, Malcolm X had a few, but interesting, encounters with Sudan and Sudanese. He travelled to Sudan in 1959, visiting Khartoum and Omdurman, he spoke of Sudanese in glowing terms saying, ‘’I was impressed the most by the Muslims of the Sudan. Their religious piety and hospitality are unmatched anywhere. I really felt in heaven and home there.’’

“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.”

Malcolm X

Malcolm X in Sudan with Sheik Ahmed Hassoun, 1959.

Malcolm X in Sudan with Sheik Ahmed Hassoun, 1959.

In 1962 Malcolm X felt increased resentment from high ranking members of the Nation of Islam (NOI) in Chicago for his public recognition, and they were suspicious of his aspirations of eventually succeeding Elijah Muhammed. Malcolm sought to deflect these feelings by reducing his media appearances and promoting Elijah Muhammed’s cult by defending the NOI against orthodox Muslims. From the outset, the Muslim community in America looked at the NOI as a heretical cult but rarely spoke against it.

One of the first Orthodox Muslims to publicly criticise the NOI was a Sudanese student at Pennsylvania University called Yahya Hayari. Malcolm responded, both privately and publicly, with a letter to the Pittsburg Courier against Hayari saying it’s ‘’difficult for me to believe that you’re a Muslim from the Sudan’’, he further aggressively defended Muhammed and accused Hayari of sounding ‘’like a brainwashed, American negro’’ that had ‘’been in Christian America too long,’’ yet Hayari continued prompting Malcolm.

In the same year, another Sudanese student from Dartmouth College called Ahmed Osman, who attended services at No. 7 Mosque (the active Harlem Mosque that Malcolm himself set up) engaged with Malcolm during a question and answer session. He directly challenged Malcolm on Elijah Muhammed’s prophetic claims and the assertion that whites were literally ‘’devils’’. Osman was ‘’greatly impressed by Malcolm’’ but not by his answer. Afterwards, the two exchanged letters and Osman sent literature from the Islamic Centre in Geneva with which Malcolm was grateful for and requested more. Despite Osman’s insistence for Malcolm to join true Islam, he was unprepared.  These engagements between Yahya, Ahmed and Malcolm must have helped lay the tracks for Malcolm’s exploration of orthodox Islam as he would later incorporate their discourses against the NOI.

In chapter 18 of Malcolm’s autobiography edited by Alex Haley, when he discusses his Hajj and the warm exchanges with various Muslims who expressed their solidarity with the struggle of African-Americans in the US, he pointed out a Sudanese “high official’ who hugged him and said “You champion the American black people.” In Mecca, Malcolm befriended a Sudanese called Shiekh Ahmed Hassoun who taught in Mecca for 35 years, eventually served as Malcolm’s spiritual advisor, and later taught at the Muslim Mosque Inc. which Malcolm created four days after his departure from the NOI in 1964.  It was Shiekh Ahmed who prepared Malcolm’s body for burial at the Faith Temple Church of God in West Harlem where he lay in state and oversaw his burial.

It’s common that Sudanese feel their country is rarely recognised or mentioned some way or another in contemporary history, however, many should take pride in knowing that Sudanese were closely involved in the inspiring story that is Malcolm X’s incredible life.

 

Omar Zaki is an active half-Sudanese student with an BA History degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and former Union Secretary for the SOAS Student’s Union. He is currently doing an MSc in Global Politics at the London School of Economics (LSE) with a focus on conflict, humanitarianism and human rights.

Kyrgyzstan votes for anti-gay ‘propaganda’ bill

76 CRIMES

By Tom Ana
Editor of Caucasus Equality News

Kyrgyz parliament (Jogorku Kenesh) building Monumental building houses the Kyrgyz parliament (known as the Jogorku Kenesh)

The parliament of Kyrgyzstan voted today for an anti-gay “propaganda” bill modeled on Russia’s 2013 “gay propaganda” law.

The proposal, which still needs two votes in parliament and a presidential signature before becoming law, would outlaw all LGBT groups operating in the former Soviet country, as well as allowing possible prison sentences for individuals guilty of promoting “non-traditional” sexual relations. Critics of the bill have noted that the punishments for breaching the new laws are even harsher than current punishments being seen under Russia’s anti-“gay propaganda” law.

As a country, Kyrgyzstan has a largely conservative Islamic community, with around 80 percent of the population identifying as Muslim. The government of the country has maintained close ties to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Anti-gay sentiment is common in Kyrgyzstan…

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جيمس فرانكو يجسد شخصية مدافع عن حقوق المثليين في فيلم جديد

كشفت عدد من التقارير عن نية النجم الشاب جيمس فرانكو تجسيد شخصية “مايكل جلاتز”، أحد المدافعين عن حقوق المثليين، في فيلم جديد من إنتاج جاس فان سانتك.

وتدور أحداث الفيلم، المستوحاة من مقالة نُشرت في نيويورك تايمز، تحت عنوان صديقي المثلي السابق، حول مايكل رئيس تحرير مجلة Young Gay America والذي اعتنق المسيحية ثم أعلن عن ميوله المثلية.

يذكر أن فرانكو قد لعب الكثير من الأدوار التي تتناول قضايا المثليين كفيلم Milk وHowe

المحامية الكاميرونية أليس نكوم تفوز بجائزة لدفاعها عن حقوق المثليين جنسيا

منحت منظمة العفو الدولية المحامية الكاميرونية أليس نكوم جائزة اعترافا بجهدها في مساندة حقوق المثليين جنسيا في القارة الأفريقية. وقضت نكوم عقدا وهي تدافع عن الأشخاص المتهمين بالمثلية الجنسية.

ويحظر القانون في الكاميرون الأفعال المتصلة بالمثلية الجنسية ويعاقب القانون ممارسيها بالسجن لمدة خمس سنوات. ووصفت نكوم الجائزة، التي سلمها لها فرع منظمة العفو في العاصمة الألمانية برلين الثلاثاء، بأنها “جائزة الأمل”.

وقالت في مقابلة مع برنامج “نيوزداي” في بي بي سي إن “حياة مثليي الجنس في الكاميرون تشبه الحياة في الجحيم”. وأضافت أن مثليي الجنس يعيشون في “سجن دائم، ومضايقة دائمة، وعنف وتمييز دائمين، بداية من عائلتك وانتهاء بمكان العمل في كل مكان”.

وأصبحت المحامية البالغة 69 عاما أول سيدة سوداء تلتحق بنقابة المحامين في الكاميرون عام 1969. وتعهدت نكوم بمواصلة عملها رغم تليقها تهديدات بالقتل وتحذيرات من مسؤولين بالحكومة من أنها قد تواجه السجن.

ومنيت الحملة المدافعة عن حقوق المثليين جنسيا في أفريقيا بنكسة في الأسابيع الأخيرة بسبب سن قانون جديد في أوغندا يعاقب بالسجن المؤبد لمن يرتكب أعمال “المثلية الجنسية الخطيرة” كنا يجرم أيضا “الترويج للمثلثة الجنسية”.

ولاتزال أفريقيا تتسم بالقارة التي يوجد بها أقسى قوانين مناهضة للمثلية الجنسية. ففي موريتانيا وجنوب السودان ومناطق من نجيريا والصومال، تصل عقوبة ممارسة أفعال المثلية الجنسية إلى الإعدام

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