A study in Australia has found many gay people in the country’s Arabic community have been subject to high levels of homophobic violence and verbal abuse.
The report also included interviews with the community’s elders and religious leaders, who said that LGB people should be excluded or “corrected”.
Ghassan Kassisieh interviewed 37 gay people and their families, as well as community and religious leaders for the study.
Most of the respondents were Christian and lived in Sydney. Seven said they went to a doctor, priest or imam to be “cured of their homosexuality.”
Though it is acknowledged the study is not comprehensive in the statistical sense, it is seen as significant because it is the first report to document the effects of homophobia in an Australian Arab community.
Mr Kassisieh said that many Arab families do not understand: “The sort of ideas that they have about homosexuality include that it’s a sickness, it’s a Western import, it’s a choice, and so it’s correctable or it’s curable.”
He added that people’s experiences varied: “The most common being socially excluded, suffering verbal attacks, and being pressured to act straight.”
Nassim Arrage came out to his parents when he was 20 but he says his Lebanese father still does not accept it. He said ” My father wanted me to experience being with women before I made a final decision about being gay.”
Mr Arrage says he has never been physically attacked, but that it hurts to be overlooked.
“Arabic culture very much prioritises getting married and having children, so anyone that doesn’t fit that mould, gay or otherwise, is kind of on the margins,” he said.
Another respondent called Kellie, says her mother and siblings know she is attracted to women, but she is unsure if she can ever tell her father: “He suspects, though. He has come out and asked me if I’m a lesbian . . . I denied it because there’s not really any point in causing a storm there.
“One reason why I don’t talk to him about my same-sex attractions is because, well I never spoke to him about who I slept with before I slept with women, so why does he necessarily need to know?”