Islam, Putin, Obama And Gays

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Andrew McCarthy is only for gay equality when he can use it to bash Obama, but he raises some interesting points about the US position on Russia’s abolition of free speech and assembly for gay people. If relations with Russia can be severed on these grounds, why on earth are we still trying to manage relationships with Islamist regimes that treat gay people far, far worse? I think he’s absolutely right to point out how viciously homophobic laws are completely mainstream in much of the Muslim world. And he uses this statement by the president to accuse him of rank hypocrisy:

I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate or are harmful to them.

This is the core case:

Will President Obama call out King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia the way he called out Putin? Will he start lecturing and cutting off American aid to violent and thin-skinned Muslim populations? Will he start demanding that Islamic leaders in the United States loudly and unambiguously call for reform of anti-gay laws and practices in Muslim countries?

I guess there are a few responses to this.

The first is to agree that the gay rights element was not the core reason for abandoning the “re-set” with Russia; and that Obama was indeed bullshitting a little when citing it as such. But bullshitting (a constant in politics) is not the same as rank hypocrisy and Obama has not ended relations with Russia, just given up on a real re-set. Russia, moreover, has just intensified its anti-gay policies, and could perhaps be prodded to reverse them. Such options, as McCarthy shows, do not exist in the Muslim Middle East.

As for Saudi Arabia, any engagement with that theocracy is repellent in terms of human and civil rights, but our dependency on foreign oil compels us to deal with them (if fracking doesn’t help us gain more distance). As for Iran, we have such an interest in keeping its nuclear program to civilian use that other issues fade into the background. And, of course, Obama has presided over the most punitive sanctions regime ever imposed on the country.

So good debating point, and healthy reminder of how poisonously backward much of the Middle East is. But in the end, no dice.

(Photo: the execution of two young men for homosexual activity in Iran in 2005)