Oh it’s been a long day! There have been arrests, rumors, gay porn, homophobia, celebrities, bickering, outing, a really bad YouTube smear campaign, and, just for good measure, a touch of pinkwashing.
As it stands today, it seems that 36 men were arrested Saturday in a cinema that shows pornographic movies. It is not clear what they have been charged of, or if charges were filed at all.
The news got to me personally via a friend who linked me to a GayStarNews’ article, that uses a 24 second clip from an MTV newscast as its sources. The MTV newscast refers to those arrested as “shozoz”.
The GSN article goes on to link the arrests to the TV show “Inta 7or” and blames the arrests on its host, Joe Maalouf. Joe Maalouf and his TV show were behind the raid of a cinema in Tripoli a few months ago. I have not been able to find a link between the TV show and this new raid. (Update: According to Maalouf’s twitter feed, he has been out of the country since July 19, on vacation in Europe.)
The article on GSN was written by Dan Littauer, who is a known pinkwasher and who is not reliable whatsoever as a source.
A source (Lynn) went to the cinema where the raid took place and said that the place was marked with red wax. She asked 2 people for information regarding the situation and got vague answers: one woman said that some people were arrested but then everyone was released. The woman also used the word “mashkal” as opposed to raid.
Another source said that Helem claims to know that the people arrested are currently in Makhfar Hbeish. She was not able to confirm if that information was true or not.
In the meantime, the focus of the gay community has been on a discussion regarding the sexuality of the least important person in this entire story.
I woke up this morning very angry and posted messages on Twitter and Facebook asking if anyone had any information that could confirm that Joe Maalouf was gay. The purpose of this information was to discredit him as the anti-gay crusader. I was not sure how I would use the information, if any such information exists, but I did know that it went against my general stand that outing anyone, under any circumstances is wrong. I was pissed off, and not thinking clearly.
Thankfully, I have a few friends and tweeps that pointed out how many things were wrong with my mission to out him. Within half an hour, both posts were deleted. I have since been thinking about other ways to respond to this entire story. I sincerely apologize for posting those comments, and I hope I have not played a significant role in encouraging the crusade that followed this afternoon.
As it seems, a few hours ago, someone (I have no idea who) launched a campaign to out Maalouf, posting a YouTube video and creating a blogpost. I instantly remembered why such tactics are horrible.
As the story of the cinema arrests continues to develop, our number one priority needs to be the privacy, safety, and well-being of these men. That should be our focus and our goal.
Joe Maalouf’s sexuality will not change anything. He may be evil, he may be homophobic, he may be the devil incarnate. It doesn’t matter. Outing him will not help get these men out of Hbeish and it certainly won’t help us in any way. We don’t fight hate with hate and we don’t fight homophobia with homophobia.
I have no idea if Joe is gay or not. I’m not interested at all. The only reason I would be interested was if I wanted to sleep with him. He’s not my type and I don’t think we’d get along as friends.
But this smear campaign is hurting us in many, many ways:
- It’s moving the focus from these men sitting in jail to the sexuality of a pseudo-celebrity,
- It is showing that we feel using someone’s sexuality against him or her is a valid tool in fighting homophobia,
- It very well could put a man at risk of being arrested, of losing his job, of being disowned by his family (all things which we are fighting on a daily basis to put an end to),
- It is blaming an individual for the bigotry that has become structural on MTV (there are countless examples of racism, sexism, homophobia, and prejudice on MTV, not linked to Maalouf’s show),
- The campaign to out Joe Maalouf is heavy with homophobia, from the selection of the pictures to the ridiculous claim that everyone who goes to Mykonos is gay.
I’ve been to Hbeish before. It was a few years ago, and the founders of Helem were called in for interrogation. It was not a pleasant experience. I was still relatively closeted at the time. I remember I had a million things going through my head at the time. Were they going to keep me there? Would they out me to my parents? Will I sleep in jail? Will they hurt me physically? Will the media cover this? Will every newspaper publish my name and out me as a gay man?
At the time, I had told 2 friends of mine where I was going to be, and we had a lawyer with us. We also had not been accused of anything.
I am assuming that these 36 men are currently going through the same thing, multiplied by an unimaginable number. We can also assume that no one knows where they are, and that they don’t have proper legal representation.
Let’s not lose our focus. We need to figure out the details of this story and see how and if we can help.
Let Joe Maalouf do what he wants in bed. There are other, more productive ways to deal with his homophobic crusade.