Outreach, Not Piling On. How to Talk with Homophobes.

Of all the responses I read to Sibai’s now infamous article in Outlook (responses listed here) , my favorite is the one written by Raja. I’ll get back to why a little later.

As someone who had a relatively conservative upbringing in Tripoli, I grew up sharing a lot of Mr. Sibai’s ideas. Whether out of intellectual laziness or habit, it was the only way to reconcile a religious view of the world with the existence of homosexuals.

I was lucky later in my life to meet several people. People who went to AUB with me. People I really liked and then found out later that they were gay. From my own experience, I can tell you that the only way some people will accept and love gay people is to really get to know some of them.

This brings me back to why I like Raja’s blog post most. It’s because he understands a very important insight: This is not an intellectual debate. It is one about human compassion and empathy. This is about bonding over a cup of coffee.

Bloggers came up with all sorts of arguments and “rebuttals” to Mr. Sibai, but that’s not how things work. You will never “convince” him to stop “hating” (“hating” is such a misguided word. It reminds me of how Mona el Tahhawi accused Arab men of hating women). Most importantly, all the arguments in the world will not change the minds of the thousands of people who secretly agree with Sibai and are resenting the way bloggers are piling up on him.

Sibai can do one of two things: He can choose to become a martyr and a hero to his supporters, or he could have a cup of coffee. I really hope he chooses the latter.

  • Haytham Elkhoja

    The best way to debate with people like Sibai is to show them these 2 clips.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1d63ClccjjE
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eb-JZSyhWSc

  • http://oussama-hayek.blogspot.com OH

    I think the most heartening thing about this incident is that the editor of Outlook distanced himself from the decision to publish the article, and they plan a formal apology in the next issue. This would not have happened, say, 15 years ago, and it goes to show that things have come a long way in Lebanon. There’s still a way to go, but we should not underestimate the progress.

    As a gay man, though, I would not have a coffee with Sibai. The man has the intellectual depth of Fred Phelps. Just like we all have to accept that some people are gay and other are straight, we also have to accept that some people are just stupid.

    • Mustapha

      Man that last zinger was so awesome I couldn’t but highlight it :)

    • Haytham Elkhoja

      Highlighted part is awesome

  • Oxana

    Sibai’s comment about Russia in the end is where the last hope for some sanity has died for me. It’s not Soviet anymore – homosexuality is not a crime in Russia. And even though a lot of things happening with the rise of the religion, I hope we won’t get back in the past.

  • P

    I love how you borrowed ohmyhappiness’ approach. May I say classy? Perhaps it’s not the right word. What I meant to say is that I agree. Communication, dialogue, empathy, and acceptance are very personal, and thus require a personal experience. Dialogue, under the right conditions, can change the world…

    • Mustapha

      Thanks P, I’m glad you agree.. :)

  • Observer

    Would I mind if my son turned out to be homosexual? No.

    Would I think his boyfriend was good enough for him? Probably not.

    Do I think Gay men should be able to adopt a male child? No.

    Are homosexual men any different from heterosexual men?

    Take them out for a drink, rather than coffee, and you’ll find out for yourself.

    They both don’t know how take no for an answer,

  • ramon

    It has been proved that homophobia has a lot to do with the repression of homosexual arousal. If this man saw two guys holding hands and “he could not get the image out of his head for the whole day”… Well, what can I say?

    • Observer

      Mature men holding each other’s hands used to be very common in villages and rural parts of Lebanon and Syria.

      Frankly, it always struck me as sweet, innocent and odd.

      My homophobia, hoever, was induced by a Taxi driver trying to molest me at the age of 13. I had to jump out of the rolling vehicle, injuring myself somewhat, but my psyche forever traumatized by that incident.

      • Mustapha

        Actually, in some countries (like Ghana, where I live), heterosexual men of all ages still casually hold hands..

  • http://homoslibnani.wordpress.com Alloush

    We don’t appreciate how you are linking to the responses list which was obviously stolen from our blog :-/

    • Mustapha

      I didn’t realize that Al-Bab borrowed the link-list from you. Anyway, I will will replace the link with homoslibnani’s list because it seems to be constantly updated..

  • Samer Nasser

    On the subject of having coffee with abominable deviants, I have a question: Are decaffeinated drinkers born that way, or is it a personal choice? :):):)

    • Mustapha

      On that note, I accidentally bought a decaf bag of coffee in the US and I’ve been agonizing for weeks over whether to give it a try, donate it or throw it away..

  • Antidisestablishmentarianism

    The bloggersphere is commendable for comments like the above, it is surprising how tolerant everyone seems to be, which is very good.
    But sadly, this is not reflected in our society beyond an open-minded clique, probably from the middle class and upwards…The sad fact remains that Sibai represents an overwhelming majority in this country

  • Maya K

    Sibai also needs to learn several key skills: structuring an argument and the basics of writing an opinion piece. Aside from the inflamatory content, which has been much adressed, the fact that such a terribly written and logically flawed piece was printed is a disaster. People will hate, and freedom of expression is all about having differing opinions in the public sphere. To each his own, so long as you can back an argument with more than biblican quoations, vague references to “psychological studies” and a ill-placed Smirnoff joke.