Why Khaled Likes to Sleep Face-down: Queerness and Political Participation in Egypt

Khaled Abu-Elnaga

Khaled Abu-Elnaga

About a week ago, Egyptian actor-turned-political activist Khaled Abu-ElNaga publicly condemned military operations taking place in Sinai at the moment (aka Egypt’s ‘war on terror’) for their blatant disregard for the rights of the governorate’s residents, according to Khaled. The following are excerpts from some of the responses he got:

Tawfiq Okasha

Tawfiq Okasha

Tawfiq Okasha, host of the talk-show Masr Alyoum [Egypt Today]: “I want to ask you a question. Why do you sleep on your stomach (i.e. face down) instead of sleeping on your back when you get tired? Are there diseases? And if you do have any bone or muscle diseases, you should go visit a doctor…I’d also like to ask, why do you like bicycles, khaled? What are the reasons behind you liking bicycles?Link

Samir Sabry

Samir Sabry

Lawyer Samir Sabry joins talk-show host Ahmed Mousa on ‘ala Masooleyity to react to Khalid’s speech “[Addressing Mousa]You were earlier asking a very strange question. You were asking whether or not Khaled Abul Naga carried out military service. No [he didn’t]…If either him or Alaa Abdel Fattah went through pre-service physical examinations, it will turn out that they are not men* [i.e. homosexuals]…Khaled will definitely be identified as a homosexual, I am 100% sure of this. Moreover, whoever insults his country or his president or the state authorities, he is essentially a homosexualLink

Mazhar Shaheen

Mazhar Shaheen

Preacher Mazhar Shaheen also calls Mousa to offer his 2 cents “If Khaled Abul Naga doesn’t like the president, a president that was voted in by an unprecedented majority of Egyptians, then he doesn’t like the Egyptian people…If he doesn’t like the Egyptian president, then he (Khaled) can leave instead. He can go to Iraq where the police and military are lacking…or Syria. But he needs to watch out for his trousers, watch out for his wife and sister if they were to join him”  Link

I’ll go ahead and disregard the main issues here (i.e. analyzing the efficacy of the military operations or debating Khaled’s right to criticize them) in favor of focusing on all these ‘witty’ allusions to sodomy.

I’m not sure if I need to go through these and explain them, but I’d like to quickly go over some points.

Excerpt 1: Although, to my knowledge, sleeping face-down is not frowned upon in Egypt, here it’s used to allude to a sex position. I’m not sure, but I think the bicycle reference might be strictly Egyptian. Calling someone a bicycle means that they like to be ‘ridden’. It’s the equivalent of calling someone a faggot. Okasha’s inquiry about Khaled’s fondness of bicycles might be a strategy to sidestep slander.

Excerpt 2: If you’re not Egyptian, you might not get this one. Military service is obligatory for all Egyptian men of sound body and mind. Pre-service physical examinations are a pre-requisite to joining. So, basically, we can call it an obligatory physical examination that all Egyptian men go through at some point in their lives. Part of the examination involves the inspection of men’s anuses…supposedly to root out those who have been on the receiving end of anal sex. And, yes, everyone knows that this is an archaic and a completely ineffectual method of identifying bedroom practices, but we choose to do it anyway, because… (I have several theories. Let’s leave it for another blogpost)…What is possibly the bright side of this is that those who are ‘found out’ are banned from joining the military…a good thing if you don’t want to join in the first place. However, those dismissed on account of their gaping assholes rather than physical or mental imperfections get a ‘special’ kind of certificate that indicates the reason for their dismissal. ‘Military status certificates’ are required for viewing by all of the major employers in Egypt and are also required by some governmental departments  (e.g. Applying for new passports, border control agency).

Since I don’t have a ‘special’ certificate myself and do not know of anyone who has one, I am not sure of how much trouble special-certificate-holders go through to find a job or access governmental services. But, word on the street is that special-report-holders do not live the lavish life.

Excerpt 3: I’ve mentioned Sheikh Mazhar Shaheen in my previous post…he is not a fan of the queers. Here he uses the ‘at-least-we’re-better-than-iraq’ tactic, which we’ve been hearing a lot of lately, as if to accuse Khaled of not being grateful enough for the life he has in Egypt. Advising Khaled to watch out for his trousers is also a ‘witty’ way of telling the actor that someone like him would probably get raped in Iraq or Syria. Not sure what he means by “watch out for his wife”. If Abu-Elnaga is famous for anything, it’s probably his refusal to get married.

These ‘hilarious’ references to sodomy/homosexuality are not coincidental. In 2009, Abu-Elnaga was one of a few celebrities who were rumored/accused of being involved in a ‘network of sexual perversion’. Abu-Elnaga denied those claims and proceeded to take legal action against the source of those rumors, a journalistic nonentity. The newspaper was eventually banned after police denied having discovered this alleged network at all.

Abu-Elnaga’s inarticulate opinions aside, why is it that a person’s sexual practices are the first thing we refer to when wanting to discredit him/her? At what point of allegedly taking a dick up his ass does Abu-Elnaga’s mental capacity become impaired?

Also, what does our irrational fear of male same-sex relations say about us as a people? Not that we’re religious. This has very little to do with religion. Religion is a good excuse, but it’s far from our main motive for rejecting queer men. We are completely accepting of many other phenomena that go against religion (i.e. sexual harassment, abuse of human dignity, murder**).

Mo’taz Muturr

Mo’taz Muturr

It’s not all negative though. Talk-show host  Mo’taz Muturr recently spoke out condemning this behavior. Muturr also notes the striking frequency with which accusations of ‘perverse’ sex are used to incriminate/discredit/defame men in Egypt. So, some sort of acknowledgement of this absurdity!

…It’s just really irritating and sad to see this happen now. Discounting the state (specifically the police and judiciary), one would think that we, the human race, have been through enough experiences to realize that diversity is ok. At what point do we start realizing that our acceptance of injustice today (if even through complicit silence) will inevitably be used against us tomorrow? Must we always go through this tedious scenario of widespread subjugation, then revolt, then violence, then gradual acceptance?

Anyway, this too shall pass.

*The term used in Arabic was شُرك (Transliteration: Shorok). I am not aware of the exact meaning of this word. It’s not widely used in Egypt. One of the sources I’ve stumbled upon translated it as ‘homosexual’, but, judging by the context, I would guess it borders more on ‘sodomite’.

**It’s unfair to say that people can be accepting of murder without pointing out that the imposition of a threatening identity must precede the act of acceptance (i.e. terrorist, spy, zionist, pervert… then, off with their heads).

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