By Peter Montgomery
August 7, 2016
At Good, Yasha Wallin interviews Khader Abu Seir, the protagonist of the film “Oriented,” which examines the lives of gay Arabs in the Middle East. Wallin describes the movie this way:
As the Israeli-Gaza conflict escalates in 2014, viewers follow Khader and his friends Fadi Daeem and Naeem Jiryes, all Palestinian, through the daily complexities in their world; waiting out incessant air raids, navigating family dynamics, and the moral implications of dating Jewish men.
And while Khader and his friends are free in many ways, they are also bound: bound by living as a Palestinian in Israel; being gay within sometimes conservative Arab communities; and bound by being labeled something they are not simply because of their religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
Khader is Muslim, his boyfriend is Jewish, and his two friends who are also featured followed in the movie are Palestinian Christians, but the movie does not focus on religion. “We are human,” says Khader, “We are not religious people. But for me, it’s super-important for me to say I’m Muslim because I want to show the world, the sheiks, the Muslim fanatics, that we have LGBTs and gays inside our community, to understand that we are here and we are not afraid.”
Some excerpts from the interview:
[Oriented] is the first time you can watch a movie that three gay Arabs are the heroes and not the victims. Usually it’s their family trying to kill them, they’re running away, etc. This is the first time you can see open-minded, really educated people that speak at least three languages, Arab gay guys who are actually not so far from the Western [way of] life and can talk at the same eye level as Western people…
I identify with almost 80 percent of the Arab world because there is at least 20 percent that I cannot even relate to. I’m talking about fanatic Islam and I’m talking about Muslims that are homophobic. But 80 percent of the Arab world today are fighting the same fight that Europe and America are fighting, the common people who just want to live in peace. I can relate to that totally.
What would it mean for you if there was a recognized Palestinian state?
We don’t really know. I can say for sure just one thing: that would make my life so much easier or maybe so much harder. But I would have just one cause to fight, over my sexual and personal identity. But because I’m living under the occupation, because I’m living in Israel, I need to talk about two things: the fight of being proud saying that I’m Palestinian without judgment, without racism or without people thinking that I’m going to kill them. The second thing is the fight over my sexual identity in front of my community. I’m not sure that I’m going to see it in our generation, but maybe in the future…
I think that everybody has their own fight. I was so sad when I saw what happened in Orlando because the guy who did it was a Muslim and said he was in ISIS. I started to see a lot of articles and Facebook statuses about Islam—we need to bomb them, destroy them all—coming from within the LGBT society. That was so sad because we are Muslims and we are part of the LGBT community and you are calling for killing all of us. For sure, somebody needs to destroy ISIS. I’m into that. I want that to happen but you cannot blame all of us. We should fight them together.
We need to start from the understanding that ISIS are not representing all of Islam. We will not participate in this game of Donald Trump, ISIS and I don’t know who. We shouldn’t all go right wing and hate each other. I will not hate Christians. I will not hate Americans. I will not hate English people because they are not from the European Union anymore and going right. Our generation really wants peace. I think that the first step is to say no to this whole system, to the government, to the people who are trying to separate us by our ethnicities, colors, and I don’t know what.