How homosexuality became a crime in the Middle East
IN THE 13th and 14th centuries two celebrated male poets wrote about men in affectionate, even amorous, terms. They were Rumi and Hafiz, and both lived in what is now Iran. Their musings were neither new nor unusual. Centuries earlier Abu Nuwas, a bawdy poet from Baghdad, wrote lewd verses about same-sex desire. Such relative openness towards homosexual love used to be widespread in the Middle East. Khaled El-Rouayheb, an academic at Harvard University, explains that though sodomy was deemed a major sin by Muslim courts of law, other homosexual acts such as passionate kissing, fondling or lesbian sex were not. Homoerotic poetry was widely considered part of a “refined sensibility”, he says.