But, as Peter Cole and Maria Menocal among others have pointed out, there is a long heritage of male-identified love poetry by male writers in the Arabic lyric tradition. In an article on Arabic writers for the Guardian by Ahdaf Soueif, Alaa al-Aswany cites
Abu Nuwas, a gay poet who lived 1,000 years ago, is one of our greatest poets, yet he hasn't been translated, which adds to the assumption that Arab culture is homophobic. Hala Halim of NYU mentions
Lebanese novelist Rashid al-Daif's 2006 Awdat al-Almani ila Rushdihi (The German Comes to His Senses) is a fictionalised memoir about the author's collaboration with a gay German writer, Joachim Helfer, through the East-West Divan exchange programme. Setting aside the controversy over the strategy adopted by the German writer in his published response, Al-Daif's memoir is to be lauded for the candour with which it reflects critically on homophobia in the Arab world.
Dar al Saqi published The Others, a novel by Siba Harez (a pseudonym to protect the author) that explores the life of a young lesbian in Saudi Arabia, which will be published in English by Telegram this year. As Suleiman points out while
the presence of homosexuality can be spotted in every country in the region, governments and societies are still intolerant to such life style.Fiction and poetry have a substantial role to play in changing both grassroots and government opinions -- after all, only ten years ago it was illegal for teachers to talk about queer issues in schools in the UK.