Thursday, 16 January 2014

Nigeria’s persecution of gays – the curious incident of the leftists that didn’t bark in the night

Not being a liberal-leftist, I don’t seek to reaffirm my sense of moral superiority by habitually scanning the media for stories which will allow me to feel outrage on behalf of oppressed minorities. One of the many oppressed minorities I don’t tend to lie awake at night worrying about are homosexuals, who, here in the West at least, seem perfectly capable of defending themselves against the less enlightened elements of the heterosexual majority. But I was discomfited to read about anti-gay legislation introduced by Nigeria on Monday, under which anyone belonging to a gay organisation or group or association faces up to ten years in prison. Bit harsh?

Shariah law is already in place in many parts of the Muslim north of the country. For instance, in Bauchi State, eleven men have been arrested in the last two weeks on suspicion of belonging to a gay organisation. Chairman Mustapha Baba Ilela of the state’s Shariah Commission said that community members helped "fish out" the suspects and that "we are on the hunt for others."

Being a Friend of Dorothy in Bauchi is obviously a very bad idea. For instance, I read this on the BBC News website today (here):
A Nigerian man has received 20 lashes after an Islamic court in the northern city of Bauchi convicted him of homosexual offences. Under Islamic law, courts can punish homosexual acts by stoning to death. But the judge said he took into account that the Muslim man, Mubarak Ibrahim, 20, carried out the acts seven years ago, and had stopped the practice.
Let me get this straight – he was thirteen years old when he committed these “offences”? I could understand it if he’d been found guilty of molesting a minor – but he was a minor!

Okay, none of this is particularly surprising. African attitudes to homosexuality aren’t exactly relaxed - the president of Gambia has said homosexuals should be decapitated – and persecution is widespread. There have been protests from the US, the UK, Amnesty and the UN – speaking of Nigeria’s new secular anti-gay legislation, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said "Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights."

But what is surprising is the lack of brouhaha over this issue among Western liberals. It seems an Israeli soldier only has to give a Palestinian a dirty look and every academic, musician, actor, trade union leader, priest and Radio 4 “comic” in this country is marching and signing protest letters and holding candlelit vigils and demanding boycotts of any organisation whose members (as it were) don’t possess foreskins. But African governments can deny the basic human rights of another of the left’s favourite victim groups and… well, nothing!

Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places (The Guardian, The New Statesman, Channel 4 News etc. ) but I haven’t heard of any left-wing demonstrations taking place outside Nigerian embassies in the West, or students marching with banners through Central London demanding that we stop sending aid to African countries or that African academics should be banned from speaking at British universities.

I presume this all has something to do with the great left-wing Hierarchy of Victimhood, according to which Muslims mustn’t be criticised for destroying Christian communities in Arab countries or for firing rockets into Israel because Muslims automatically enjoy a higher victimhood status than Christians or Jews. Many of the African countries which routinely persecute homosexuals are predominantly Christian, so you’d think they’d be ideal targets for left-wing outrage – but, of course, the persecutors (as well as the victims) are black, and being black apparently means you have a permanent “Get Out of Jail Free” card when it comes to blame. (After all, it's much less confusing to go and see 12 Years a Slave and get jolly upset all over again about what white folk were doing to blacks in some parts of America 150 years ago rather than grapple with the reality of what blacks are doing to each other in Africa today.)

I’m not saying those of us on the Right would have a unified view on what – if anything – to do about Africa’s raging homophobia. I’m a “gentle persuasion” man myself (although I'm a little surprised that Britain actually announced an increase in aid to Nigeria in the wake of the new laws). NeoCons would probably be militating for invasion or economic sanctions. Libertarians would shrug and growl “None of our damned business!” Conservative isolationists would probably agree. But, after all, none of us tend to whine and bitch and sign petitions or get ourselves into a terrific, self-righteous tizz about piddlingly mild examples of “homphobia” in our own countries while seemingly happy to ignore truly alarming examples of it elsewhere. And we tend not to be West-hating moral relativists who tie ourselves in hypocritical knots to avoid condemning such multiculti delights as forced marriages, honour killing, female genital mutilation and bullying women into wearing veils.


  1. One of your best posts. You need to copyright the expression "Hierarchy of Victimhood" before it's nicked by a journo and starts to appear in the mainstream press. It captures the left's moral dilemma perfectly.

    It's always been that way. I remember the sheepishness of my socialist friends in 1968 as they waited to see which line the Keep Left editorial would take before expressing an opinion about the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia. Once they had their instructions, it was perfectly clear. Violent rioting in Paris to overthrow capitalism = good. Peaceful demonstrations in Prague for democratic elections = bad. Life is simple once you put your opinions through the ideological mincing machine and see them reassembled into a politically acceptable form when they emerge.

  2. Great post and comment by ex-KCS. Thanks.

  3. Good suggestion, ex-KCS, but I expect Johann Hari has already nicked it and claimed it as his own (and is using it in an approving fashion).

    Thanks you bothf or your nice comments.