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When a Gay Playwright Discovers Islamic Jihad

Many people have called attention to the plight of gays in the Islamic world, and the death penalty that Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, mandates for them. But it is one thing to provide facts, and quite another, much more compelling thing to tell a story. In his new novel The Alhambra, Bruce Bawer tells a story of the reality of Islam in Europe, for gays and everyone else, that should open a great many eyes that have until now remained resolutely closed.

Bawer is the author of the 1997 book Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity -- an eloquent, impassioned rebuke to the judgmental fundamentalism in which, Bawer contended, all too many Christians place adherence to dogma, in particular that of the sinfulness of homosexual activity, above the demands of Christian charity. The following year he moved to Europe, where he thought he would find prevailing more tolerant attitudes toward gay rights, which he did -- until Europe’s rapidly increasing Muslim population began to change that.

In 2006, Bawer published While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within, and in 2009 its follow-up, Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom. In them, he warned of how official appeasement of Europe’s Muslims was impinging upon the freedoms that Europeans had hitherto enjoyed, and would continue to do so. Islamic law has a vision of women’s rights, gay rights, and more that is diametrically opposed to Western principles of human rights, and these two radically contrasting visions would inevitably come into ever-greater conflict.

Nothing changed, of course. The immigration rates grew, and the appeasement accelerated. Now Bawer has written a novel, illustrating in a thriller exactly what he has been sounding the alarm about.

Steve Disch is an American playwright who relocates to Amsterdam, where he expresses his relief to finally be away from the influence of the religious right, which he says is all-pervasive, even in Hollywood.

But in Amsterdam, even with the religious right far away, all is not well. He has several unpleasant encounters with Muslims, including being mugged by one, and one of his Dutch friends advises him: “Get a Koran. Read it.” After he learns a bit more, he asks a Dutch friend: “I mean, is this a good thing? These ideas coming here?” The Dutchman answers: “It’s their culture.”

Steve is incredulous: “But what about your culture? What about the liberal Netherlands? And gay rights? Doesn’t this represent a threat to everything you believe in? And have worked for?”

His friend tells him: “It’s very hard to talk about it. … You can almost say it’s verboden to talk about it. … The reigning idea is that it’s racist even to contemplate it critically.”

The situation deteriorates from there. Steve unwittingly discovers a jihad plot to murder a gay anti-Islam politician (reminiscent of the real-life Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, who was murdered in 2002 by a Leftist who said he was doing it for Dutch Muslims). But Steve soon discovers that in contemporary Europe, the path to justice is not straight or level. From there, the novel takes a dizzying number of surprising twists and turns, as Bawer rivals le Carré or Chandler in spinning a taut tale of suspense, surprise, and intrigue.

One of Steve’s numerous harrowing encounters takes place when his search for one of the jihad plotters leads him to a gay sauna in Munich. There he encounters a young Frenchman who works at the sauna, and yet who turns out to be an Algerian Muslim -- the plotter he is looking for. Steve is once again incredulous. After battling the young man and subduing him with a gunshot to the thigh (drowned out by the pounding music in the club), he asks him if he is aware of what the people he is working with think of gays. The young man answers: “Of course I do! It’s because I’m gay that I have to do this! Allah would send me to hell for what I’ve done in these cabines, but he’ll send me to heaven for what I’m doing for him now!”

In that and in many other passages, The Alhambra is a first: a novel written with a full awareness of the jihadi belief system and mindset, as well as with a clear-eyed understanding of what is happening in Europe today. European authorities are selling the future of the continent in pursuit of a vision of multicultural harmony that is at increasing odds with the reality on the ground.

Bruce Bawer is to be commended for his honesty and courage in writing this superb novel. The gay rights movement in general is not disposed to acknowledge that there is any threat to them from the Muslim community. When I spoke at the University at Buffalo last April -- or rather, was screamed at by fascist students there for an hour and a half -- one young man was holding a sign that read: “Queers Against Islamophobia.” When I tried to read Islam’s death penalty for gays out of a Sharia legal manual, I was lustily booed and drowned out.

This problem will not go away if it is ignored, but those who call attention to it are vilified and dismissed. If I knew who that young man was, I would send him a copy of The Alhambra. If given half a chance, this novel could open his eyes, and the eyes of many. And besides its pedagogic value, it’s simply a splendid story, surpassingly well told.