"Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World" was initially presented as an essay at a conference at the University of Chicago, titled, "Hatred: Confronting the Other." It was published with some modifications in 2002 by Duke University Press in the journal Public Culture 14(2): pp.361–385. Its author, Joseph Massad, teaches intellectual history at Columbia University. This review refers to the Public Culture text.
The term "Gay International" is a term Massad has coined to refer collectively to Western, (mostly U.S.-based), human rights groups oriented toward ending the persecutions of homosexuals in non-Western (mostly Arabic and African) countries.
Massad goes to great lengths to fully dismiss and discredit the writing of gay academicians who have written extensively about the persecution of gays in the Arab world. One by one, he considers and rejects the theses of these Western authors. Massad's reason for rejecting them, in most cases, is that they are thoroughly unfamiliar with the true experience of the Arab man. Westerners, Massad alleges, see the Arab world through a Western lens; the very premises of the questions involved in evaluating the treatment of men who have sex with men are flawed.
It seems that Massad is a bit uncharitable to his American colleagues; at times, it appears that Massad is dismissing -- a priori -- the work of anyone and everyone who is not Arab, deeming them unfit to hold a credible opinion on the matter regardless of how much research they have done, or how much time they have spent in the Arab world. He correctly points out that much of the academic material written by "The Gay International" evaluates the Muslim/Arab world by its medieval writings, especially written interpretations of the the Koran, and the Koran itself. It is a bit ridiculous, says Massad, to pretend that contemporary Arabic society can be understood through study of works written hundreds of years ago. But Massad's argument style is unfortunate, because although his conclusions are certainly worth considering, his dismissive, sometimes flippant tone makes the piece unpleasant to read.
Massad's point, though, is this: In the Arab world, men who have sex with men are, for the most part, not "gay", and need no liberation from prosecution. They are not "gay" because "gay" is a Western identity that The Gay International has attempted to thrust upon them. By encouraging Arab men to identify as "gay," the Gay International is encouraging them to identify as Western; encouraging them to embrace and support what many Arabs presume to be the agenda of the West: destruction and Westernization of the Arab world. THAT is the reason for severe punishment of homosexuality, argues Massad. He offers that generally, the people who are prosecuted and excessively punished for their homosexual activity are those who have made a point of embracing the Western idea of what it means to be "gay." It is their embracing of a Western identity which is considered threatening -- not their private sexual activities.
It does not appear to be Massad's point that this makes the Arab world's treatment of Arab MSM OK. Rather, his point appears to be that Western gay-rights groups are causing great harm to those they purport to assist by forcing them to either choose the Western "gay" label, or choose not to realize their true sexuality. They do not allow for the current Arabic paradigm which does not connect personal identity with sexual preferences.