An Egyptian doctor is facing strong criticism from liberals and conservatives alike for opening a clinic to treat homosexuals, with some charging the clinic has become a meeting place for gays, and others accusing the doctor himself of being gay.
Dr. Awsam Wasfi, 42, offers a "treatment program" for gays that focuses on boosting their self-esteem and enhancing their communication skills, as well as encouraging them to play sports and work on their religious beliefs.
Gay rights organizations in Egypt have lashed out at the psychiatrist for "standing in the way of their human rights" and labeled him "backward" and "ignorant."
The British magazine, Daily Star, ran a lengthy report on the clinic, accusing it of supporting hostile feelings towards gays in Egypt, Wasfi told AlArabiya.net.
Meanwhile, conservatives said the clinic is a form of leniency towards people who they view as apostates who should be persecuted.
But many Islamic scholars have said that Wasfi's book, called Shefaa al-Hobb (Love Recovery), offers a new way to treat homosexuality.
According to Wasfi, many of his patients are unhappy with being gay and are looking for a way out: "Lots of them want to be treated, but their problems are met with scorn. When society rejects them, they feel desperate and lose hope in changing their situation."
Wasfi's methods are not officially recognized, and are at odds with prevailing medical practices, which have not considered homosexuality an ailment since 1973.
"In the West, doctors help homosexuals to accept themselves as they are and to adapt based on their chosen sexual identity…Doctors who try to make homosexuals straight could even be sued by gay rights organizations," he said.
When asked whether homosexuality is genetic or acquired, Wasfi replies, "No child is born homosexual. It is either social or as a result of some childhood sexual abuse."
Wasfi says he prefers not use medication, and that he mostly depends on psychological counseling to encourage patients to communicate better. Treatment usually takes 5 to 7 years, he said, adding that many patients lose hope along the process.
"But lots of them recover eventually. Some are even married with children now," he said.
Wasfi denied that his clinic is a meeting place for gays, saying that he has strict rules against that: "I actually kicked some of them out, yet many came back after realizing the real purpose of the clinic."
Others even accused Wasfi of being gay himself and using the clinic to meet other gays. "I am married with two kids, and I have pictures with them everywhere in the clinic," Wasfi said.
Wasfi said he hasn't advertised anywhere and doesn't have a sign outside his clinic: "It's still a bit embarrassing in a conservative society. I basically depend on word of mouth for the time being."
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).