The Muslim world and the marginalized LGBTQ population
New Delhi: Many Muslim countries criminalize gay sex, including World Cup host Qatar. LGBTQ people are routinely shunned by their families, denounced by Islamic authorities, hounded by security forces, and restricted to clandestine social lives. Calls for change from LGBTQ-friendly nations are routinely dismissed as unwarranted outside interference.
On the outskirts of Yogyakarta, an Indonesian city home to many universities, is a small boarding school whose mission seems out of place in a country with more Muslim citizens than any other. Her students are transgender women.
Al-Fatah Islamic School in Yogyakarta was founded 14 years ago by Shinta Ratri, a trans woman who struggled with self-doubt in her youth, wondering if her gender transition was a sin.
She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in biology and then dedicated herself to empowering other trans women to study Islam. Initially there were 20 students at the school, and now around 60 – many of them middle-aged.
Among them is YS Al Buchory, 55, who struggled for years to cope with lack of acceptance by those around her, but now feels at home at school and hopes tolerance will spread in her country.
“Like a rainbow, if there are red, yellow and green colors combined, it becomes more beautiful, rather than just black and white,” she said. “We have to be able to respect each other, to tolerate each other, not to embarrass each other.”
Is Indonesia relatively tolerant?
Compared to many Muslim countries, Indonesia is relatively tolerant. Dozens of LGBTQ organizations operate openly, advocating for equal rights, offering advice, liaising with religious leaders. Only one conservative province, Aceh – which practices Sharia – explicitly criminalizes same-sex relations.
In Aceh, two men were publicly flogged last year – 77 lashes each – after neighbors reported them to the religious police for having sex. Earlier this year, Indonesian Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, in a speech to Muslim teachers, said LGBTQ people engaged in “deviant behavior” that should be banned.
When Disney’s Animated Film Was Banned In The Muslim World For Lesbian Fucking
In many cases, the religious underpinnings of anti-LGBTQ attitudes are associated with resentment of outside pressure from nations that have embraced LGBTQ inclusion. More than a dozen Muslim nations recently banned Disney’s latest animated film “Lightyear” from playing in cinemas due to the inclusion of a brief kiss between a lesbian couple. In Qatar, authorities have urged visiting World Cup fans to respect the local culture – in which LGBTQ activism is taboo.
“Lightyear” features a female character voiced by actress Uzo Aduba briefly kissing his female partner in a scene from the $200 million film. That proved too much for censors in many Muslim-majority countries, where laws often criminalize same-sex relationships.
The countries that have refused to allow the film to be shown are Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United Arab Emirates, Disney said.
LGBTQ in Lebanon
In some countries, apparent advances for LGBTQ people have been followed by setbacks. Lebanon is an example. In recent years, its LGBTQ community has been widely seen as the most vibrant and visible in the Arab world, with some groups advocating for more rights and gay bars hosting events such as drag shows.
Yet many in the community have been reeling from a wave of hostility this year that included a Home Office ban on events described as promoting “sexual perversion”.
Online, some people have railed against Pride events, sometimes citing religious, Muslim and Christian beliefs, to denounce LGBTQ activism. Someone posted an image of a knife cutting through a rainbow flag.
At one point, members of the security forces showed up at the Beirut office of LGBTQ rights organization Helem, executive director Tarek Zeidan said.
LGBTQ in Turkey
In Turkey, which is predominantly Muslim, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has shown growing intolerance of any expression of LGBTQ rights, banning pride marches and removing the display of rainbow symbols.
It’s a marked change for Erdogan, who before taking power in 2003 declared the mistreatment of gay people to be inhumane and called for legal protections.
A Pride march in Istanbul, which had been taking place since 2003 while attracting huge crowds, has been canceled since 2014. In contrast, the government recently allowed a large anti-LGBTQ rally to take place without police interference.
The ruling party is expected to propose constitutional amendments that would protect family values from what Erdogan describes as “evil currents”. Activists fear the amendments will restrict LGBTQ rights and discourage same-sex relationships.
Meanwhile, among Arab countries, most explicitly ban gay sex, including Qatar. It was the subject of intense international scrutiny and criticism before and during the World Cup on rights issues, including questions about whether LGBTQ visitors would feel safe and welcome.
Other Arab countries, such as Egypt, prosecute LGBTQ people on charges of immorality or debauchery. The situation is similar in Iraq; Human Rights Watch says the lack of an explicit ban on same-sex sexual relations has not protected LGBTQ people from violence and discrimination, or occasional accusations of immorality or public indecency.
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