US-based anti-LGBT activist Brian Brown traveled to Russia to build support for his new International Organization for the Family and its recently launched manifesto. In Politico, Casey Michel examines the evolution of the relationship between Russian social conservatives and the American Religious Right during Putin’s reign.
Kindle Magazine’s February 2017 issue is devoted to the discussion of terrorism perpetrated in the name of Islam. Among nearly a dozen articles and essays is Udayan Dhar’s “The Blood Soaked Closet,” which examines anti-LGBT violence in Muslim societies:
To tackle the question of history first, many of us often wonder why is it that while the rest of the world is generally moving forward on gay rights, Muslim societies are moving backwards. In fact, even in relatively moderate Muslim countries like Indonesia, the call for criminalization of homosexuality is getting stronger and shriller. But has it always been this way? Studying Muslim history suggests otherwise. Same-sex love thrived both openly and in secret during Muslim rule in India, among other places. Terry, an Englishman who visited India in the sixteenth century, wrote about Emperor Jahangir’s personal establishment where he kept ‘little boys’ for ‘wicked use’. Alauddin Khilji was in love with his slave Malik Kafur. Amir Khusro’s poetry had lightly disguised homoeroticism. And Dargah Quli Khan’s travel accounts indicate that homosexual men were well integrated into the culture of cities such as Delhi.
What then, has created this situation of extreme hostility towards LGBT people in Muslim countries today where members of the community live in constant terror of being discovered and ostracised, or worse: maimed or killed? Saleem Kidwai, co-editor of the classic ‘Same-sex Love in India’ believes that the hardening attitudes have as much to do with geo-politics as they have to do with history. “This has to be seen as a part of the larger move towards fundamentalism”, he says over an email interview. “Anti-LGBT sentiments go along with misogynistic and anti-democratic attitudes in general. As we have argued in our book, colonialism played a major role in this. A lot of these countries inherited the British anti-sodomy laws and attitudes. And those that didn’t, have had Western supported anti-democratic regimes. The Saudis and the other sheikhdoms in the middle-east are good examples of well-springs from which conservative attitudes towards sex and women have been spreading.”
That indeed is a thought to ponder upon. Among the many what-ifs of the modern world, one of the most intriguing ones would be to question how the Muslim world, especially the middle-east would have shaped out with zero Western influence. Would the Arab world have been a thriving secular democracy? Or without the support of American military power, would it have regressed into several ISIS-like fragments competing among one another? And ultimately, what effect would that have had on minorities, women and queer people in those territories? I am keener to believe in the former. After all, countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia – despite all their ongoing troubles with Islamism- provide a clearer picture of what Muslim countries without too much American interference would look like.
International Business Times reported earlier this month that an Arabic-language pro-LGBT hashtag trended worldwide
In the Washington Post, Emma-Kate Symons published an op ed with the not-so-subtle title, “How Pope Francis can cleanse the far-right rot from the Catholic Church.” In the column, she urges Pope Francis to “take tougher action against the United States’ most influential Catholic in Rome, Cardinal Raymond ‘Breitbart’ Burke.” A sampling:
The renegade cleric is not only undermining Francis’s reformist, compassionate papacy, and gospel teaching as it applies to refugees and Muslims, but the rebel prince of the church is also using his position within the walls of the Vatican to legitimize extremist forces that want to bring down Western liberal democracy, Stephen K. Bannon-style. Simply put, the Vatican is facing a political war between the modernizing Pope Francis and a conservative wing that wants to reassert white Christian dominance…
Noting that Burke had been demoted by Francis, Symons says,
But the virulently anti-Islam (“capitulating to Islam would be the death of Christianity”), migrant-phobic, Donald Trump-defending, Vladimir Putin-excusing Burke is unrepentant and even defiant, continuing to preside over a far-right, neo-fascist-normalizing cheer squad out of the Holy See.
This Vatican operation, called Dignitatis Humanae, or the Institute for Human Dignity, whose advisory board includes two of the four cardinals openly challenging Francis on marriage and sexuality, is slavishly promoting Burke’s favorite American white Catholic nationalist, Bannon, with star billing on its home page. The institute’s top office-bearers, Burke and his henchman, the media-savvy Breitbart contributor Benjamin Harnwell, are also encouraging Benito Mussolini fan Matteo Salvini, of Italy’s Northern League, and Muslim-baiting far-right Catholic poster girl Marion Le Pen, the National Front “rising star” niece of party leader Marine Le Pen in France.
As the Italian press first revealed, Burke held a long meeting last week at his Vatican home with Salvini, a fierce critic of the pope who wants to push refugees back into the sea and close all mosques in Italy. It was a flagrant political intervention on the side of the extreme-right racist grouping ahead of the Italian elections. Mysterious posters also appeared around the Vatican decrying a sinister-looking pope’s “decapitation” of the Malta Knights order.
Speaking of Breitbart, the far-right site published a post complaining about Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN’s recently appointed independent expert charged with investigating discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity:
In a recent public consultation, the UN’s newly appointed “independent expert” on the defense of LGTB rights, Vitit Muntarbhorn, said that negative moral judgments on homosexual activity were a recent phenomenon, stemming from “colonial law.”
“More recently, in colonial law, or remnants of colonial law, gays were criminalized, are criminalized, even though beforehand they were not criminalized,” he claimed during the Jan. 25 conference.
When challenged about the clash between LGBT rights and religious freedom by Henk Jan van Schothorst of the Transatlantic Christian Council, Muntarbhorn said that religious freedom is not absolute and must yield to homosexual rights.
“There are some absolute rights,” he said in apparent reference to LGBT rights, “but there are some that are not absolute.” He went on to explain that “freedom of expression and expression of religion” are not absolute rights and that they can be curtailed when necessary.
While praising a desire to engage with the “heart of religion,” Muntarbhorn said this should be done “without the mythology overriding the heart of the religion.”
England: Retired bishops slam recent church report for not listening to gay Christians
The letter comes ahead of a debate at the general synod on Wednesday, which includes the issue of gay marriage.
The Church published an official report on sexuality last month after three years of “shared conversations” with the LGBT community and other Christians.
The report maintained the position that marriage in church should remain the lifelong union of a man and a woman.
Among the signers of Peter Selby, bishop of Worcester:
“The people who entered those conversations who were gay or lesbian, or had had various difficult experiences in their lives because of their sexuality, they entered those conversations knowing that they would have to reveal themselves in a circumstance in which that might carry a price in terms of their life and their career.
“They feel that what’s come out here is a betrayal in the specific sense.
“All sorts of ideas are in this report about what they would have wanted, which I don’t think are accurate.”
Hungary: Mayor seeks to import white Christians, ban Muslims and LGBT people
BBC reports on the village of Asotthalom, two hours from Budapest, where the mayor wants to ban gays and Muslims. The mayor seeks to boost the town’s sagging population by settling new families, but only white Hungarian and western European Christians. “We are a white, European and Christian population, and we want to stay like this.” Hungary will host the next global World Congress of Families summit in May.
Colombia: Transgender biologist who teaches at Jesuit university becomes arole model
Human Rights Watch profiles Brigitte Baptists, a biologist and expert on biodiversity, who “bas become an important role model for LGBT people in education settings” in this “predominantly conservative Catholic country.” Baptiste says that when she teaches, many people want to talk with her about her life as a transgender woman:
When you are a transwoman with my looks, you have no choice but to be open and honest about yourself. Colombia is a conservative country, where religion is dominant. The idea that you are free to choose who you want to be is appealing to many people.
HRW reports that the Jesuit-run Javeriana Univeristy, one of the places she teachers, is supportive of her and transgender students.
Canada: Government criticized for changes that leave LGBT refugees stranded in Turkey
The Canadian government has drawn criticism for reportedly “ending a program that resettled hundreds of persecuted [LGBT] Iranians.” Arsham Paris, executive director of the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees, told the CBC that some “1,200 LGBT people from places like Iran, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia who have left their home countries for Turkey and are now waiting to be granted refugee status.” Said Parsi:
Turkey is not a safe country for homosexuals. So they become more conservative, and there is a lot of religious homophobia. Even Turkish LGBTs are not safe in their own country, so for someone who is foreign, who is a refugee, who doesn’t have support or an understanding of the Turkish language, there are a lot of challenges. The worst thing is they are being discriminated against or assaulted by other refugee groups, as well.
Uganda: Profile of pastor who works to challenge religious homophobia
Kuchu Times profiles Samson Turinawe, pastor and director of Universal Love Ministries, whose work is described as “sensitizing religious leaders about gender identity and sexual orientation, sexuality, human rights as well as spirituality in relation to all these.”
Tanzania: Health Minister orders men he says are gay to turn themselves in to police
The BBD reported that Deputy Health Minister Hamis Kingwangala “ordered three men who he accuses of being gay to report to police for questioning—or risk arrest.” Same-sex sexual activity is forbidden and punishable by life imprisonment under a section of the criminal code forbidding “offences against morality.”
South Korea: Activists denounce LGBT-free education guidelines
LGBT equality activists called on the Education Ministry to do away with new sex education guidelines that exclude LGBT topics. According to the Korea Herald, “The government remains reluctant to bring the LGBT topics to the fore in the education field, citing anti-LGBT sentiments in the country. It said that it requires a social consensus and long-term discussion to include homosexuality in its education curriculum.”
Ukraine: LGBT activist among the disappeared in separatist-controlled area
Human Rights Watch reported that a Russian LGBT activist is among people missing in the separatist-controlled area of the Donetsk region, and “are feared to be victims of enforced disappearances.”
A 2016 report by Anti-Discrimination Center Memorial, a Russian rights group based in Saint Petersburg, says that the situation for the LGBT community in the separatist-held Luhansk and Donetsk regions has drastically deteriorated since the beginning of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014. In September 2014, the de facto authorities of the separatist-held Luhansk region said they were considering a death sentence for homosexuality.
Human Rights Watch research found that local security services in both separatist-held regions operate without any adherence to the rule of law, and are not subject to checks and balances. Anyone they detain is fully at their mercy, and the victim’s relatives have no one to turn to.
Nepal: Activists call for changes in civil and criminal code
Pahichan reports from Kathmandu that local human rights activists have submitted a memo to Speaker Onsari Gharti calling for changes to provisions of the civil and criminal code that violate the rights of women and gender and sexual minorities.
Albania: Activists seek to build on LGBT progress with partnership recognition
Kristi Pinderin, head of PRO LGBT, announced that the group would file a lawsuit seeking legal recognition for same-sex partnerships. That would build on other progress over the past decade, such as the inclusion of LGBT people in nondiscrimination and hate crimes laws.
Australia: Poll shows government would improve standing if it allowed marriage equality vote
Guardian Australia reports that new polling suggests that “71% of people would look more favourably on the Turnbull government if it allowed a free vote on same-sex marriage instead of holding a plebiscite, including 64% who lean to voting Liberal.”
The new polling by Galaxy, commissioned by Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, was undertaken in early February and was based on an online survey of 1,000 respondents aged 18 and over.
It underscored the community support for marriage equality and suggested a beleaguered government could get a boost from finally resolving the issue.
But the new poll also suggested that 45% of the sample opposed exemptions allowing civil celebrants and businesses to refuse services to customers based on religious beliefs. Almost two-thirds – 65% – would oppose such exemptions if they were specific to same-sex couples.
The committee report is expected to contain differences on issues of religious freedom and whether it is reasonable to allow conscientious objections to same-sex unions.
Honduras: LGBT activist seeks to become first openly LGBT person in Congress
Erick Martinez, coordinator of the Human Rights Committee of the Diversity Movement in Resistance, is running to become the first openly LGBT person elected to the Honduran Congress. The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers reports:
Martínez is running on a platform that includes improving the Honduran health care system and access to it, eradicating violence against women and strengthening the country’s primary education system.
“The problem of violence is a health condition,” said Martínez.
Martínez spoke with the Blade less than 48 hours after gang members killed five people during a wake that was being held in Mirador de Oriente, a poor Tegucigalpa neighborhood, for a bus driver who had been murdered. The 20-year-old man was killed in the same house in which the massacre took place…
Rene Martínez, an activist and “well-known” member of the National Party, which is right-wing and has strong ties to Honduras’ Roman Catholic and evangelical churches, in the city of San Pedro Sula, was strangled to death last June. Cattrachas, a Tegucigalpa-based lesbian feminist network, notes 229 LGBT Hondurans are known to have been killed between 2009-2016.
New Zealand: Plans to offer reversal of convictions for old sodomy law violations
The government is planning to create a process allowing men convicted under a pre-1986 law against same-sex activity to apply to have their convictions reversed.
China: Man whose marriage equality suit rejected by court not giving up
The South China Morning Post published an interview with Sun Wenlin, whose effort to get a marriage license to marry his partner Hu Minglian was denied by a court.
Japan: Will recognition of same-sex parternships go national?
At East Asia Forum, Curtin University’s Yasuo Takao examines the propsects for recognition of same-sex partnerships to expand from the local level to nationally.
Scotland: Footballer joins anti-bullying campaign
Retired soccer player – or footballer in local parlance – Derek Ferguson has become a spokesperson for the Time for Inclusive Education campaign, “which is currently lobbying the Scottish Government to introduce LGBT education into schools in order to tackle high rates of homophobic bullying.” More from Glasgow Live:
Ferguson said: “We have been educating against racism and sectarianism in Scotland for over 10 years and we passionately believe that raising awareness amongst young people about the issues some of their peers may be facing helps build empathy and breaks down barriers between young people. Tackling LGBTI bulling is just as important, young people need to understand the consequences of LGBTI bullying and learn to develop good relationships and respect the differences between people, regardless of what those differences may be.”