Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has proclaimed a war against the community and called on his followers to pray against the ‘terrible abomination.’ His values sound eerily like those of Netanyahu’s ‘Jewish identity’ chief
Zvi Bar’elJan 2, 2023
In a stab at ideological cooperation with the Arab world, Benjamin Netanyahu’s new “Jewish identity” chief Avi Maoz could find a kindred spirit in separatist Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
In early December, al-Sadr launched an all-out war against the LGBTQ community not only in Iraq but worldwide. The Shi’ite preacher called on his followers to pray in public against the “terrible abomination” and to convince a million people who oppose it to sign a manifesto.
Maoz could sign this declaration with pride and joy. It states: “I swear to fight against sexual deviance or against the LGTBQ community by ethical, religious and nonviolent means, and against the violation of the congenital characteristics on which humankind is built. I promise never to use violence of any kind against them. On the contrary, our goal is to guide, educate and prevent them from being drawn into forbidden lusts and the chaotic freedom of lust.”
So that this polite wording won’t be misunderstood, the Baghdad police are removing from streets signs, pictures and flags anything that might hint at support for the LGBTQ community. Al-Sadr’s propaganda campaign spread quickly on social media, and according to the Arab Fact-Checkers Network, which combats fake news in the Arab world, al-Sadr’s declaration launched the opening of over 6,300 Twitter, Facebook and Telegram accounts with names like “No to LGBTQs” and “No to attacking morality.” Tens of thousands of tweets and posts have been retweeted and shared.
It’s hard to know what motivated al-Sadr to unleash his attack, which isn’t the first of its kind, especially since Iraqi law imposes prison sentences for same-sex relations and bars LGBTQ people from serving in the army. Taking precedence over the law is a religious ruling by the top Shi’ite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, prohibiting gay relations and even ordering that LGBTQ people be punished – an order that led to the murder of about 90 members of the community in 2012.
Kuwait has also awakened to the fight against LGBTQ people. The first victim was a chicken fast-food chain whose slogan is “One Love,” borrowed from Bob Marley. But the phrase has become a call for unity and equality among all people, battling discrimination based on origin, race, gender or sexual orientation.
The Dutch soccer association adopted the slogan in 2020, and its players wore the rainbow armband sporting the phrase. As the captain of the Dutch national team, Virgil Van Dijk, put it, “On the field everybody is equal, and this should be the case in every place in society.”
Israel’s aspirations to normalize ties with Riyadh can now also be based on shady cultural values.
This past September, nine European countries announced that they would wear the armband with the slogan at all their games, including the World Cup in Qatar. As we know, that didn’t happen due to pressure from FIFA and the hosts.
The restaurant chain didn’t understand why Kuwaitis on social media singled it out as a supporter of LGBTQ people. Its owners went on the defensive and explained that the “One Love” signs on its restaurants referred to just one thing: “love for grilled chicken and chicken fingers.”
Iraqi Shi’ite preacher Muqtada al-Sadr.Credit: Qassem al-Kaabi/AFP
The explanation wasn’t convincing and the signs were removed. They were replaced by pink-and-blue signs in the streets that made things very clear: “He isn’t like me, I’m a man and he’s a pervert.”
This is a play on words since in Arabic mithlimeans both “like me” and “gay” in the sense of LGBTQ. In fact, the community is dubbed “the m. community.”
The only ray of light flickered for a moment at a film festival early last month in Jedda, Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmanhas been investing huge sums in the industry, which halted operations in the 1970s. These efforts are part of the crown prince’s plan to vary the kingdom’s sources of income, though it’s mainly a lever to improve Saudi Arabia’s image.
A surprise awaited the many visitors to the festival, which would “take place with no censorship,” its director announced. The festival included films that championed LGBTQ themes such as the 2017 hit “Call Me By Your Name,” directed by Luca Guadagnino, and the new Moroccan film “The Blue Caftan,” directed by Maryam Touzani, which was also shown at the Haifa International Film Festival.
As expected, the screening of these movies caused an uproar on social media in the kingdom, where it was claimed that “this is no longer a matter of films with sex scenes. This is a call to adopt sexual perversion,” as one journalist wrote. It doesn’t seem that the showing of “The Blue Caftan,” which centers around a gay Moroccan tailor who hid his sexuality for 25 years, will change the kingdom’s legal and social outlook.
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The Saudi LGBTQ community is persecuted, its members subject to long prison sentences. And now Israel’s aspirations to normalize ties with Riyadh can also be based on shared cultural values like the fight against the LGBTQ community.