Imam Sayed Nabil Abbas denies that Iraqi Ayatollah al-Sistani issued a fatwa calling for the killing of homosexuals
Original address: http://www.nowtoronto.com/news/story.cfm?content=154121
Author: Glenn Wheeler
Source: NOW, June 22-29, 2006
Original title: A fatwa on queers
It has been understood that we defend the rights of fellow queers elsewhere in the world as an act of global solidarity – but news of eerie happenings this month brings some of those threats uncomfortably close to home. Take the strange detail that the wife of one of the accused in the alleged al Qaeda copycat plot was a ringleader among Muslim parents trying to end the Toronto board of ed’s gay-positive programs.
Then there’s the string of horrific accounts of lesbian, gay and trans murders coming out of Iraq – and an unsettling Canadian connection.
A monitoring group centred in the UK says that queer men and women (or those suspected of being so) are being dragged from their homes and killed in terrifying ways by extremist militias in the Mideast country.
And the religious forces behind the murders have their representatives among us.
This shocking violence has been documented by a group of gay Iraqi exiles doing what they can with a cellphone and a website (http://iraqilgbtuk.blogspot.com).
When I talk to London spokesperson Ali Hili, who once ran a gay nightclub in Baghdad, he’s busy dealing with the reports of five executions and two suicides reported to the group just in the past week.
“People are being killed systematically and routinely for being gay,” Hili says. Some are entrapped after connecting with their murderers online and arranging to hook up. Others are targeted just because they’re considered effeminate.”
Hili’s group forwards the information it receives to Amnesty International, but he complains that AI has so far failed to make any statement about the killings.
AI Middle East rep Nicole Choueiry tells me from London that she can say little because the organization currently has no one in Iraq and is unable to independently confirm reports of attacks. “If these reports are true, then we would be very concerned,” she says.
According to Hili, the U.S. military has been of no assistance, even though one of the victims was a translator for the Americans. “There are a lot of attacks on different people,” military spokesperson Sergeant Mark Diamond tells me earlier this week, as the phones around him ring off the hook with news that two missing U.S. soldiers have been found dead.
But there’s another reason why the Americans might not want to get too militant about the attacks on gays in their midst. One of the key supporters of the U.S. occupation is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiite Muslims and author of a much-reported fatwa blamed for the splurge of attacks against gays. News of the edict published on the Ayatollah’s Arabic website was carried in the New York Times, the Independent and other outlets.
But as of May, the fatwa has been withdrawn from the al-Sistani website. I get little clarification when I place a call to Imam Imam Sayed Nabil Abbas at the Lebanese Islamic Centre in Montreal, who says he is the representative in Canada of the Grand Ayatollah, spiritual leader of this country’s 300,000 Shia Muslims.
Stories of the Grand Ayatollah’s edict, he tells me, are lies calculated to malign His Eminence. “He doesn’t have any particular opinion on these people (homosexuals),” the imam says of his spiritual leader. “I can show you the Vatican opinion. All the religions have the same opinion,” he says.
And the fatwa calling for the death of homosexuals? No such thing. The executions currently taking place in Iraq? “I don’t think that has happened in any society (in the Middle East), only in Saudi Arabia.”
I explain that the fatwa has been widely commented on in the press, but I get nowhere.
But Tarek Fatah of the Toronto-based Muslim Canadian Congress, outspoken opponent of fundamentalism at home and abroad, thinks he understands the disconnect between the imam’s pronouncements and objective reality.
“It isn’t that there’s any doubt that that fatwa was issued or that gays and lesbians have been murdered,” Fatah says. He figures that Imam Abbas is resorting to the principle of taqiyya, which holds that it’s all right to engage in untruths in order to advance the cause of Allah.
It’s difficult to think of a wider chasm than that between fundamentalists like al-Sistani’s supporters and liberated Western homosexuals dizzy with their newfound rights. But more and more of the world is falling under the spell of religion. As well as Iran and Iraq, we now have Hamas in power in Palestinian territory and Islamist militias in control of Somalia.
The lucky queers will escape. Many will end up in Toronto, where they’ll be someone’s co-worker, boyfriend, sex partner or Pride Day partier. But most will not be so fortunate. We’ll be thinking of them on Sunday.