Entries in Gay (11)


Gay Mosque to Open in Paris, Address to Be Secret

Courtesy Ludovic Mohammed Zahed(PARIS) -- Ludovic Mohammed Zahed is braced for controversy, maybe even worse.  A gay Muslim and an expert on the Koran, Zahed plans to open Europe's first gay-friendly mosque in Paris at the end of this month.  He calls it a place of shelter as well as a place of worship.

"We need to have a safe space for people who do not feel comfortable and at ease in normal mosques," Zahed told ABC News.  "There are transgender people who fear aggression, women who do not want to wear head scarf or sit in the back of the mosque.  This project gives hope back to many believers in my community."

"Common prayer, practiced in an egalitarian setting and without any form of gender-based discrimination, is one of the pillars supporting the proposed reforms of our progressive representation of Islam," he said.

"The Unity" mosque will initially operate in a Buddhist temple in a neighborhood in eastern Paris, and will emphasize "accepting everyone as equally God's creation. ...I hope straight men will pray together with gay men and women, everyone," said Zahed who declines to make public the address of the venue, due to security concerns.

Zahed's mosque will honor some Islamic traditions, like Friday prayers (Jumu'ah), and the Muslim marriage contract (Nikah) to bless same-sex marriage.  It will also perform funeral rites (Janazah) for those who have been denied a traditional Islamic funeral based on Sharia law because of their sexual orientation.

"It is a safe place to worship," said Zahed, where no religious questions will go unaddressed.  "Our imams will talk on any taboo topic."

Zahed will be one of three prayer leaders, along with a female French convert to Islam and another man who is being trained.

"Current Islamic ethics may condemn this sexual orientation," Zahed said, "but in fact nothing in Islam or the Koran forbids homosexuality.  Indeed, for centuries, Muslims did not consider homosexuality to be the supreme abomination that they do today."

According to Zahed, renowned Muslim poets wrote odes glorifying handsome boys.  Some were interpreted as metaphors for loving God, but some also seem to reference gay intimate relations.  He argues that homosexuality became criminalized only under European colonialism.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Madonna May Be Charged Under St. Petersburg Anti-Gay Law

Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Pop singer Madonna has ignited controversy on both sides of a new anti-gay law in St Petersburg, Russia.

The Material Girl said in a Facebook posting this week that she plans to speak out against the law during an Aug. 9 concert in the city.

“I will come to St. Petersburg to speak up for the gay community, to support the gay community and to give strength and inspiration to anyone who is or feels oppressed,” Madonna wrote on Wednesday.

“I don’t run away from adversity. I will speak during my show about this ridiculous atrocity,” she added.

The law, which took effect March 11, in part prohibits “the propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia among minors.”

Gay rights activists say it would criminalize even reading, writing or speaking about gay, lesbian, or transgender people. Violations can carry hefty fines, ranging from about $170 for individuals up to $16,700 or organizations and businesses.

The bill’s author, city assemblyman Vitaly Milanov, says he wants Madonna charged under the new law if she speaks out against it during her concert. He said he was willing to attend the show “to control its moral content.”

“I’m ready to personally suffer a couple of hours of her concert,” he told the Russian Interfax news agency.

Madonna spoke out after an op-ed by Masha Gessen, a Moscow-based Russian-American journalist, was published in the New York Times on Monday calling on Madonna to cancel the show and urging tourists and businesses to boycott the city.

For some gay rights advocates her pledge to use the venue to denounce the new law was not enough. A group of Russian gay rights advocates plans to picket the concert, saying Madonna is cashing in on their struggle and urging her to cancel the show.

“The law will stay in force, Madonna will leave and the Russian LGBT-community will be humiliated even more,” Nikolai Aleksev, the head of the LGBT advocacy group Gay Russia, wrote on his blog.

Homosexuality was banned in the Soviet Union and was only decriminalized in 1993, though it was still declared a mental disorder until 1999. It remains highly taboo in Russia. Laws similar to the St Petersburg legislation are now being considered in other regions and the speaker of the Russian Parliament, the Duma, has promised to weigh endorsing it at a national level.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Omar Sharif Jr. Comes Out as Gay, Half-Jewish: "Am I Welcome in Egypt?"

Jason Merritt/Getty Images (NEW YORK) -- The grandson of two-time Golden Globe winning actor Omar Sharif “hesitantly confessed” in an article published Sunday that he is gay and half Jewish, and worried about being welcome in Egypt.

Omar Sharif Jr. wrote in The Advocate, “I write this article in fear. Fear for my country, fear for my family, and fear for myself. My parents will be shocked to read it, surely preferring I stay in the shadows and keep silent, at least for the time being. But I can’t.”

Sharif expressed his disappointment at the recent parliamentary elections, writing that the revolution gave him hope for a “more tolerant and equal society,” but now he is not as hopeful.

“The vision for a freer, more equal Egypt — a vision that many young patriots gave their lives to see realized in Tahrir Square — has been hijacked. The full spectrum of equal and human rights are now wedge issues used by both the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces and the Islamist parties, when they should be regarded as universal truths,” Sharif wrote.

“I write … for fear that Egypt’s Arab Spring may be moving us backward, not forward,” he wrote.

The Jerusalem Post noted that Sharif’s mother is Jewish, making him fully Jewish according to rabbinical tradition.

Sharif wrote that admitting he has a Jewish mother is “no small disclosure” for an Egyptian.

“With the victories of several Islamist parties in recent elections, a conversation needs to be had and certain questions need to be raised. I ask myself: Am I welcome in the new Egypt?  Will being Egyptian, half Jewish, and gay forever remain mutually exclusive identities? Are they identities to be hidden?”

Sharif, an actor like his grandfather, left Egypt in January 2011, just before the revolution. He now resides in the United States.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Russia: ‘Gay Gag Rule’ Now Law in St. Petersburg

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ST. PETERSBURG, Russia) -- An anti-gay law has gone into effect in St. Petersburg, prompting fresh concern from gay rights advocates that it will be used to promote hate crimes against homosexual and transgender individuals.

The new law penalizes what proponents say is the promotion of homosexual activity among children, but detractors say it is part of a wider effort to persecute homosexuals in Russia’s second largest city.

The law, which took effect Sunday, in part prohibits “the propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia among minors.” Gay rights activists say it would criminalize even reading, writing or speaking about gay, lesbian, or transgender people. Violations carry hefty fines up to $16,700.

“This law has little to do with protecting minors,” said Polina Savchenko, director of the St. Petersburg LGBT organization Coming Out, in a statement Monday.

The law has prompted large protests in front of Russian embassies around the world in recent weeks. Homosexuality was outlawed in the Soviet Union and was only decriminalized by President Boris Yeltsin in 1993.

Activists are quick to point out that Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the famed composer and St. Petersburg native, was gay and suggests that even mentioning that fact is now illegal.

“We are offended and outraged by this act by city authorities and will continue fighting for the rights of LGBT citizens until the barbaric law is repealed,” Savchenko said.

She said she fears the law will only “encourage hate” towards the LGBT community.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


China’s ‘Gay’ Penguins Adopt

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HARBIN CITY, China) -- A popular “gay” penguin couple in China has been given a newly hatched chick to care for. The male penguins were given the hatchling because a female penguin was struggling after giving birth to twins, which is rare for penguins, according to the U.K.’s Metro.

“It’s a big job creating a baby penguin. It’s definitely a two-penguin job,” Kevin McGowan of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., told ABC News.

McGowan said that newborn penguins require a great deal of attention and effort to protect. In the rare event of a penguin giving birth to twins, one of the hatchlings can be in danger.

“In birds, it doesn’t matter what sex you are. Both sexes are perfectly capable and absolutely necessary to raise a penguin bird,” McGowan said. “It’s not like mammals where only one sex can feed.”

The penguins were born at Harbin Polar Land in northern China at the end of November. The “gay” penguin couple has been known to try to steal eggs during hatching seasons, according to Metro.

“The [heterosexual] pairs do a display of bringing a pebble, passing it back and forth. The interaction gets the birds going and synchronized for breeding season,” McGowan said. “If [the 'gay' penguins] are doing the same kind of thing, they could be passing the pebble and ready to roll.”

McGowan said that the hatchling will likely not suffer from being separated from its biological parents and could eventually recognize the “gay” penguins as its parents.

“It takes a little while to learn who your parents are,” McGowan said. “Little kids just don’t care who feeds them. All they want is to be fed.”

The Chinese penguins are the second pair of “gay” penguins to recently capture the public’s attention. Buddy and Pedro are two inseparable male birds at the Toronto Zoo, whose impending breakup sparked public outcry in November. They will be reunited in the spring.

The two will be split up approximately one week from now for breeding season. Zookeepers want them to breed with females to help populate the species, which is endangered. But when the breeding season is over, all the African penguins will eventually return to the same enclosure, and “if Buddy and Pedro want to be together … they will be back together,” said Tom Mason, Toronto Zoo curator of birds.

While McGowan said there is no guarantee that the new parents in China will take to the chick, it is a likely possibility that they will not be able to resist.

“A begging baby is a strong stimulus for anyone,” McGowan said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Pushes for More Gay and Lesbian Rights Abroad

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AFP/Getty Images(GENEVA) -- The White House will begin taking a harder look at its allies' treatment of gays and lesbians when reviewing decisions about foreign aid.

In introducing the new policy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at a conference in Geneva Tuesday, "Gay rights are human rights."

President Obama will direct all U.S. agencies abroad to make certain diplomacy and aid programs "promote and protect" the rights of homosexuals.

The new policy could affect aid to certain governments in the Middle East and Africa now receiving large amounts of U.S. backing.  For instance, same-sex activities are forbidden in Pakistan and Afghanistan, while gays and lesbians can be executed in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said the new policy should not be misconstrued since "We are not talking about cutting aid or tying aid, but we are talking about using all of our tools, including assistance, to translate our principles into action."

But Republicans have already come out swinging.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is seeking the GOP presidential nomination, said, “Promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America’s interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money."

Perry claimed the president is, "at war with people of faith in this country.  Investing tax dollars promoting a lifestyle many Americas of faith find so deeply objectionable is wrong."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Clinton: NY Vote Gives Momentum to Gay Rights around the World

US State Dept(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said New York’s vote to allow gay marriage gives momentum to the global movement, but said much remains to be done around the world.

“If we can convince people to speak out about their own personal experiences, particularly within their own families, it does begin to change the dialogue,” Clinton said, referencing a Republican State Senator from the Buffalo area who spurred colleagues to speak about how they would not want loved ones to be discriminated against.

“From their own personal connections and relationships, they began to make the larger connection with somebody else's niece or nephew or grandchild, and what that family must feel like,” she said in an address to a group of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) foreign service officers, during which she was honored with their first annual award for advancing gay rights.

In remarks to the same group last year, Clinton declared that gay rights are human rights, a take on her 1995 Beijing declaration about women’s rights. Since then, Clinton’s diplomats have put that into action around the world, including the U.S. Ambassador to Italy who helped bring Lady Gaga to a gay pride parade in Rome.

“We made it absolutely clear that so far as the United States is concerned, and our foreign policy and our values, that gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” Clinton repeated Monday.

In December, Secretary Clinton made one of the first celebrity “It Gets Better” videos, providing hope to LGBT youth after a spate of high-profile suicides raised the profile of bullying victims.

More recently, the U.S. helped usher in statements of support for gay rights in the United Nations and its Human Rights Council.

Monday, Clinton said despite gains in the past year, “we cannot forget how much work lies ahead.”

“Life is getting better for people in many places, and it will continue to get better thanks to our work,” she said, calling the fight for gay rights “one of the most urgent and important human rights struggles of all times.”

“It is not easy, but it is so rewarding,” Clinton said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


United Nations Votes on Resolution for Global Gay Rights

Comstock/Thinkstock(GENEVA) -- The United Nations Human Rights Council approved a historic resolution on Friday that recognizes and calls for gay rights around the world.

The measure was passed with 23 votes in favor, 19 against and three abstentions.  It was introduced by South Africa and met with opposition from Arab and African countries.

The Obama administration is touting this as evidence of its leadership on an international body that was known more for its blanket criticism of Israel before the U.S. joined in 2009.

The draft resolution, provided to ABC News by a State Department official ahead of the vote, does little more than recognize universal rights and express concern about reports of discrimination, but such a measure would have been unthinkable just a short time ago when countries like Iran used the council to pursue their agenda.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Syria: Mystery Swirls Around Allegedly Kidnapped Gay Blogger

Photodisc/Thinkstock(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- It was an alarming message, echoing widespread reports of the recent brutal crackdown taking place across Syria by government forces. "Amina was seized by three men in their early 20's," the blog post read. "One of the men then put his hand over Amina's mouth and they hustled her into a red Dacia Logan..."

It was the first word about the alleged disappearance of a gay Syrian-American woman named Amina Abdallah Araf. Her "A Gay Girl in Damascus" blog had gained notoriety online as an "out Syrian lesbian's thoughts on life, the universe and so on."

But three days after word was posted about Araf's supposed kidnapping on the blog by someone calling herself Araf's cousin, American officials say they have no record of an American by that name and no one appears to have ever seen or spoken to Araf directly.

Articles were written about the eloquent, brave and knowledgeable Araf, but interviewers only communicated with her by e-mail or online chat. Even a Montreal woman, with whom Araf had exchanged some 500 emails over six months, had never heard her voice.

Making the story all the more confusing are the many pictures supposedly of Araf, photos of a pretty, brown-haired young woman with a mole above her left eyebrow. A Croatian woman living in London with no ties to Syria says the photos were stolen from her Facebook page.

"I've never met her. I'm not part of her blog. I'm not friends with her,'" Jelena Lecic told the BBC. "This has put me in danger. This person is a gay activist in Syria. I really don't feel comfortable."

Araf's blog was noticed at the end of April as the regime of President Bashar al-Assad tried to crush the uprising across Syria that has now claimed around 1,300 lives and resulted in arrests many times higher. She wrote well, had a good knowledge of Syria and admitted her homosexuality in a country where to be gay is illegal.

"I am an Arab, I am Syrian, I am a woman, I am queer, I am Muslim, I am binational, I am tall, I am too thin; my sect is Sunni, my clan is Omari, my tribe is Quraysh, my city is Damascus," she wrote in a post.

On Sunday, just a day before the "cousin" wrote about Araf's disappearance, a poem called "Invitation" was posted that started:

"Look long into my wand'ring eyes Follow my gaze cross these dark'ning skies Place all your trusts in my hands And follow me to other lands"

The next day, someone who identified herself as Rania O. Ismail wrote on the site, "We do not know who took her so we do not know who to ask to get her back. It is possible that they are forcibly deporting her."

Deported, theoretically, back to the U.S. since she said she had claimed to have been born in Virginia, which the State Department has not been able to verify.

The blog has been silent since Monday as speculation flies and the blog posts are picked apart for clues.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Prominent Syrian Blogger Disappears in Damascus

George Doyle/Stockbyte(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Amina Abdallah, a blogger who has gained recognition during the Syrian uprising for her blog "A Gay Girl in Damascus," has disappeared.

Abdallah's cousin wrote on the blog that Amina was taken Monday by three men in their 20s "assumed to be members of one of the security services or the Baath Party militia."

"One of the men then put his hand over Amina's mouth and they hustled her into a red Dacia Logan with a window sticker of Basel Assad," Rania Ismail wrote.

Abdallah describes her blog as "An out Syrian lesbian's thoughts on life, the universe and so on..." --  this, in a country where homosexuality is not just taboo, but illegal.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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