Imam Mushin Hendricks of South Africa examines queer-related passages from sacred Islamic texts at a multi-faith webinar organized by Australia’s Ambassadors and Bridge Builders International abbi.org.au (Part 3 of 3, produced by Barry McKay).
And in NewsWrap: Ghanaian rights activists freed after workshop raid, gay Hong Kong democracy campaigner denied bail, Kyiv Pride raves on Zelensky’s doorstep, Polish theologian fined for hate in Germany, hundreds march conservatively in first Caymans Pride, trans kids sue Tennessee over school bathroom bias, and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Tanya Kane-Parry and Michael LeBeau (produced by Brian DeShazor).
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of August 9, 2021
Sex, Sodom and the Koran!
Program #1,741 distributed 08/09/21
Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle
NewsWrap (full transcript below): A court sites insufficient evidence to free twenty-one fledgling activists attending an LGBTQ rights workshop in a Ghana hotel room in May who were arrested in a police raid and charged with “unlawful assembly” … Jimmy Sham, a pro-democracy gay activist in Hong Kong, has been behind bars since February on charges of violating the National Security Law … defiant Ukrainian activists survive violent counter-protesters to celebrate LGBTQ Pride in front of the offices of President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv … Poland’s government condemns the “inciting hatred” conviction in a Cologne court of a Krakow-based theology professor for offensive anti-queer rants in an article published by the German magazine Theologisches … a first-ever but “respectful” Pride parade is held in the Cayman Islands (with comments at the rally by Governor Martyn Roper and organizer Noel Cayasso-Smith) … 14- and six-year-old trans kids and their parents challenge Tennessee’s law that won’t allow trans students to use the campus bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity … and beyond-the-pale homophobia forces the Central Bank of Egypt to explain that a new design on 10- and 20-pound notes depicting a rainbow over a mosque is not a subversive attempt to promote queer rights, but a security watermark to prevent counterfeiting (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by TANYA KANE-PARRY and MICHAEL LEBEAU, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).
Feature: Queer scholarship in the Abrahamic religions is not new, or even rare in modern theology. It is unusual to have all three major faiths represented around the same table. For the last two weeks, we’ve brought you excerpts from an interfaith webinar organized in Australia by Ambassadors And Bridge Builders International and its founder, former Pentecostal preacher Anthony Venn Brown. This Way Out Sydney-based correspondent BARRY MCKAY presents the third and final part of this series featuring Imam Mushin Hendricks (with series theme music by NORMAN GREENBAUM).
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending August 7, 2021
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle, reported this week by Tanya Kane-Parry and Michael LeBeau, produced by Brian DeShazor
Twenty-one human rights activists in Ghana were freed by a court in the city of Ho on August 5th. They had been arrested in a raid in May for “unlawful assembly,” ironically during a workshop on documenting and reporting rights abuses against LGBTQ people. Chief Superintendent Akologo Yakubu Ayamga told Reuters that the court found there was not enough evidence to convict the 16 women and five men. He said that, “they cannot be brought back to court on the same charges. So they have been freed.” They’ve all been out on bail since June. Private consensual adult same-gender sex is currently punishable in the West African nation by three years in prison. Books and flyers with titles like Coming Out and All About Trans were confiscated by police in the raid as “evidence” of illegal activity. But so-called “promotion of homosexuality” is not a crime in Ghana – yet. The recently introduced “Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values” bill would change that. It would punish any expression of LGBTQ identity or support for LGBTQ people, even providing medical care to LGBTQ people, with up to 10 years in prison. Critics call it the most anti-queer legislation the world has ever seen. Alex Kofi Donkor of LGBTQ+ Rights Ghana finds the bill “simply unacceptable in the 21st century.” He told The Voice of America, “I think this is the time that organizations and countries that believe in human rights begin to speak out about this hate bill … Ghana needs to be called out on the international level.”
A gay pro-democracy activist has been in a Hong Kong jail since February – and could be there for much longer. Thirty-four-year-old Jimmy Sham allegedly violated China’s National Security Law. The law prohibits inciting rebellion and subversion of the state, as well as collusion with foreign powers. It’s being used to crack down on demonstrations supporting the democratic institutions established under British rule, as mainland-supportive Hong Kong officials attempt to reign in personal liberties in the city. The National Security Law took effect in June 2020, and carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Sham was one of almost four dozen activists arrested for participating in an election organized by the Opposition. Amnesty International reports that he has been denied bail repeatedly, and charges that Sham is being punished “simply for speaking out for his community and LGBTQIA+ rights.” Sham helps lead the Civil Human Rights Front and the group Rainbow of Hong Kong, according to Pink News. He married his husband in New York seven years ago. Meanwhile, the Taiwan Gay Sports and Movement Association won’t be sending competitors to the next Gay Games, scheduled to be held in Hong Kong next year. President Yang Chih-chun told Agence France Presse this week that his group wants, “to insure the personal safety of [our] athletes.”
Thugs linked to the white supremacist Tradition and Order group failed to dampen the zeal of an LGBTQ Pride rally in Kyiv. About a hundred activists held a six-hour rave event outside the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 30th. They withstood a steady stream of hurled insults and objects. Activists said that the police were slow to respond to the assault, but finally used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the assailants. Two arrests were reported. Queer activists say Zelensky has failed to advance LGBTQ rights since his election in 2019, even though he ran as a liberal reformer. LGBTQ people have no legal protections in the Eastern European nation, although an LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes bill is pending in parliament. If the Zelensky government cannot at least advance that bill, there were hints this week that Ukraine might find itself in the crosshairs of the European Union, which is cracking down on the anti-queer governments of Hungary and Poland.
That homophobic Polish government lashed out at Germany this week after a court in Cologne fined a conservative Krakow-based theology professor for “inciting hatred.” An article by Dariusz Oko in the German magazine Theologisches criticized what he called the “homosexual influence in the Vatican.” Oko described LGBTQ priests as “parasites” and “cancerous ulcers,” and labeled the movement for LGBTQ rights “homo heresy.” The inflammatory magazine article was an excerpt from Oko’s anti-queer book The Lavender Mafia. Oko’s defenders claim that his writings constitute “academic discussion.” The Church wields considerable political power in Roman Catholic-dominated Poland. To Polish Deputy Justice Minister Marcin Romanowski, “the imposition of penalties” for what he called Oko’s “scientific activities” represents “a threat to fundamental freedoms and European standards.” Munich priest Wolfgang F. Rothe filed the “inciting hatred” complaint against Oko. The Polish theologian plans to appeal the ruling, which carries a penalty of 120 days in jail or a 4800- euro fine – that’s the equivalent of more than 5600 U.S. dollars.
The legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples in the Cayman Islands helped clear the way for the first-ever LGBTQ Pride Parade there. Caymanian Premier Wayne Panton, Opposition M.P. Barbara Conolly and Governor Martyn Roper joined an estimated 600 marchers in Georgetown on July 31st. COVID-19 vaccinations were required for all participants. In his remarks, Governor Roper referenced the British territory’s Civil Partnership Law, which took effect last September: [SOUND/ROPER:] ”Today is a step in the right direction. I think on LGBTQ plus rights we’ve still got a way to go. But we’re making progress, step by step. And I think today, after the civil partnership bill, which was passed, which gives same-sex couples legal rights in our jurisdiction, I think that really helped pave the way for events like this today.” The Cayman LGBTQ Foundation organized the event. Wary of rumored, possibly violent counter-protests along the parade route, they opted for keeping it especially conservative. Pride celebrants were “discouraged” from public displays of affection “in order to maintain a respectful event,” which discouraged some LGBTQ activists from participating. Speaking to the post-parade rally, Foundation founder and president Noel Cayasso-Smith acknowledged their criticism, but thanked opponents for staying home:
[SOUND/CAYASSO-SMITH:] “I grew up here as a Cayman Islander, and this is a truly, truly special day today. And I would like to thank the vast community in the Cayman Islands, who may not have supported us, but did not come out to ridicule us.” Cayasso-Smith said that he looks forward to a “bigger and better” Cayman Islands Pride event in 2022.
The legal arm of the largest queer advocacy group in the U.S. filed suit this week on behalf of two Tennessee trans children and their parents. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is challenging the recently enacted state law that prohibits children from using school bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. Defenders of the measure argue that schools are required to provide “reasonable accommodation” to students or staff who are “unwilling or unable” to use campus facilities that match their birth gender. However, those “accommodations” are limited to a “single occupancy restroom or changing facility.”
The two plaintiffs are identified by pseudonyms for obvious reasons: Alex is a 14-year-old trans boy; Ariel is a six-year-old trans girl. Ariel’s mother says her daughter began transitioning two years ago. While Ariel doesn’t completely understand the law, she told her mother that having to use the boy’s bathroom when she starts first grade next month would be “really weird because I’m a girl.” The case of trailblazing trans student Gavin Grimm may have paved the way for a favorable ruling this time. Earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review appeals court rulings that found in Grimm’s favor regarding similar bathroom/locker room restrictions by his Virginia school district.
Finally, over-the-top homophobia may force the Central Bank of Egypt to change the design of its new 10- and 20-pound polymer bank notes. Social media exploded with denunciations after photos of the new bills appeared on the Bank’s website this week. At issue is the apparent image of a rainbow over a well-known mosque. Some in the socially conservative country presumed that it was the designer’s subtle promotion of LGBTQ rights. One post called it “a great scandal and a sin!” A defensive press statement from the Bank explained that the current designs are not necessarily the final versions. They clarified that the rainbow is simply a secure watermark feature to prevent counterfeiting.
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