Dutch parliament member Samira Bouchibti has reacted to the release this month of Imhalal.com, a search engine which provides starred ratings of results according to their acceptability in Islamic law.
The PvdA (Dutch Labour Party) parliament member says that the new engine should not be used in schools, since it encourages discrimination of gays by filtering out search terms such as ‘homo’ and ‘gay’. She says young Muslims should also have access to information about sexuality and homosexuality. Bouchibti has asked the Minister of Education Ronald Plasterk (PvdA) to check whether ImHalal.com can be kept out of schools and other institutions which are funded by the government.
The site attracted more than 30,000 visitors in its first eight days, says Reza Sardeha of the AZS Media Group in the Netherlands. The developers explain that the search engine allows Muslims access to the internet in a safe and clean environment.
Two members of the Netherlands’ PvDA in Slotervaart are opposing the plans of mayor Ahmed Marcouch to make homosexuality a discussable topic in Islamic circles. According to Marcouch, the position of gays is an issue which strongly moves the ‘ethnic supporters’ of politicians in Slotervaart.
Miloud Bouzrou and Hassan Kattouss oppose the policy on the grounds that it stigmatizes the Muslim community. Says Kattouss, “We’re against the memo because Mr. Marcouch uses Muslims and Moroccans as an argument to stress the necessity of his gay policy. It’s simply not true that Moroccans and Muslims are intolerant towards gays. You should not accuse that Muslim community of something that it’s not.” Marcouch, the local PvdA leader, expects the fraction leader to have a harsh, reproving talk with the two.
A harassed gay minority in a conservative suburb in otherwise tolerant Amsterdam has found a guardian angel in the local Muslim mayor. Ahmed Marcouch, 41, is on a self-appointed mission to end homophobia in Slotervaart, just a stones’ throw from the capital but light-years away from its anything-goes mentality. To make his point, Mayor Marcouch recently invited Amsterdam’s annual Gay Pride parade to pass through his constituency when it takes place in August. “It is necessary to confront this issue, to say that homosexuals are normal people like all of us and that we require them to be respected,” Marcouch told AFP.Slotervaart’s population is mainly of immigrant origin, many of the Muslim faith, like Moroccan-born Marcouch himself who came to the Netherlands in 1979 at age 10. The suburb has recently been in the news for homophobic incidents, with gays being called names, spat on and generally bothered. The community grew particularly restless over gay men using Slotervaart’s De Oeverlanden public park as a place to meet and have sex, a practice known as “cruising”. After gay lobbyists made complaints over incidents of homophobic violence, the local council erected signs in the park indicating the spots where gay sex is known to take place, in a bid to avoid any unfortunate encounters. “For cultural or religious reasons, some people reject homosexuals and compare them to animals,” said Marcouch, who has been Slotervaart’s mayor since 2006 and was a former spokesman for Amsterdam’s mosques. “They don’t see homosexuals as humans. These people can be orthodox Christians, Muslims or immigrants,” he said. On Marcouch’s initiative, the city council recently adopted an action plan for 2009 to 2011 that allows for the opening of a gay cultural centre. It will also permit gay associations to give briefings at schools and will take measures to teach mothers in immigrant households about gay rights in the Netherlands. The mayor has asked municipal police to be extra vigilant about homophobic aggression, and has even organised debates on the topic in mosques to press home his message. More than 55 percent of the 45,000 inhabitants of Slotervaart are of immigrant origin and 22.4 percent are younger than 17 — two groups that Marcouch says are the least tolerant towards homosexuals. Gays themselves make up about 7.5 percent of the population of Amsterdam. “I always say: your freedom to be an orthodox Muslim is the same as that of a homosexual to be homosexual,” said Marcouch, himself heterosexual. “Freedom is guaranteed in the constitution” of the Netherlands. Alix Rijckaert reports.
The film “A Jihad for Love” by American Muslim director Parvez Sharma following gay Muslim men and women in twelve countries, gas won numerous awards, and most recently received the ‘Best Documentary’ award in the GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation) awards in March. Sharma traveled through Iran, Egypt, Turkey, India, South Africa, and others – to examine the experiences of being gay and lesbian in an “intensely Muslim community.” He consciously decided against pursuing his project in America or a Western country in which homosexuality has a markedly different experience of acceptability, but cautioned against wanting to save gays and lesbians in predominantly Muslim countries. Sharma found that many are happy where they are, and do not desire asylum, displacement, or change to a different paradigm. “We tend to assume the Western model of this GLBTQ identity. Unless there’s a pride parade you’re not really free. These ideas are way more complicated than that. Sexuality is so complex in Eastern and Islamic cultures,” he says.”
Ahmed Marcouch, chairman of the heavily immigrant Amsterdam neighborhood of Slotervaart, is taking it upon himself to fight persistent homophobia in the locality, including presenting a memorandum with measures to make the neighborhood more gay-friendly.
Name-calling, being spit on, and harassment are common experiences for gay persons passing street corners – and a number of Muslim youth are believed to be responsible for the attacks, in an apparent clash between the public acceptability of homosexuality in Amsterdam and rejection of homosexuality in Islamic practice.
Marcouch, a Muslim himself who was born in Morocco, is hoping to heal such clashes and put an end to such attacks. He has made an appearance at “Pink Eid al-Fitr” – a gay celebration of the Muslim holiday marking the end of the Ramadan, and debated religious leaders by arguing that Islam and homosexuality can co-exist. “Taking things one step further, we’re going to take the confrontational approach and it will be painful at times,” says Marcouch, who plans to assist the organization of a gay pride parade to start in Slotervaart this year.
Ahmed Marcouch, mayor of the Slotervaart district of Amsterdam, decided that a local Gay Pride parade will pass by establishments in the town. According to the Union of Moroccan Mosques in Amsterdam, local mosques are not happy about the decision, but are not publicly opposing it either. “We have no opinion about it. It is a wish of a district mayor, we don’t need to talk about everything,” said Khalil Aitblal, a spokesperson for the organization.
Aitblal added that the topic of homosexuality is sometimes an issue in mosques “because it’s an issue which people have difficulty with” but stated that he has no desire to make a public case of such discussions. The El Tawheed mosque is also reserved, but for another reason – spokesperson Fahred Zaari said “If we give our religious arguments, it quickly leads to the conclusion that Islam fosters certain aggressive feelings, against gays or against people who think differently. That is quickly understood as a threat, that is difficult.”
The problem, according to Zaari, is violence against gays: “Practice shows that those who trouble gays, or attack, are almost never practicing Muslims. We have religious objections against the homosexual act, that gives no right to injure, threaten or beat anyone. We preach that too.”
Bosnia’s first gay pride festival has been forced underground after 10 people were injured when protestors attacked visitors on the festival’s opening night. Dozens of people chanting “kill the gays” punched, kicked, and threw stones at people leaving the event. Islamic leaders were angry that the festival of pride, which includes art, films, and workshops about sexual minorities, is being held during the Muslim month of Ramadan. Lead organizers of the event said that they are not canceling the festival, but changing the format from public to private, hoping that this will deter some of the harassment and violence.
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The Irish Times
A rightwing thinktank which claimed to have uncovered extremist literature on sale at dozens of British mosques was last night accused of basing a report on fabricated evidence. The report by Policy Exchange alleged that books condoning violent jihad and encouraging hatred of Christians, Jews and gays were being sold in a quarter of the 100 mosques visited. But BBC2’s Newsnight said examination of receipts provided by the researchers to verify their purchases showed some had been written by the same person – even though they purported to come from different mosques. Martin Hodgson reports.
Extremist literature that encourages hatred of gays, Christians and Jews can be easily found at many of Britain’s mosques, according to a new survey. Toby Helm repots.