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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 8, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 27
U.S. Embassy hosts Pride celebration in Islamabad, mullahs outraged
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U.S. Embassy hosts Pride celebration in Islamabad, mullahs outraged

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

U.S. Charge d'Affaires Ambassador Richard Hoagland and members of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) hosted a Pride celebration on June 26, at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.

It was, the embassy said proudly, the 'first ever' in Pakistan's capital city.

According to a statement released by the embassy, 'Over 75 people including Pakistani Gay community leaders attended the meeting.'

Hoagland - who, as deputy chief of mission, is the number-two U.S. diplomat in Pakistan - quoted from President Obama's May 31 Pride Proclamation that, 'we rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.'

Acknowledging that the struggle for LGBT rights in Pakistan is just beginning, Hoagland told his Gay and Lesbian Pakistani guests that the U.S. would assist them.

'I want to be clear: the U.S. Embassy is here to support you and stand by your side every step of the way,' Hoagland said.

While Pakistan's constitution does not address same-sex relations, under the strict interpretation of traditional Sharia law favored by most Pakistani religious scholars, such acts are regarded as immoral and evil and can result in brutal punishment, including whipping, prison, and sometimes death.

The Pride celebration did not go over well with local religious leaders or their political organizations.

Members of Pakistan's largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), described the event as a form of 'cultural terrorism.'

'[Gay people] are the curse of society and social garbage,' JI said in a statement.

'They don't deserve to be Muslim or Pakistani, and the support and protection announced by the U.S. administration for them is the worst social and cultural terrorism against Pakistan.'

Thousands of irate Muslim protestors took to the streets in Pakistani cities.

A JI spokesperson at a mass rally in Karachi called the Pride celebration 'an assault on Pakistan's Islamic culture.'

According to Dawn, an English-language Pakistani daily, Mohammad Hussain Mehnati, a top official with JI, also compared the U.S. Embassy celebration to an act of terrorism.

'We condemn the American conspiracy to encourage [Bisexuality] in our country. They have destroyed us physically, imposed the so-called war on terrorism on us and now they have unleashed cultural terrorism on us,' Mehnati said.

Mehnati added that 'This [event] shows [how] cruel America has unleashed a storm of immoral values on our great Islamic values, which we'll resist at all costs.'

In Islamabad, JI's youth group, burned a U.S. flag in protest, and shouted, 'we are ready for jihad against the U.S.'

A placard at that rally read 'Americans, we will not allow you to spread your vulgar and ugly civilization in Pakistan.'

JI spokesperson Noorul Bashar told Pakistani media that 'through our peaceful rally we want to give message through the media that we will not allow [Gays] to live here and they should be immediately deported out of Pakistan.'

Under Pakistan's secular penal code, homosexuality is a crime punishable by a prison sentence of up to two years. The former military dictator General Zia ul Haq introduced Sharia into the Pakistani legal system in 1978, however.

Now Islamic courts may intervene in legal cases and often stipulate severe punishments for same-sex relations and for other offenses against traditional values, such as adultery, fornication, and alcohol consumption.

Cynics have noted that no punishment has been defined for pederasty, which is reportedly common in tribal areas of Pakistan.

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