by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
An English-language newspaper in Oman has apologized to its readers for an article saying that Oman is more tolerant of LGBT people than other Persian Gulf states.
The newspaper, a weekly appropriately called The Week, published its apology on September 3, although it did not explicitly state what it was sorry for.
'The Week places on record that there was never any intention to knowingly or unknowingly cause harm, offend, or hurt the sentiments of the people with our article last week, and we deeply and sincerely regret the article,' the paper said on its front page.
The offending article traced the story of a young Gay man in the country under the headline 'The Outsiders.'
Looking into the underground Gay scene of Oman, the article compared the country to its neighbors - Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates - and said LGBT people are generally more welcome in Oman.
Same-sex relations are illegal in Oman, punishable by up to three years in prison, and Omani religious authorities immediately denounced The Week for 'promoting Gay sex.'
Tawfiq al-Lawati, a member of the Shura Council, which advises Oman's sultan, was furious.
'The problem [with homosexuality] is understandable. However, promoting such an actor and projecting Oman as a safe haven for homosexuality is unacceptable,' he said, adding the article 'damaged Oman's reputation.'
The Oman Journalist Association also 'strongly condemned' the article and called on the Ministry of Information to prevent publication of damaging articles in the future.
'The OJA considers this a setback in the history of Omani journalism,' the group said. 'We call on the authorities to suspend [The Week's publishing] license and bring the perpetrators to justice and punish all of those who stood behind it.'
'LIBERAL' BY COMPARISON
A traditionalist Islamic monarchy, Oman is not exactly accepting of LGBT people, but according to Reuters, Gay relations are usually prosecuted only if they cause 'scandal.'
In other Gulf states, Gay people routinely suffer long prison sentences, flogging, chemical castration, and even the death penalty in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Oman is relatively liberal in other ways, too. Omani women have been allowed to vote since 2002, and in 2004 Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the nation's supreme ruler, named a woman to his cabinet.
The sultan, who overthrew his father in a 1970 palace coup, rules by decree, however.
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