(CNSNews.com) – Public protests by Pakistani Islamists happen frequently, but on Monday the target was a new one – the recent hosting by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad of its first-ever lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) “pride celebration.”
In recent months, protests on Pakistani streets have covered issues including alleged “blasphemy” against Islam, the arrest of a CIA contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis, the Osama bin Laden raid, and the continuing controversy over drone-launched missile strikes along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
The June 26 event at the U.S. Embassy provided a new theme for Islamists looking for a reason to chant anti-U.S. slogans, threaten jihad, and burn American flags on the Fourth of July.
On that day, Richard Hoagland, the number two diplomat at the mission, co-hosted a meeting with Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, an organization that represents gays and lesbians at the State Department, USAID and other agencies.
The embassy said the meeting aimed to demonstrate “support for human rights, including LGBT rights, in Pakistan at a time when those rights are increasingly under attack from extremist elements throughout Pakistani society.”
Hoagland told the Pakistani LGBT advocates that “the U.S. Embassy is here to support you and stand by your side every step of the way.”
President Obama at the end of May proclaimed June to be gay pride month.
Organized by religious groups, including the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) political party, the protest rallies on Monday were held in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore, according to local media reports.
“They have destroyed us physically, imposed the so-called war on terrorism on us and now they have unleashed cultural terrorism on us,” JI representative Mohammad Hussain Mehnati was quoted as telling the Karachi rally.
Members of the JI youth wing burned an American flag in Islamabad.
A JI leader, Munawar Hassan, told the daily The Nation that the embassy had violated the law of the land, and the government should take action.
“Being a Muslim state, Pakistan follows Islamic rules and regulations, which strictly forbids gay, lesbian marriages and celebrations,” he said.
Section 377 of Pakistan’s Penal Code states, “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than two years nor more than ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
Homosexual activity also is prohibited under shari’a.