Half of the Countries Where Same-Sex Acts Are Prohibited Are Islamic; Death Penalty in 13

By Patrick Goodenough | June 14, 2016 | 4:14 AM EDT

A man walks past an anti-LGBT banner in Jakarta, Indonesia on March 17, 2016. Same-sex sexual acts are illegal in 73 countries around the world, including 37 Islamic nations. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana, File)

(CNSNews.com) – Half of the countries in the world where homosexual behavior is legally prohibited are Islamic states, and in 13 of those countries, the death penalty is codified in shari’a (Islamic law), in some cases implemented by governments or non-state actors.

According to data compiled by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), updated to June 2016, same-sex sexual acts are illegal in 73 countries around the world.

Thirty-seven of those countries are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the bloc of 57 mostly Muslim-majority countries.

Prohibitions and punishments range in scope and severity, but in 13 countries – all Islamic – homosexual behavior can lead to a death sentence, ILGA reported:

-- In Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen, the death penalty is codified under shari’a and implemented countrywide;

--In 12 northern states of Nigeria, and parts of southern Somalia, the death penalty is codified under shari’a and implemented across the relevant parts of the country;

--In Afghanistan, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar and the UAE, the death penalty is codified under shari’a although it is not known to be implemented; and

-- In parts of Syria and Iraq controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL), the death penalty is carried out by “vigilantes,” or on the orders of local shari’a courts.

(The advocacy group OutRight International has reported that since December 2014, ISIS has killed more than 41 men accused of sodomy in areas under its control, according to the terrorist group’s own accounts, mostly via social media.)

Of the 57 members of the OIC, same-sex acts are prohibited in law in 37 countries and are legal in 18. (In Indonesia, same-sex acts are illegal in two provinces, and in “Palestine,” same-sex acts are illegal in Gaza, but not in the West Bank.)

Sunday morning’s deadly terrorist attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida has drawn strong condemnation from Muslim Americans. But the approach that the Islamic faith and its institutions and governments take towards homosexuality is also raising awkward questions.

It was reported that a Shi’ite cleric, who was recently invited to speak at a Orlando-area Islamic center, had in the past made comments appearing to justify the death penalty for homosexuality.

Farrokh Sekaleshfar, a British-born, Iranian-based cleric, said in a 2013 lecture at the University of Michigan that “death is the sentence” for homosexuality.

“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about this,” Sekaleshfar said at the time. “Death is the sentence. We have to have that compassion for people. With homosexuals, it’s the same. Out of compassion, let’s get rid of them now.” A video clip of the remarks was broadcast by Orlando’s WFTV channel 9 earlier this year, after the cleric was invited to speak at an area mosque.

Contacted by Australian media during a visit to Sydney Monday, Sekaleshfar said those comments applied to situations in countries governed under Islamic law – and even there, he said the death penalty should only be applicable where men have sex with men in public.

He also unequivocally condemned Orlando terrorist Omar ­Mateen and his actions.

Asked by a reporter Monday about the teaching in some mosques that homosexuals should be executed – although in reference to Saudi-funded mosques, not the Sekaleshfar case – State Department spokesman Mark Toner replied, “you know where we stand in terms of tolerance towards LGBTI issues.”

“No matter who we’re talking to around the world, we uphold our values, which include tolerance towards LGBTI,” he said. “We’ve said it many times and we’ll say it again: Gay rights are human rights.”

‘Toxic masculinity’

Meanwhile other voices are seeking to distance Mateen’s mass killing from his religion, attributing it instead to factors such as homophobia and “toxic masculinity.”

“Islam doesn’t foment the violence alleged gunman Omar Mateen enacted, toxic masculinity & a global culture of imperialist homophobia does,” the black community outreach arm of Planned Parenthood Action tweeted on Monday.

“Toxic masculinity enables rapists & rape culture, violent heterosexism & attacks on reproductive freedom,” a second tweet elaborated.

Chase Strangio, an ACLU staff attorney, pointed a finger at conservative Christians.

“The Christian Right has introduced 200 anti-LGBT bills in the last six months, and people are blaming Islam for this. No,” he tweeted.

“I don't care who shooter claimed allegiance to,” Strangio said in a subsequent post, alluding to Mateen’s pre-attack pledge of allegiance to ISIS. “We don’t have to look beyond the hateful culture right here to understand how this happened.”

According to the ILGA report, the 37 OIC countries where same-sex acts are illegal are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Gambia, Guinea, Guyana, Indonesia (South Sumatra and Aceh), Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, “Palestine” (Gaza), Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Togo, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

Same-sex behavior is also prohibited or restricted in law in 36 non-Muslim countries – mostly conservative countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific island nations.

Of the countries where ILGA reports that individuals have been arrested for same-sex behavior, 32 were Islamic countries and 13 were non-Islamic.

The 32 OIC countries were Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cameroon, Egypt, Gambia, Guinea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, “Palestine” (Gaza), Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, UAE, Uganda, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

The 13 others were Antigua and Barbuda, Burma, Dominica, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Malawi, Papua New Guinea, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow