LGBT campaigners in Tunisia claim a man accused of desecrating the Koran in Tunisia is a pawn used by radical Muslims to discredit gays and secularists
A Tunisian man has been exposed on the internet claiming to be gay and to be responsible for ripping up copies of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.
The man had been arrested by Salafists – members of a radical movement in Islam – who also made and posted the video ‘confession’.
But LGBT activists in Tunisia are viewing the video with suspicion, saying that the man appears to be in a ‘psychologically unstable’ condition and seems to be reciting a script by heart that he has been given.
The attack on the copies of the Koran and subsequent capture of the accused man are the latest in a series of incidents highlighting the division between secular and Islamic political movements in the country.
Since the Arab Spring saw a new government dominated by the Islamic movement Ennahda in Tunisia, there have been several scandals which have used homosexuality to damage political opponents.
The war of words reached its peak when Tunisia’s Minister of Human Rights Samir Dilou said on television that ‘freedom of expression has its limits’ and agreed homosexuality was a ‘perversion’ which needed to be ‘treated medically’.
Tunisian editor of Gay Middle East Tarek told Gay Star News: ‘Tunisian homosexuals are faced today a much more serious issue, because it concerns what is most sacred for Tunisians: the Koran.
‘It all started when Salafists tried to tear the Tunisian flag in the university and replace it by their black flag. They also seriously wounded activist girls who became heroes in the eyes of the majority of Tunisians.
‘All people in Tunisia were shocked and the Islamists felt they were loosing the “sympathy” of people also because of several other issues.
‘The ruling party, Ennahda, weakened by the government’s performance and criticized and divided because of its broken promises, has been obliged to condemn the Salafists but it was a hesitant and shy condemnation because everyone understood Tunisians didn’t accept Salafi ideology.
‘The Salafists, themselves, felt betrayed by Ennahda which used to consider them as its armed wing. And they have discovered that even the most conservative Tunisians do not accept their ideology which is far from the majority’s desire for a tolerant and modern Islam.’
Shortly after the flag incident, torn Korans were discovered in three mosques of a city in the south, Ben Gardane.
All Tunisians, Islamist or not, were outraged by these acts and secular parties, progressives and communists were immediately blamed for the incident, invoking the fury of Islamists.
Tarek says: ‘A few days later, on 22 March, a shock video was posted on the internet.
‘It shows a young man, ill at ease, hesitating, confessing that he committed this terrible act.’
In the film he admits that he has profaned the sacred book and hurt millions of Tunisian Muslims. But the video is not all it seems, Tarek believes.
‘The young man seems to be in an psychologically disturbed state, in his speech he seems to have learned by heart what he says: “I love al aelmanya [secularism] because it will allow me to marry a man, I am louti [abusive word for gay, akin to fag in English].”
He adds that he belongs to the pro-secularist aatakni [which literally means ‘Leave me alone’] group. And he repeats again the same sentence, without deviation: ‘I like secularism because it will allow me to marry a man.’
He was arrested by Salafists who made the video and then handed him over to the police.
However, his brother has come forward with proof that he is ill and taking medicine, and said he used to be Salafist.
The accused is now likely to stand trial but lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender campaigners seem certain that he is not gay and instead believe he is a mentally ill Salafist being used as a porn by the religious radicals.
Fadi, editor of Tunisia’s LGBT publication, GayDay Magazine, said: ‘Homosexuality is still employed as a cheap political weapon to discredit each other.
‘Ennahda is in a serious mess in government. It’s not able to respond to the demands of the people and is trying desperately to win time by making up ideological provocations and attacking the seculars.’
Some names have been changed in this article to protect the safety of our sources in Tunisia.
by Dan Littauer, Tris Reid-Smith
Source – Gay Star News