Qatar bans homosexuality as Al Jazeera in English marks LGBT Pride Month

Even as the Gulf state cracks down on homosexuality, the June 1 video discusses religion and shows a church, indicating that Christians were “telling our youth that they are different."

June 4, 2019 11:40
LGBT flag on Jerusalem's King George Street, July 31, 2018

LGBT flag on Jerusalem's King George Street, July 31, 2018. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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Qatar bans homosexuality, but the Qatar-backed Al Jazeera’s AJ+ still recently marked June as LGBT Pride Month with a tweet about speaking to the cast of “Queer Eye” on LGBT issues. The interview highlighted “gender visibility, religion’s effect on youth, community through social media and what makes us not so different,” and included rainbow flag symbols.

Even as Qatar cracks down on homosexuality, the June 1 video included a discussion about religion and showed a church, indicating that Christians were the ones “telling our youth that they are different, that they are bad, that they are broken.” The segment showed protests in the US for gay rights and marriage. “You can come from completely different countries,” an interviewee in the video says. The tweet from AJ+ appeals to people to see everyone as individuals.

However, some pointed out online the hypocrisy that in Qatar, where Al-Jazeera is based, the rights that its media seem to support abroad are being silenced. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) - which is dedicated to achieving equal rights for LGBT people worldwide - documents Qatar’s laws against gay rights. According to ILGA, article 258 of Qatar’s legal code condemns any man who “copulates with a male,” imposing a term of seven years in prison. Article 296 condemns to prison anyone who is engaged in “leading, instigating or seducing a male in any way to commit sodomy.”

ILGA says that there is little information on whether the law is enforced but notes that in 1995, a US citizen received 90 lashes for “same-sex activity” and that gay foreign workers have been deported. It also notes that in 2016, Doha News had an article by a Qatari man who was gay; the article was criticized for “allowing the topic of ‘homosexuality’ in Qatar to be discussed.” This is particularly ironic considering that Al-Jazeera in English discusses and encourages recognition of gay rights outside Qatar. Even more hypocritical is the fact that last July, Qatar censored an article in the print version of The New York Times that “related to gay and transgender rights,” the ILGA notes in its 2019 State Sponsored Homophobia report.

A review of Al-Jazeera’s content shows they have a whole section tagged with LGBT rights articles; Qatar’s crackdown is not mentioned. But the country's own media in English critiques and spotlights other countries for crackdowns, such as Kenya, Brunei, and even the United States. For instance, a recent article discusses “anti-gay witch hunts” in Africa.

Online AJ+’s embrace of gay rights while Qatar cracks down was spotlighted. Journalist Oz Katerji tweeted that “homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, with gay sex punishable by between 1 and 3 years in prison.” Numerous people responded to the AJ+ tweet, pointing out the hypocrisy. One quoted the Qatar law, another said that being gay was illegal in Qatar, and another wondered why they don’t have the video in Arabic.

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