Wednesday, July 12, 2006

World religions unite in intolerance

Imagine an issue that could unite Jews, Muslims and Christians in common cause in the city of Jerusalem. There is such an issue. It’s their hatred of gays and lesbians.

August 6th through the 12th will see an international gathering of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual & transgender) people in the Jerusalem for a conference known as WorldPride. The event will culminate in a parade through Jerusalem. Reactions from leaders of various religious groups have not been positive. According to the Washington Post,
"We consider this offensive and harmful to the religious integrity of the city," said Sheik Taissir Tamimi, head of the Islamic court in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"This group of homosexuals, we consider them impure," he said,
calling on Palestinians to take to the streets to prevent marchers from entering
east Jerusalem, where the holy sites are located. They "must not be allowed to
enter Jerusalem."

Rabbi Shlomo Amar, one of Israel's two chief rabbis, wrote a letter
to Pope Benedict XVI, urging him to issue a "strong, emotional, unequivocal
statement against this terrible phenomenon."

"The evil are coming upon (Jerusalem) to desecrate its honor and to
humiliate its glory with acts that the Torah despises and that are despised by
all the religions," Amar wrote. "In addition, they also want to negatively
influence babies, children and teenagers, to ruin them and bring them down the
path of destruction."

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party has submitted a
no-confidence motion against the government over the parade, accusing
authorities of not doing enough to stop it.

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, himself an ultra-Orthodox Jew, has
called for the parade's cancellation, but his office said Tuesday he had no
authority to take such action. The police, who are responsible for authorizing
parades, said they had not decided whether to grant a permit.

Three Christian Zionist groups based in Jerusalem issued a joint
statement condemning the march, saying its choice of venue was intended to spur

"It's provocative, confrontational and it's a PR move. It's a
gimmick," said David Parsons, spokesman for the International Christian Embassy, an Evangelical group that signed the statement. "It exploits what Jerusalem means to us. I don't think it means anything to the gay and lesbian

Archbishop Aristarchous, of the Greek Orthodox church, took a
softer line, calling on "the sanctity of Jerusalem to be respected by them, and
by everybody."

WorldPride 2006 is an international festival being sponsored and organized by Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance. Open House is one of the few organizations in the Middle East that Israelis and Palestinians actually work together and is one of the leading LGBT service and advocacy organizations in the region.

Last year thousands of supporters marked in local gay pride parades. The situation was tense with a lot of name calling and three marchers were stabbed by an ultra-Orthodox Jew. This year an anonymous flyers offers a $4,400 bounty to anyone who kills a marcher.

You can read the stories here about the event in the New York Times and Washington Post.

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