Saudi Arabia’s top religious body has declared homosexuality to be ‘one of the most heinous crimes’.

According to a statement by the official Saudi Press Agency, Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh said that homosexuals are a ‘disgrace and shameful in this world and the hereafter’. He also added, “Human rights… are first and foremost within God’s law and not in the perverted desires that sow corruption on Earth.”

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His comments followed a statement by Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi who expressed reservations about the usage of the terms ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’ in a UN General Assembly draft on democracy.

One Of The Most Dangerous Countries To Be LGBTQI

Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh

Saudi Arabia’ de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is trying to project a moderate, business-friendly image of his kingdom to try and boost investment and diversify the economy away from oil. Recent years have also seen an increase in investments in tourism, entertainment, and sports sectors.

However, despite these attempts, homosexuality and atheism, among others remain illegal in Saudi Arabia, with the country being considered one of the most dangerous for LGBTQI people.

There are no laws in Saudi Arabia that specifically penalise same sex relations, according to Equaldex. However, same-sex relations are illegal in Saudi Arabia. Punishment ranges from fines, lashing, prison, deportation or death and a second arrest resulting in execution.

Whitewashing Government Abuses

According to a recently-published report by The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Islamic Republic of Iran, are among the countries suspected to have executed gay people.

“Possible executions were identified in at least two countries (Iran and Saudi Arabia), with an additional number of summary executions carried out by insurgent groups that gained effective control over a certain portion of territory in at least six other countries (Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan),” noted the ILGA World report.

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“There is full legal certainty that the death penalty exists as a prescribed punishment for consensual same-sex sexual activity in Brunei, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen,” the report said.

‘Saudi authorities are sparing no expense to portray the country as tolerant and reforming, but contradicting state orthodoxy on religion still results in a decade-and-a-half prison sentence,’ said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“Performers involved in events supported by the Saudi government should think long and hard about whether they are helping to whitewash the government’s abuses.”

Lewis Hamilton’s Defiant message

Alongside human rights organisations, British racing driver Lewis Hamilton took a stand recently against anti-LGBTQI laws at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

He defiantly wore a rainbow Pride helmet during the race. The helmet was composed of the Progressive Pride Flag with a message on the back that stated: “We Stand Together”. He took the chequered flag in the race that saw him colliding with fellow driver Max Verstappen, who came in second place.

“Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn’t say I do. But this was not my choice. Our sport has chosen to be here and whether it’s fair or not, I think that, while we’re here, its still important to do some work on raising awareness,” Hamilton said previously.

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“A lot of change needs to take place and our sport needs to do more,” said Hamilton.

“I believe everyone should have equal rights, freedom of speech, freedom of movement,” he told Sky Sports. “And there’s places where that’s not allowed. Places such as here where the LGBT community, there’s prison time, the death penalty and restrictions for people being themselves. And I don’t believe in that.”

He continued: “Religions can change, rules can change, rulers can change those things… they have the power to. We don’t choose where we’re going, others have chosen for us to be here so we have to make sure we apply the pressure on them to make sure that they are doing right by the people in those places.”

Out British Olympic gold medalist Tom Daley in his Alternative Christmas message on December 25, 2021, had called out sports leagues for allowing homophobic countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

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