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Chief Mufti of Russia Urges Violence Against Gays:

The Independent (U.K.) reports on the cancellation of Russia's first planned gay pride parade; the city government refused to allow the parade, and the Independent cites outraged reactions from religious leaders as a major reason. The Russian Orthodox religious leaders are quoted as harshly condemning homosexuality, but the chief Muslim mufti goes further:

Earlier this week Chief Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin warned that Russia's Muslims would stage violent protests if the march went ahead. "If they come out on to the streets anyway they should be flogged. Any normal person would do that -- Muslims and Orthodox Christians alike ... [The protests] might be even more intense than protests abroad against those controversial cartoons."

As Andrew Sullivan points out, this isn't just some minor extremist -- Tadzhuddin is part of the Russian Muslim leadership. (Despite the Chief Mufti title, I'm not sure I can label him the chief Muslim cleric in Russia, since a quick newspaper search suggests that there are three different Muslim organizations in play there, and Tadzhuddin is the chief mufti of one; but it seems pretty clear that he's quite prominent.) Oh, and he seems like a moderate by the standards of some Muslim leaders: RTR Russia TV reported (thanks to BBC Monitoring, Feb. 10, for the pointer) that he criticized riots over the Mohammed cartoons, saying that "various ultimatums and threats are absolutely inappropriate. This is unacceptable from the point of view of Islam, the very ideology of the Koran, and even international rules, because harming innocent people is banditry." But flogging homosexuals is just fine.

Another source (Novye Izvestia -- in English, "New News" -- as reported by What The Papers Say) reports that "According to Tadzhuddin, the Prophet Muhammad taught that homosexuals should be killed, since their activities lead to the extinction of the human race." "Umar Idrisov, head of the Muslim Religious Directorate in the Nizhniy Novgorod region," is also reported to have said, "Homosexuals ought to be stoned," and not in the Bob Dylan sense, I think.

Fortunately, "Nafigulla Ashirov, co-chairman of the Mufti Council of Russia [and one of Tadzhuddin's adversaries], provided a symmetric response (recalling Tadzhuddin's unusual opinion about the cartoons) in an interview with Echo of Moscow Radio: 'I don't think we have the right to beat up or kill anyone. Such actions are unacceptable for us, since doing so would be illegal.'" Pleased to hear that you're in favor of following the law, Mr. Co-Chairman; might there also be some other reason, though, why you shouldn't beat up or kill people?

I should stress that, as best I can tell, Russian society is quite hostile to gays; the Independent article reports that "An opinion poll last year showed 43 per cent of Russians believed gay men should be incarcerated." (By comparison, a 1998 Time poll of Americans -- the most recent I could find -- reports that,when asked, "Do you think that homosexual relations between consenting adults should be legal or illegal?," 33% of respondents said "illegal," and even that is a less punitive position than calling for outright incarceration.) The nastiness can't be laid entirely at the feet of parts of the Russian Muslim community. But it can't be laid entirely at someone else's feet, either.

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