Qatar-Owned Al Jazeera Marks LGBT Pride Month, Ignores Qatar’s Repressive Policies

A general view shows the newsroom at the headquarters of the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite channel in Doha 14 November 2006. The English-language version of Al-Jazeera's launches 15 November 2006 after a year-long delay. The pan-Arab TV station is out to capitalise on the strategic importance of London as a European …
AFP/KARIM JAAFAR KARIM JAAFAR / AFP

Al Jazeera over the weekend marked the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month in June, although the news channel’s owner Qatar is one of several Muslim-majority countries where the act of homosexuality may be punished by death or life in prison under an interpretation of sharia law.

In a video posted on Twitter by the online media outlet AJ+, a component of the Al Jazeera Media Network (AJMN), the state-owned appears to blame homophobia on Christianity.

While showing footage of a church and priests, the video suggests it is Christians who are “telling our youth that they are different, that they are bad, that they are broken.”

According to the CIA World Factbook, only 14 percent of Qatar’s population is Christian while nearly 70 percent is Muslim. Yet, the tiny Gulf country criminalizes homosexuality, unlike the vast majority of Christian-majority Western nations.

On Sunday, AJ+ tweeted the video marking the LGBT Pride Month in June with the caption, “We spoke with the ‘Queer Eye’ guys about how to improve the lives of LGBTQ people across the world.”

Even as Qatar continues to crack down on homosexuality, AJ+ noted that 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, the Jerusalem Post pointed out on Tuesday.

A review of 
several stories posted on the English version of the state-owned news channel under the “LGBT News” tag criticize several countries, including Kenya, Brunei, and even the United States, for homophobia and other anti-LGBT policies while staying silent on Qatar’s punishment for same-sex acts, which could include the death penalty.

The Jerusalem Post pointed out:

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 [285] 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.”

In a 2019 report titled, “State-Sponsored Homophobia,” ILGA, echoing the Washington Post and the Guardian, reveals that the maximum punishment in the country for being gay “shall be life imprisonment” or “capital punishment.”

“Along with Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen could eventually apply the death penalty for same-sex sexual relations if they take the public stance that they are considered ‘harmful to society.’ Even so, to date there are no records that this penalty has been imposed on LGBT persons in these,” the report acknowledges.

Last July, ABC News revealed that Qatar “censored” a New York Times article on gay and transgender rights as the Gulf Arab nation prepares to host millions of international visitors for the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar is one of more than 70 countries that criminalize gay relationships, the Guardian pointed out in 2017, citing a report from ILGA that echoes similar studies.

According to the Guardian, the “most draconian” punishments are meted in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, home to predominantly Muslim countries.

The Guardian’s findings derived from ILGA are consistent with a 2016 Washington Post investigation in the wake of one of the deadliest mass shootings ever in the United States, carried out by an American citizen of Afghan descent at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

In Qatar, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Mauritania, “the potential exists for a death penalty to be handed down under sharia courts,” the British news outlet reported.

The Washington Post reported in 2016:

The [death] sentencing [for homosexuality] derives from an interpretation of sharia law. There are some in which provisions for the death penalty exist but have never been carried out. In others that we haven’t included, non-state actors who control swaths of land either summarily execute or sentence homosexuals to death. …Sharia law in Qatar applies only to Muslims, who can be put to death for extramarital sex, regardless of sexual orientation.

Sharia, which draws on the Quran, does call for the execution of people who engage in homosexual acts. Many prominent Muslim scholars have affirmed the homophobic mandate, deeply ingrained in Islamic law.

The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), the Afghan Taliban, and other jihadist groups are also known to brutally execute homosexuals, at times justifying their actions, including throwing victims off cliffs or buildings, with verses from the Quran.

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