Man masquerading as gay accused of blasphemy in Tunisia

LGBT campaigners in Tunisia claim a man accused of desecrating the Koran in
Tunisia is a pawn used by radical Muslims to discredit gays and secularists

By Dan Littauer

A Tunisian man has been exposed on the internet claiming to be gay and to be
responsible for ripping up copies of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

The man had been arrested by Salafists – members of a radical movement in
Islam – who also made and posted the video 'confession'.

But LGBT activists in Tunisia are viewing the video with suspicion, saying
that the man appears to be in a 'psychologically unstable' condition and seems
to be reciting a script by heart that he has been given.

The attack on the copies of the Koran and subsequent capture of the accused
man are the latest in a series of incidents highlighting the division between
secular and Islamic political movements in the country.

Since the Arab Spring saw a new government dominated by the Islamic movement
Ennahda in Tunisia, there have been several scandals which have used
homosexuality to damage political opponents.

The war of words reached its peak when Tunisia's Minister of Human Rights
Samir Dilou said on television that 'freedom of expression has its limits' and
agreed homosexuality was a 'perversion' which needed to be 'treated medically'.

Tunisian editor of Gay Middle East Tarek told stated: 'Tunisian homosexuals
are faced today a much more serious issue, because it concerns what is most
sacred for Tunisians: the Koran.

'It all started when Salafists tried to tear the Tunisian flag in the
university and replace it by their black flag. They also seriously wounded
activist girls who became heroes in the eyes of the majority of Tunisians.

'All people in Tunisia were shocked and the Islamists felt they were loosing
the "sympathy" of people also because of several other issues.

'The ruling party, Ennahda, weakened by the government's performance and
criticized and divided because of its broken promises, has been obliged to
condemn the Salafists but it was a hesitant and shy condemnation because
everyone understood Tunisians didn't accept Salafi ideology.

'The Salafists, themselves, felt betrayed by Ennahda which used to consider
them as its armed wing. And they have discovered that even the most
conservative Tunisians do not accept their ideology which is far from the
majority's desire for a tolerant and modern Islam.'

Shortly after the flag incident, torn Korans were discovered in three mosques
of a city in the south, Ben Gardane.

All Tunisians, Islamist or not, were outraged by these acts and secular
parties, progressives and communists were immediately blamed for the incident,
invoking the fury of Islamists.

Tarek says: 'A few days later, on 22 March, a shock video was posted on the

'It shows a young man, ill at ease, hesitating, confessing that he committed
this terrible act.'

In the film he admits that he has profaned the sacred book and hurt millions
of Tunisian Muslims. But the video is not all it seems, Tarek believes.

'The young man seems to be in an psychologically disturbed state, in his
speech he seems to have learned by heart what he says: "I love al aelmanya
[secularism] because it will allow me to marry a man, I am louti [abusive word
for gay, akin to fag in English]."

He adds that he belongs to the pro-secularist aatakni [which literally means
'Leave me alone'] group. And he repeats again the same sentence, without
deviation: 'I like secularism because it will allow me to marry a man.'

He was arrested by Salafists who made the video and then handed him over to
the police.

However, his brother has come forward with proof that he is ill and taking
medicine, and said he used to be Salafist. He provided also a photocopy of the
psychiatrist's drug prescription for his brother.

The accused is now likely to stand trial but lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender campaigners seem certain that he is not gay and instead believe he
is a mentally ill Salafist being used as a porn by the religious radicals.

Fadi, editor of Tunisia's LGBT publication, GayDay Magazine, said:
'Homosexuality is still employed as a cheap political weapon to discredit each

'Ennahda is in a serious mess in government. It's not able to respond to the
demands of the people and is trying desperately to win time by making up
ideological provocations and attacking the seculars.'

Some names have been changed in this article to protect the safety of our
sources in Tunisia.

Pubblicato da Lorenzo Bernini