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THE ISLAMIC SEX CULT SUPPORTING TURKEY’S PRIME MINISTER

I warn you this is the most weirdest article I’ve ever posted. I don’t even really believe this. But, for comedic value on the West’s key mission on insulting Islam I’ll post it. 

THE ISLAMIC SEX CULT SUPPORTING TURKEY’S PRIME MINISTER

Followers of Harun Yahya wear drag make-up and practice a “sexed-up, Disney version of Islam” that helps promote conservative Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s vision of a modern, Muslim Turkey. Step inside this surreal world where religious piety meets psychedelic softcore porn, led by the world’s foremost Islamic creationist.

Harun Yahya is said to be the messianic leader of an apocalyptic Islamic sex cult. He’s also the owner of a Turkish television station called A9, and the host of his own religious talk show, which just might make your eyeballs pop out of your skull. The entire set and everyone on it glow like irradiated ultraviolet rays. Five amazing looking women usually co-host the show, wearing things like false rainbow eyelashes, wigs, and diamond-studded Versace bondage gear. The backdrop is a blinding fake lavender cityscape. Conversations often focus on how materialism and Darwinism are dead, how to recognize the face of a real Muslim, and how Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — with whom the host is rumored to enjoy friendly relations — is “one of the important figures for the End Times”.

Harun Yahya wears Armani, and is only addressed as “my master” or “sultan”. His real name isn’t even Harun Yahya, though that’s how he’s known to audiences outside of Turkey. In reality, he’s Adnan Oktar, and right now, he’s the global icon of Islamic creationism. He’s also been named one of the world’s 50 most influential Muslims, The Complete Idiots Guide to Understanding Islam describes Oktar as a “top” Muslim scientist, and he even writes articles for the Huffington Post. More traditional clerics are beginning to express their concern about his growing influence in the Muslim world.

Like most creationists, Oktar and his followers believe Darwinism is evil. And like many American evangelicals, they are skilled in the art of televangelism and the mass marketing of religious materials. The sect has produced more than 300 books to date, including the 800-page pinnacle of anti-evolutionary scholarship, the Atlas of Creation. A promotional video for the masterwork alleges that the book’s release had “the impact of an atom bomb”: According to a “scientific” study, before the atlas was published, a full “90 percent of Europeans believed in evolution”. Since the Atlas of Creation has been made available in nine different languages, “only 10 percent of Europeans still believe in Darwinism”. Real facts. Watch the entire promo video below.

Though the volume weighs about 12 lbs. (5.4 kg), Harun Yahya and associates decided to ship it, completely unsolicited, to the United Nations, the US Congress, and numerous biology departments at universities around the world, including the Imperial College London, Utrecht University, the University of Chicago, the University of Barcelona, UC Berkeley, Brown, and the medical school at Columbia University.

Kevin Padian, a Professor of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley, was one of the lucky recipients who came to work one day and found a copy of the hefty book waiting for him. “In our country we are used to nonsense like this,” Dr. Padian said of the United States. Several of his colleagues also received the Atlas of Creation, and were all “astonished at what a load of crap it is.”

“If he sees a picture of an old fossil crab or something, he says, ‘See, it looks just like a regular crab, there’s no evolution,’” he said. “Extinction does not seem to bother him.”

The gifted atlases brought the world’s attention to the existence of this new trend in creationism, which the Council of Europe apparently found so disturbing it immediately passed a resolution urging all of its members to “defend and promote scientific knowledge”.

In addition, the tome so shook the European establishment that it also inspired a 12,150-word Council of Europe report by the Committee on Culture, Education, and Education titled “The Dangers of Creationism in Education”. The committee wrote that the lavishly illustrated book attempts to prove “the secret links between Darwinism and the ideologies ‘with blood on their hands’, such as fascism and communism”. Ministers of Education in Belgium and France denounced the text, while Hervé Le Guyader, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Paris VI, was asked to produce a detailed analysis of the atlas by the French National Education Inspectorate. Dr. Le Guyader warned that the book’s sophisticated and attractive design “could prove highly effective” at influencing the public. That said, the professor echoed his American colleague at UC Berkeley. “The scientific content of this book is pathetically inadequate,” he concluded.

Oktar’s sect is estimated to have just 30 core followers, with an “additional 200 to 300 more or less involved in the group’s activities”. But Adnan Oktar has many, many more adherents around the world — all thanks to the internet. His group operates “hundreds of websites”, and several YouTube channels — the English language version has almost 12,000 subscribers, while the Turkish channel has well over 100,000. He also has about 38,200 followers on Twitter, and the peroxide blondes who appear on his show in drag make-up have tens of thousands of devotees as well. The group of the most faithful 30 followers live with Oktar in luxurious compound in Istanbul, where he has personally selected each item in the house, down to the $1200 Fendi throw pillows embedded with 2,000 Swarovski crystals.

The group’s theology has been described as a “sexed-up Disney version of Islam” by anthropologist Daniel Martin Varisco, and the show can even get a little homoerotic. A pair of hunky twins named Onder and Ender make the occasional appearance, usually wearing matching muscle t-shirts and excessive bronzer. The camera ogles the two decorative sphinxes while Oktar praises them for their muscular beauty. The women — referred to as Oktar’s “kittens” or “harem” — pose for promo photos together in overtly sexual positions, often coupled with slogans like “I read the Qu’ran” printed across the pictures like postcards.

Twins Onder and Ender.

Twins Onder and Ender.

It all looks cartoonish, but the show has still managed to draw numerous noteworthy professors, politicians, and other prominent people who should probably know better. Since Oktar embraces his own form of neo-Ottomanism, and sees himself as something of a Sultan, many of his interviewees have been from the Balkan region. Not all of them travelled to the Istanbul studio to witness the weird sex cult atmosphere, but each of the following people will remain on one or more of Harun Yahya’s “hundreds of websites” forever: former Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic, Serbia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sladjana Prica, and University of Prizren Rector Mazllum Baraliu. Besides the Balkan figures, he’s also met with Madonna, and claims his Atlas of Creation made rapper Busta Rhymes convert to Islam.

One of Adnan Oktar’s plans is to preside over the creation of something he calls the “Turkish-Islamic Union”, which preliminary maps indicate would only cover about half of the Eastern hemisphere. Like members of Turkey’s current conservative government (especially Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu) and the international religious community known as the Gulen movement with whom the the Turkish leadership is engaged in a very public power struggle, Oktar believes Turkey should be at the center of a new global Islam, and often indulges expansionist fantasies about the resurrection of the Ottoman Empire. Bulent Aras, Professor of International Relations at Isik University, described their aim to “Islamize Turkish nationalism and to Turkify Islam”. The Armani-clad Adnan Oktar shares other values with the current Turkish leadership: relentless consumerism, evidenced in Prime Minister Erdogan’s obsession with bulldozing parks and public spaces to build shopping malls, coupled with a renewed embrace of religion.

Map of the Turkish-Islamic Union.

Map of the Turkish-Islamic Union.

But there are rumors of an even deeper connection between Oktar and Erdogan. In 1994, the Islamist Welfare party, the precursor to today’s ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), scored several significant victories in the local elections, including in Istanbul and the capital of Ankara. The conservative Erdogan started his political career when he became the mayor of Istanbul 20 years ago. Fatih Altayli, a prominent Turkish journalist and editor, noted that the Islamist party were unprepared for power, lacking both the experts and sufficiently Islamic business connections to govern effectively. It was at this time that Altayli has alleged that Erdogan and his party established a lucrative and mutually beneficial relationship with Oktar and members of his sect.

“In 1995 and ’96, companies from Oktar’s sphere of influence made big business deals with municipalities under the control of the Welfare party, especially in Istanbul and Ankara,” Altayli wrote. “During a raid at a meeting of [Oktar’s] group, for instance, the police arrested Oguzhan Asilturk, an acting minister in the Welfare government, and one of the leading ideologues of political Islam in Turkey. It was really during these years, that [Oktar’s adherents] gained a lot of economic clout. Followers even established companies in Dubai.” Others say that members of the group established businesses in Central Asia with the help of leading Turkish investors and the money they’d stolen from their rich parents. Of course, any profits were funneled into the Harun Yahya enterprise.

And in October, when Prime Minister Erdogan visited Prizren to lend his support to his Kosovo counterpart Hashim Thaci in advance of the recent local elections, members of the sect approached the premier with a copy of the Atlas of Creation. Erdogan was photographed with the enormous book shortly after making his infamous “Kosovo is Turkey, Turkey is Kosovo” speech. Then, followers swarmed Thaci and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama. Thaci was lucky enough to have snagged a seat tucked safely away in a corner, but Rama was left exposed to Oktar’s evangelists, who gave him several Harun Yahya publications. Rama looks to have handled the entire encounter like a gentleman, and Oktar proudly played the video footage from Prizren on his talk show two nights in a row:

Oktar’s relationship with Erdogan was described as “close” as recently as 2011, in an article in the Jerusalem Post. Some commentators say the sect’s influence is a “key part of Turkish Islamists’ propaganda machine”. The Islam presented on Oktar’s show certainly articulates Erdogan’s vision for a “modern, religious” Turkey. First, it appears inclusive — some women wear the hijab, while others wear little more than lingerie. Not only does the show market Islam to a wider audience with commercial logos and women’s insecurity, but it also embodies what the ruling party believes a free society looks like, in which no one should be forced to dress in any particular way. Gone are the rigidly secular days when men had to trim their beards or remove their red fez caps. Of course, this also means permitting women the freedom to wear the hijab. In Turkey, the ban on headscarves in public institutions was only lifted last year.

The sermons Oktar gives on his show are effusively pro-Erdogan. He suggests that anti-government protesters are actually quite happy with the premier but “just aren’t aware of it”, that Erdogan is an “immaculate Anatolian man” innocent of any of the wrongdoings suggested by the recent corruption scandal, and that he should rule Turkey right up until the imminent end of the world. As Sunday’s all-important local elections approach, praise for the premier has been even more fervent than usual.

In addition to the talk show, the television station, and the more than 55,000 pages of printed materials produced and distributed around the world, the group has also made some 175 documentaries, including “The Collapse of Darwinism in Europe” and “Crystal Skull; work of aliens?” Certainly the creation of so many videos, and the researching, writing, editing, and printing of 300 book titles in multiple languages, plus international shipping fees, must have cost millions. But where Oktar gets all the money to keep the well-oiled Harun Yahya machinery operating remains a mystery, though some still suspect that favorable business dealings with Erdogan and his inner circle have helped.

The women who appear on Adnan Oktar's show are sometimes referred to as his "harem" or "kittens".

The women who appear on Adnan Oktar’s show are sometimes referred to as his “harem” or “kittens”.

In 1979, young Adnan left his secular middle-class home in Ankara to attend art school in Istanbul. He arrived in the city during a particularly volatile period in Turkey’s history: Deadly attacks by militant right- and left-wing groups were so frequent that the violence has been described as a low-level war. By the late-1970s, the country was averaging ten assassinations per day. Only a coup, carried out in September 1980, could finally restore order.

In this atmosphere of religious fundamentalism, separatist desire, and organized revolutionary violence, Oktar grew bored with his interior design classes. He started holding speeches, railing against Charles Darwin and Freemasonry. Soon, a small group of students was following him around, and he had the foundation of a new cemaat or religious community.

Then these early followers decided to engage in some recruitment efforts, and targeted physically attractive members of Istanbul’s young, cosmopolitan elite. Many of them were well-heeled students at Istanbul’s prestigious Bogazici University, the highest-ranked institution in Turkey. A few were the children of celebrities. As the group grew, the media dubbed them Adnancilar — adherents of Adnan.

Adnan Oktar's arrest.

Adnan Oktar’s arrest.

But in 1986, Oktar gave an interview to a conservative newspaper that alarmed the rigidly secularist authorities, and he was arrested. The young religious leader was charged with “making propaganda with the aim of weakening or destroying national sentiments” by the Istanbul State Security Court, and given a 19-month prison sentence. Part of his incarceration was spent inside the locked ward of Bakirkoy Hospital — Istanbul’s largest psychiatric facility. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Oktar insists the label was only applied to him in order to discredit his work.

After his release, the group began gathering in villas and upscale cafes in Istanbul’s wealthiest suburbs, where Oktar would obsessively rehash stale Jewish-masonic conspiracies. This preoccupation became the subject of the first book published under the pen name Harun Yayha. The 500-page Judaism and Freemasonry was released in 1987 as an illustrated opus dedicated to exposing the “distorted Torah” and the Jewish-masonic machinations behind the Russian, American, and French revolutions.

But the book also contained some indirect attacks on evolutionary biology, which would be ramped up later. “The principal mission of Jews and Freemasons in Turkey,” Harun Yayha wrote, “is to erode the spiritual, religious, and moral values of the Turkish people and make them like animals.”

Behind the scenes, the internal organization of Oktar’s community was growing more cult-like by the minute. Oktar began by revising traditional Islamic practices. In the late 1980s, he decided that members should pray three times per day instead of five, and that his female followers needed to remove their veils. He also encouraged followers to sever ties with disapproving family members — but only after draining their parents’ bank accounts. With these changes came a significant loosening of sexual mores, though one defector recalled that there was a “rigid hierarchy” with regard to inter-group intimacy:

“There were bacilar (sisters), cariyeler (concubines), and kardesler (brothers),” she explained. “The brothers were allowed to marry the concubines, while the sisters were all married to Adnan Oktar.”

The group started buying up beachfront property in exclusive resort towns on the Sea of Marmara, where sex could be used as a recruitment tool. They eventually found a permanent summer villa in Silviri, a town of 44,000 famous for its sunflowers, rolling hills, and sprawling prison complex — the largest in Europe.

But Silviri is also known for its beaches. Oktar’s adherents would comb the shoreline looking for attractive, half-naked hard bodies who looked like they might also be loaded. New recruits were also seduced by the group’s “woodland villa”. A police raid on the summer residence a few years later revealed that it was decorated “like the Dolmabahce palace” in Istanbul. The Dolmbahce palace is fitted with a staircase built of Baccarat crystal and 150-year-old bearskin rugs selected by the Russian Tsar.

Oktar’s 13-bedroom seaside estate in Silviri was furnished to his liking — with “heavy antiques, gold leaf, and heavy wood”. It also reportedly had a zoo, “complete with camels, horses, and two artificial lakes”.

These tastes started showing in the sect’s sartorial choices beginning in the 1990s, when Oktar dictated that the group shed its more modest attire for high-end Italian brands. Around this time, he started wearing his signature pastel Armani blazers over designer T-shirts.

So the sect also set about rebranding itself again. The Turkish government grew more secular during the late-1990s, and Oktar and his adherents knew they needed to adapt. This time, they advertised themselves as pro-Ataturk nationalists. They minimized their Islamist past, and established another new organization called Milli Degerler Koruma Vakfi (MDKV), or the Foundation for the Protection of National Values.

But this supposed transformation didn’t protect Oktar from being arrested for cocaine possession in Izmir. He says state security services planted the drugs on him and put them in his food. Though he tested positive for cocaine while in custody, he was later acquitted of all charges. He still refers to the incident as “the cocaine conspiracy”. But former members of the group have said that cocaine use was common, and used to entice potential recruits.

News of Adnan Oktar's arrest for cocaine possession.

News of Adnan Oktar’s arrest for cocaine possession.

The sect stepped up its campaign against Darwinism in the mid-1990s. They distributed fliers denouncing professors who taught evolution as “Maoists”. And they started organizing international creationism conferences, inviting Christian evangelicals from the United States. It was Oktar’s first try at “interfaith dialogue” — another idea that would become central to the group’s contemporary practices.

Then, a report detailing the group’s alleged illegal activities was submitted to the Interior Ministry in 1999. About 2,000 Turkish police officers carried out a simultaneous midnight raid in 40 districts across Istanbul, searching a staggering 38 homes said to belong to the sect in the massive operation.

In the end, Oktar and several followers were taken into custody. At the time of his arrest, Oktar had not been seen in public for six years.

The prosecutor’s office prepared a document describing the allegations against Oktar: The complaint stated that women had been instructed to practice giving oral sex on designated men, that one former member was coerced into having sex with 16 people, and that hidden cameras were placed in each bedroom so that Oktar could film followers having sex and blackmail them with the tape if they ever tried to leave the group. There were also descriptions of sex parties in which young women would be persuaded into performing sex acts on powerful politicians and other influential men so that Oktar could film them and use the footage to manipulate the man in question “to act in the group’s interest”. Members of the sect were also compelled to perform regular sexual favors for Oktar and others.

Ebru Simsek, a model and defector, also accused Oktar of mistreatment. He responded by filing no less than 300 defamation lawsuits against her. It was just the beginning of his misuse of the Turkish court system to settle his personal disputes.

This time, Oktar spent nine months in prison without a trial. He maintained his innocence throughout. Upon his release, he claimed that he’d been subjected to torture while in custody. Several followers claimed the same thing. The case was finally decided before the European Court of Human Rights in late 2012. Though the judges determined there was no evidence of torture, the court did order the Turkish government to pay Oktar’s followers 16,250 euros each for failing to investigate the case in a timely manner.

Many members felt humiliated by the media circus surrounding the criminal sexual allegations, and left the sect around the start of the new century.

But that hardly slowed the Harun Yahya enterprise down. On the contrary, Oktar’s international audience grew rapidly along with the internet. And Oktar saw another opportunity open up in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks: Muslims were being marginalized and misunderstood. More than ever, many in the West seemed convinced that all Muslims were all terrorists, hell-bent on the destruction of Israel and violent jihad.

So Oktar and his followers abruptly decided to abandon their longstanding anti-Semitism, and did everything they could to scrub all traces of it from their past. Then they approached conservative Israeli groups, presenting themselves as moderate, Western, pro-Israel Muslims. It worked. Even right-wing Israeli politicians, ambassadors, and supporters of Israel see Oktar as a “good Muslim”, and regularly make appearances on his show. During one memorable episode of his show, he even hosted a group of Masonic Grand Masters, dressed in full costume, onto his set for a televised interview.

In recent years, he’s also gone on a lawsuit binge. Before Erdogan shut down Twitter in Turkey, Oktar had WordPress blocked. He’d objected to an article someone had written about him on a blog, claimed defamation, and the Turkish government responded by completely blocking access to WordPress in Turkey. He also managed to have all Google Groups banned after he discovered comments of a potentially “libelous” nature posted on one. And he successfully had the website of famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins blocked.

A "fossil fly" from the Atlas of Creation, with a visible fishing hook.

A “fossil fly” from the Atlas of Creation, with a visible fishing hook.

Dawkins is perhaps most famous for his unabashed atheism, and had recently held a talk in London about Oktar’s opus, the Atlas of Creation, around the time he was sued. Its 800 slick pages are filled with high resolution photographs of fossils and their supposedly modern-day equivalents — several of which, it turns out, were stolen images from the website of a plastic swim bait manufacturer. But no one at Harun Yahya headquarters bothered to photoshop the fly fishing lures out of the ancient “fossil” pictures.

It was a far from the meticulous attention to detail with which Otkar wielded control over his adherents surgery-enhanced faces, bodies, clothing, and lives. “Everyone had to be the same,” one defector said. “The hairstyle, the shoes, the jackets. It had to be the most expensive brands, like Versace and Gucci.”

Strangely, the Atlas of Creation is supposed to leave the reader with a similar aesthetic impression: The colorful, high-gloss images are meant to be stared at, side by side. From the lavish illustrations, the viewer is supposed to conclude that the otherwordly creations haven’t changed at all with time, that they are all exactly the same, and that evolution is a lie.

LGBT Rights and the Black Panthers: The Queer Revolution Begins with Self Love

Huey Newton Jpg

My Grandmother loves to give me self-care tips. Her basic premise is that the only person who can take care of you the right way is you; you can’t wait on your mama, daddy, sister, brother or grandmother to do it for you.

Her favorite to dish-out is this one: “Don’t tell anybody how much money you make or how much money you have. Telling people how much money you makes invites them into your household, tells them how far they can dig into your pockets and helps them dictate how you spend your money.” Of course she quickly follows up by asking, “How much money do you make?”

We live in a society that tells us in words that it is more virtuous to always place your brother ahead of yourself, but also teaches us that only the strongest survive, and that you must be able to fend for yourself. Where we are taught the value of hard work and doing things for you, yet the wheels of government and commerce don’t turn properly without someone depending on or owing something to another. It is in this climate that the words of black, lesbian poet, Audre Lorde, ring their truest meaning.

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self –preservation and that is an act of political warfare. ~Audre Lorde

As a student of the civil rights movement, the organization that I revered the most was the Original Black Panther Party. I grew up in Richmond, CA, next door to the their home base of Oakland, and my first encounter with the BPP occurred on the day of Huey Newton’s death.

I was 10 years old, on a staycation at a local amusement park. My family and I were having breakfast when the news flash came on that Huey had been murdered. The newscaster went on to recount the Panther’s role in the civil rights struggle, complete with words like “notorious”, “gun-toting”, “subversive”, and every other negative word they could think of to drive the point home that we’d all finally been released from the “public nuisance” J Edgar Hoover had never been able to quite rid the country of. I made it my business, that day, to learn as much as I could about Huey and the Black Panthers.

To this day it, is still so shocking to me that so many negative words were attached to the Black Panthers for having the gall to love their community enough to make it their job to protect it. Imagine that. The original BPP believed it was their job to make sure children had food to eat, were properly tested for diseases, had affordable housing, and so on. They also believed it was their job to educate members of the black community on their rights, and arm them with resources that would enable them to thrive in America.

This is not to say that the BPP as an organization was perfect — we know that they were not. But was revolutionary about their existence was their platform; the idea that black people needed to be committed to loving each other. Loving yourself will push you to be the best you can be and to make sure everything around you is just as beautiful. Loving yourself will push you to fight for the rights of your brother because by extension they are your rights as well.

Don’t you let them tell you what to do… defy gravity. ~Donnie 
The first step in queer black revolution MUST be self-love. As President Obama would say, you must have the Audacity of Hope. You must have a fervent love of every aspects of yourself. And, do not be ashamed to stand firm in who you are as the dignified beautiful person that you are. I tell myself how wonderful and smart and cute I am at least once a day and I’m not ashamed to share that here.

So, to my queer black family, make sure that the world acknowledges how amazing you are; how amazing your community is. Go out and receive every blessing that the world has for you; every legal right that this country owes to you. Don’t be ashamed to believe that you are deserving enough for anything. As Grandmother would say, “If you don’t, nobody else will.”

But there is nothing to say that a homosexual cannot also be a revolutionary. And maybe I’m now injecting some of my prejudice by saying that “even a homosexual can be a revolutionary.” Quite the contrary, maybe a homosexual could be the most revolutionary.

Lebanon Just Did a Whole Lot More Than Legalize Being Gay

lgbt-lebanon-protest

Protesters in Beirut, Lebanon, on International Day Against Homophobia 2010. Their banner reads “What do you know about normal?” (Photo: AFP/Getty)

LGBTQ rights supporters rejoiced on Thursday with news that homosexuality is no longer illegal in Lebanon.  A courtruling abolished a case against an unnamed transwoman – accused of having a “same sex relationship with a man” – stating that homosexuality can no longer be considered a crime because it is “not unnatural.” Lebanese law only prohibits sexual acts “contradicting the laws of nature.”

Mirroring coverage of LGBTQ advancement in the Western world, however, a vast majority of reports, blogs, tweets, and celebratory Instagram posts conspicuously erase the critical role of trans people in securing this victory.

Conveniently forgetting the “T” in LGBTQ advocacy and communications efforts is not new. In gender battles from the U.S. to the Philippines, trans people are both purposefully and unconsciously excluded from public discourse. The “transgender exclusion” permeates media coverage, advocacy efforts, health care plans, gender-based social services, and extends into the work of prominent and prestigious gay-rights organizations. Human Rights Campaign, widely regarded as America’s preeminent LGBTQ research and advocacy group, is the target of frequent criticism for its historic failure to include trans issues in their advocacy. While HRC has made significant and praiseworthyadvancements in trans advocacy and awareness raising efforts in the recent past, it may be worth mentioning that a Google search for “human rights campaign trans” produces this article first: Why The Transgender Community Hates HRC.

Coverage of Lebanon’s recent ruling has not been an exception to the global tendency to erase the “T” in LGBTQ. The landmark ruling originated in a case brought against a transwoman, yet coverage of the “historic statement” has almost exclusively used the word “gay:”

Lebanon: Being Gay is not a Crime nor Against Nature (Huffington Post UK)

Gays in Lebanon Just Snagged a Major Victory (PolicyMic)

Landmark ruling rubbishes anti-gay law in Lebanon (The Daily Star)

London-based Gay Star News was one of the only sites to use the word “transgender” in the title of their article, giving a rather factual account of the affair: Lebanese court throws out case against transgender woman accused of ‘unnatural sex.’

The absence of trans-anything from most headlines is, in part, due to the nature of the court’s words, which stated specifically “homosexuality is not illegal.” However, it is also due to the tendency to elide gender differences with simplistic ideas about sexual preference, in a way that does not speak to – or do justice to – the complexities in the Lebanese court’s statement. As Huffington Post blogger Dan Littauer highlighted:

[Judge] El Dahdah rejected the case based on accepting a previous ruling by the Lebanese NGO, Legal Agenda and Helem, which was as follows:

Gender identity is not only defined by the legal papers, the evolution of the person and his/her perception of his/her gender should be taken into consideration.

Western onlookers have a very firm notion of the trajectory along which LGBTQ rights should advance.  That trajectory places trans rights as a clear “next step,” something that can only be achieved once the groundwork has been laid by the advancement of the “L,” “G,” and perhaps “B” contingencies (representing lesbian, gay, and bisexual, respectively). But the Lebanese courts are not following that trajectory. The same ruling that decriminalized homosexuality also formally recognized gender variation and codified principles of self-identification. This nuanced view of the interplay between sexuality and gender identification doesn’t fit with the traditional (Western) “gay rights” narrative, and has resulted in Western media coverage that almost completely silences the critical role a transwoman played in achieving this landmark ruling.

Proclaiming Lebanon’s ruling as merely a “victory for gays” is not only an insult to the trans issues underpinning the ruling, but also whitewashes the Lebanese LGBTQ movement, painting it with strokes more easily digestible by Western consumers. The Lebanese case was not and is not merely a “victories for gays” – it is a nuanced and praise-worthy assessment of gender variance. While critics have commented that the ruling falls short of tangible “rights” for gays, in many ways it also far surpasses mainstream Western understandings of gender identity. And this deserves some press.

Zine project gives outlet to queer, transgender and progressive Muslims

A new zine titled Karbala Fired Resistance Stories.

Totally Radical Muslims released the second volume of their zine titled “Karbala Fired Resistance Stories.”

As a young girl, Shenaaz Janmohamed learned about social justice from stories of Karbala. The Iraqi city is a sacred site for Shia Muslims, and the location of battles against tyranny and oppression.

Today, the therapist, school social worker, and queer Muslim of color looked to Karbala when choosing the theme for the second volume of the Totally Radical Muslim zine.

A zine is a self-published print booklet, often filled with essays, poetry, photography, collages, and other forms of media. Totally Radical Muslims (TRM), which released its second volume last week, has provided an outlet for queer, transgender, and other radical and progressive Muslims in Oakland and beyond. Janmohamed is its founder and curator, working with a group of volunteers to produce the zines.

As Janmohamed explains, TRM is about reclaiming narratives.

“There’s so much misinformation about Muslims these days, and we’re deeply misunderstood,” she said, adding that it’s worse for radical Muslims. Those who identify as queer consider gender identity and sexual orientation fluid, a topic that may be considered controversial by most mainstream Muslims. “We’re just absent from a lot of discourse about Muslims,”  she said.  A zine provided a do-it-yourself solution for Janmohamed and her peers, a quick and accessible way to share stories with fellow Muslims and other progressive allies.

TRM’s new volume is titled “Karbala Fired Resistance Stories.” It touches on topics including anti-imperialist politics, loneliness, reclaiming identity, and the impact of war, xenophobia, and racism.

TRM’s first release, “Islamophobia: A Bitchin’ Zine,” was more tongue-in-cheek. “That idea was really kind of like, we’re here, we’re queer, hahaha,” Janmohamed said about volume one, which came out in August 2012.

“Karbala” has more depth, Janmohamed said. Filled with artwork, poetry, and writings from as far away as Mexico City, the zine is split into two sections. “Raised Fists” focuses on the impacts of war, especially from the point of view of Muslims separated from their homelands. “Open Hearts” shows how visible queer and trans Muslims are making pathways within their families, communities, and histories.

This time around, the TRM crew even collected stories from incarcerated contributors, young men of color who are organizing and resisting on the inside. “Finding out that our zine is reaching people on the inside of prisons has been so rewarding, because I feel like folks on the inside are at the forefront of so many struggles,” Janmohamed said. “We’re finding common ground.”

Maxwell Simon Abdullah, a trans man who recently returned to Islam, has a poem published in “Karbala.” He stumbled upon TRM on the blogging platform Tumblr and had no idea the zine was based in the East Bay when he submitted his work.

His poem touches on his conversion, internal homophobia, and feelings about religion in general. “I have found most queers that I know to be really jaded with religion, and that has had a negative impact on me, sort of my mental health,” he said. TRM let Abdullah deepen his understanding of Islam, which he says helped him get through the hard part of his mental health experience.

Karbala was released to the public at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California at an event emceed by Zahra Noorbakhsh. The comedian describes herself as a “pork-eating, alcohol-drinking, pre-marital sex having Muslim.” She met Janmohamed after a performance of her one-woman show, “All Atheists Are Muslims,” and soon thereafter, Janmohamed invited Noorbakhsh to join in on the zine’s production in its earliest days.

Noorbakhsh thinks young Muslims need a zine to be able to say what they feel and be who they are. As her own voice has gotten lost in the “media charge of the monolith,” she needed to find a release like TRM. Plus, the zine offers an outlet for artists. “It gives me a chance to try new material amongst the peer group that I don’t need to catch up before I try it,” Noorbakhsh said.

The zines are available for purchase at the group’s website, totallyradicalmuslims.com. “Karbala” costs $10, while “Islamophobia” is currently offered at pay-what-you-can prices, plus shipping fees. Money from the sales, plus additional money from a grant and grassroots fundraising, help the all-volunteer group produce the zine.

For queer, trans, and radical Muslims in Oakland, Janmohamed adds, their Muslim identity can take the backseat to their other identities. But Muslims in other parts of the country or the world aren’t necessarily afforded the same luxury. And TRM’s readers stretch beyond Oakland to other parts of the world.

“So I think people appreciate that, within our relative privilege here in the Bay Area, we are organizing and putting our stories out there,” she said.

anonymouschine:

Last week, Denmark has banned both Halal and Kosher meat because according to them, “animal rights come before religious rights.” Did you know however, that in the same country, having sex with animals (bestiality) is legalized? Perhaps because “Zoophile rights comes before animal rights,” despite the fact that animals cannot give consent to the act! Welcome to the wonders of man-made laws, Astaghfirullah!!!

gutsanduppercuts:

Grandmaster Ip Man and his most famous pupil, Bruce Lee.

US diplomats given 48 hours to leave Venezuela

Published time: February 17, 2014 22:41 
Edited time: February 18, 2014 00:53
Students take part in an anti-government protest in Caracas on February 17, 2014. (AFP Photo / Juan Barreto)

Students take part in an anti-government protest in Caracas on February 17, 2014. (AFP Photo / Juan Barreto)

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Venezuela has given three American diplomats from the US Embassy in Caracas 48 hours to exit the country after President Nicolas Maduro leveled accusations of conspiracy and meeting with students to incite anti-government sentiment.

Following days of opposition protests, three unnamed diplomats were declared persona non grata by Maduro during a televised address on Sunday night. On Monday Venezuela’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Elias Jaua announced that the US diplomats in question were vice consuls Breann Marie McCusker and Jeffrey Elsen, and Kristofer Lee Clark, who holds the rank of second secretary at the US consulate.

Jaua said during a press conference that the three officials had assisted “groups that seek to generate violence in the country,” and that they had 48 hours to leave.

As evidence, Jaua cited email correspondence from US embassy officials in recent years that supposedly call for funding from Washington to support Venezuelan student groups, AP reported.

He added that the diplomats sought contacts “for the training, the financing and the creation of youth organizations to foment violence.”

"It’s a group of US functionaries who are in the universities. We’ve been watching them having meetings in the private universities for two months. They work in visas," Maduro stated Sunday in a nationally televised broadcast.

Venenzuelan President Nicolas Maduro ( AFP Photo / Presidencia / Handout)

Venenzuelan President Nicolas Maduro ( AFP Photo / Presidencia / Handout)

Last Wednesday, over 10,000 people poured onto the streets of Caracas to peacefully protest their growing worries, such as the country’s high murder rate and a record-breaking 56 percent inflation.

At the end of Wednesday’s opposition protests, a group of students battled with security forces and pro-government militias, leaving three people dead. Maduro’s government blamed the violence on Harvard-educated opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, whom Maduro accuses of leading a US-backed"fascist" plot to oust the socialist government.

“There is a fascist group that abuses public freedoms and democracy to play politics and prepare to overthrow the government,” Maduro said.

The US State Department responded Monday, calling Maduro’s allegations “baseless and false.”

“As we have long said, Venezuela’s political future is for the Venezuelan people to decide,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, according to AFP.

Protests in Caracas continued Monday, Ruptly new agency reported, as hundreds anti-government protesters marched to the offices of media regulatory body Conatel.

Lopez and opposition allies announced Monday they will reroute a protest on Tuesday away from the central plaza in Caracas to avoid clashing with a simultaneous pro-government march called for by Maduro.

Gregory Wilpert, author of "Changing Venezuela by Taking Power," says the more radical end of Maduro’s opposition has decided to act now to highlight inflation and shortages in the national economy. Though he said the protests will likely have more of an impact on Maduro’s image than his grip on power.

"(The protests) represent more of a challenge to his public relations, I think, than an actual challenge to his power," Wilpert told RT in an interview. "Internationally, there’s been a tremendous amount of success in portraying the government as having cracked down on opposition demonstrators and making the government look bad in that sense."

He said the charges of US subterfuge must be put into proper historical perspective, at least at this early juncture.

"One has to see those accusations in the context of US history and its interference throughout Latin American countries over the past century," he said. "There’s a long series of interventions, and that makes especially left governments of Latin America very suspicious of US government intentions."

peoplepowermovement:

We would like to wish our revolutionary ancestor Huey P. Newton a Happy Birthday, who was born on February 17., 1942. He was a powerful warrior in the struggle against racism, capitalism, and imperialism during the 1960s and 1970s.

Without his leadership in creating and developing the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, many of us would not have the opportunities we have today, such as the Women Infant and Children (WIC) program, free school breakfast, Black Studies, and many more contributions for oppressed people to rise up and finally control our society for the advancement of our people and the world.

Watch this video of a huge rally of more than 5,000 people on his birthday, February 17, 1968, organized by Bobby Seale and the Black Panther Party for Self Defense to support the movement to Free Huey from prison.

#FreePeltier #FreeMumia #FreeCuban5 #FreeOscarLopezRivera
Free all political prisoners!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUEY P. NEWTON!

ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

salam-ya-hussain:

Sit-in against Mastung carnage continues in Quetta.

QUETTA: Members of the Hazara community (Shia Muslims) along with coffins of pilgrims killed in the Mastung bomb attack continued their sit-in on Alamdar Road in the provincial capital on the second consecutive day here on Thursday.

“Our protest sit-in on Shuhadaa Chowk Alamdar Road will continue and we will not bury our dead until an operation is launched against the culprits who attacked and killed the pilgrims in Dringer area of Mastung district,” said Syed Musarrat Agha, the Acting President of Balochistan Shia Conference.

Talking to media, Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) leaders Abdul Hassan Hazara and Mirza Hussain Hazara said that sectarianism was being promoted through a planned conspiracy to push Balochistan into anarchy. “If the authorities do not take notice of the sectarian targeted killings immediately the situation will further deteriorate,” they said.

Meanwhile official sources said high profile personalities including federal ministers were due in Quetta on Thursday or Friday to meet with the protestors staging sit-in where they would offer condolence to them on behalf of Prime Minister and the federal government.

They said that Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik Baloch has instructed authorities concerned to plan an alternative and safe route for the pilgrims to visit Iran from Balochistan.

The senior officials have been asked to review the options whether pilgrims of Balochistan be taken to Iran through Karachi-Gwadar route or ferry service from Karachi and Gwadar ports to Bandar Abbas Port of Iran be started, they said adding that the Quetta-Taftan route might be closed for the pilgrims traveling due to high security risk.

Thousands have shown solidarity with the families of the victims’ by holding protests in cities across Pakistan including Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi.