Kyrgyzstan Bans Documentary About Gay Muslims
A court in Kyrgyzstan has banned a Dutch documentary about gay men who are practicing Muslims. The 59-minute film, “I Am Gay and Muslim,” was scheduled to screen at the Bir Duino (“One World”) Human Rights Film Festival in Bishkek on September 28. Kyrgyzstan’s chief cleric, Mufti Rakhmatilla Egemberdiev, said the film slanders Muslims by presenting Islam "in a bad form using as examples people who have nothing to do with religion,” local news agencies quoted him as saying. The State Committee on Religious Affairs concluded the film incites religious hatred. Only hours before the scheduled screening, a Bishkek court banned the film as extremist.Most Kyrgyzstanis profess Islam, though relatively few are hard-core adherents to the faith. The State Committee on National Security and the Interior Ministry are charged with enforcing the ban on showing or distributing the film in Kyrgyzstan. Earlier this month, a Bishkek court banned the anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims,” which had sparked protests across the Muslim world. “I Am Gay and Muslim” was shot last year in Morocco, where homosexuality is illegal.Director Chris Belloni says on his website that the documentary “follows a number of young gay men in Morocco in their exploration of their religious and sexual identity.” “I have decided to portray people who look ahead and are not afraid to state their opinions. Secondly I have attempted to give a platform to people that have no voice in politics and media," he writes.Belloni traveled to Bishkek for the festival and was due to lead a discussion after the screening. Thanks to the ban, he’ll certainly have a lot to talk about in Kyrgyzstan -- and, later, around the world.
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.