On June 8, an estimated 250,000 people participated in the Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv. The theme of the event was The Community Makes History - a reference to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community's progress towards acceptance by the community in Israel. Tourists came from around to world to help celebrate this joyous event.
On the same day and only a few miles away in Gaza, an Arab man was executed by three bullets to the chest because he was suspected of being a homosexual. And as this man was gunned down with the full approval of religious and secular Arab leaders, a television comedy about gay people in the Gaza Strip was being attacked and its creators vilified for insulting what were called Arab and Islamic values.
The program was called "Out of Focus" and Mousa Shurrab, the comedian behind it, is in deep trouble despite quickly withdrawing it and issuing a grovelling apology. "We apologise to all our viewers" and "The program was deleted shortly after it was posted. We made a mistake which we regret", Shurrab and the other creators of the show, said on Facebook.
The whole thing was meant as a joke but there was a huge outcry. There is no room for comedy and satire in Muslim societies much less even the merest sympathetic or understanding word for homosexuality.
But withdrawing the program and apologising for it did not stop the furious response on social media.
"What kind of an apology is this after you have offended all religious and cultural values for the sake of fame" and, "Removing the video does not exonerate you from this moral crime", were just two of the deluge of comments which were essentially versions of these posts. Others were even uglier and threatened violence and even death. The show's makers were accused of "sexual abnormality" and authorities were urged to take action and they didn't wait a second.
The Hamas Interior Ministry quickly dragged one of the producers in for questioning and they have announced that they are still investigating the matter. The news agency which was accused of producing the show, did its utmost to distance itself saying that they had never authorised the show for broadcast and that someone had leaked it to social media.
"One of the actors posted the show on social media with our logo and we reserve the right to pursue legal action against those responsible for this illegal act," the agency said in a statement, adding that they were deeply sorry for "harming our people and their values".
In Palestinian and Arab society, homosexuality is denounced and stigmatised. Not only are homosexual acts illegal, severe punishments are handed out to even suspected homosexuals. Dozens of gay Palestinians and other Arabs have fled to Israel because of their well-founded fear of not just persecution and harassment, but torture and murder.
The execution or murder (as if there is a difference!) of actual or even suspected gays in Muslim countries happens frequently. In areas Islamic State controls or has controlled, suspected gay men have been flung off tall buildings while others have been stoned to death. One man in Syria who miraculously survived being pushed off a tall building was finished off with a stoning.
Recently, the BBC online magazine published the personal story of a 24-year old gay Iraqi man under the chilling heading, "Why my own father would have let IS (Islamic State) kill me". Identified only as Taim, the young man wrote about how he managed to escape from his own family and of his difficult journey to the UK.
"In our society, being gay means death. When ISIS kills gays, most people are happy because they think that we are sick," he wrote.
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