Lebanese Minister of Interior, Marwan Charbel, declared publicly on TV that Lebanon is against ‘sodomy' and rhetorically wondered if married gay French couples should be allowed to enter Lebanon.
During an interview with Al Jadeed TV, Charbel referred to gays in an extremely derogatory religious term, ‘liwat’, referring to the cursed people of Lot, roughly translated as 'sodomy' and sometimes used to denote the meaning of ‘fags’.
He said: ‘Lebanon is against liwat and according to Lebanese law it is a felony.
‘And I wonder, after France allowed gay people to marry, should we allow them to enter Lebanon?’
The announcement comes shortly after Antoine Shakhtoura, mayor of the Beirut suburb Dekwaneh, had six gay and trans club-goers arrested and transported in car boots to the police station where they were forced strip naked, photographed, beaten and humiliated, in a incident reported by GSN last week.
Lebanese LGBT activists, some of whom participated in a protest against the abusive arrest and beatings last week, dismissed and crticized the minister's statement.
Speaking with Gay Star News, Bertho Makso, owner of Lebanon’s only gay friendly travel company, said: 'Charbel is very ready to allow radical Muslims to break the law, while his anti-gay comment is pure ignorance.
'Firstly, the law he refers to, article 534, prohibits sex acts "contradicting the laws of nature", which is punishable by up to a year in prison, which is not a felony.
'Secondly, in 2009, Lebanese judge in Batroun ruled that gay sex does not “contradict nature” making the article redundant in this instance.
'Thirdly, LGBT tourists are enjoying the hospitality here, even if the minister wanted to prohibit entry to married gays he couldn't legally do it, and many tourism professionals simply laughed off his ludicrous remarks.’
Joseph Aoun, manager of Beirut’s gay bar Bardo told GSN: ‘We’ve had enough with homophobic rants and now we’re answering back working with Helem and the Lebanese LGBT media monitoring group.
‘We’re asking people to use a Facebook and Twitter profile picture which substitutes the two red lines of the Lebanese flag with the word ‘rights’ in Arabic and a rainbow colored cedar tree until the 17 May, International Day Against Homophobia.
Georges Azzi, the executive director for the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality, commented to GSN: ‘the minister has failed to fight the real threats facing the country, such as illegal weapons and kidnapping.
‘Like any other decision maker who fails to achieve his duties he looks for a scapegoat and someone to blame – this time the LGBT community.’
Earlier today (5 May), the minister’s press office published a ‘clarification’ on Facebook stating Charbel wasn’t passing a judgment, merely stating that while gay marriage was recently legalized in France it is still prohibited in Lebanon.
Johnny Tohme, member of Helem, a Lebanese LGBT advocacy group, commented: ‘What makes me laugh, is that you say gays are leading to country into ruin, but those who follow our history see that destruction and corruption is simply the fruit of politicians, social and religious radicals’.