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Thank heaven for Church, state separation (2)

Towards the end of last Monday's Bondiplus programme Imam Mohamed El Sadi, in reference to what he perceives as the weakening of European values, referred to the introduction of same-sex marriages in a number of European countries. He contended, should the majority so decide, that this could potentially lead to the legalisation of partnerships between human beings and animals, such as cats, dogs and the like.

I find it completely astounding, in this day and age, that a loving, committed relationship between two people of the same sex can be more easily compared to bestiality, with which it has nothing in common, than to a heterosexual relationship with which it shares so much. Marriage affirms love, commitment, the desire for family, interdependence between the partners and a shared future, none of which are exclusive to same-sex or opposite-sex couples.

I also found it interesting to note that while reactions to the Imam's stance on Sharia law as it related to the punishment of thieves were immediate and rebutted by the other panel members, the link between same-sex marriages and bestiality remained uncontested. Since this link was also made by Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Mercieca some years ago in a meeting with Malta Gay Rights Movement members, perhaps no surprise is in order and goes to show that homophobia is endemic in most of the major religions.

It is also because of this that MGRM chose as its theme for this year's ILGA-Europe conference Overcoming Cultural and Religious Barriers to LGBT Equality. In the various workshops and discussions that took place, LGBT individuals from both Christian and Muslim faith backgrounds strongly affirmed that it is possible to embrace and integrate one's sexual orientation or gender identity with one's religious beliefs while challenging the homophobia and transphobia that often pervades the religious institutions of which they form part.

The Malta Gay Rights Movement in no way perceives or interprets the Imam's words as pertaining to all those of Muslim faith but wishes to express its concern at the way the Imam's statement, as a leader of the Maltese Muslim community, could impact on LGBT Muslims living in Malta. Such statements often make it difficult for LGBT individuals to feel at home within their faith communities and tend to make the process of coming out more difficult as well as increasing the likelihood of rejection by families of their LGBT members.

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