Democratization activists in Kyrgyzstan are worrying about a roll-back of basic freedoms after a Bishkek court prohibited a film festival from screening a Dutch documentary about homosexual Muslim men.
“I Am Gay and Muslim,” was scheduled to screen on September 28 at the sixth annual Bir Duino (“One World”) human rights documentary film festival in Bishkek. Only hours before the scheduled showing, a court in the capital banned the film from being distributed in Kyrgyzstan. Organizers, attendees, and activists contended that the decision was fueled by officials’ knee-jerk intolerance. Religious experts had assailed the documentary’s content as “blasphemous” and likely to “incite[s] religious intolerance.”
Officials have compared the 59-minute film, which is set in Morocco, to the now-infamous “Innocence of Muslims,” a low-budget production that mocked and insulted Islam and ended up sparking riots across the Muslim world last month. “I Am Gay and Muslim” director Chris Belloni said anyone who has seen his film would understand it is not "anti-Islam" or "extremist.”
“The film shows the perspective of gay people who accept themselves as both gay and Muslim. I think this is why the film is so popular among festivals. It is about the underdog,” said 32-year-old Belloni, who said he made the film to educate. The film is scheduled to screen next week in Beirut.
In a written complaint, the State Committee on Religious Affairs cited an interview in the film where a middle-aged man says, “In Islam, we say everything is planned by God. We don’t choose our destiny. So God has planned this for me. […] God made me gay.” The committee deemed the passage “blasphemous [because] a man accuses God of his sins.”
Later in the film, two men give each other a quick kiss. The committee said the film “humiliates” Muslims. “It is clear that its aim is to provoke the Muslim population and to incite religious intolerance,” the committee’s official complaint said of the film.
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