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Prominent Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr blames coronavirus pandemic on gay marriage Open in fullscreen

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Prominent Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr blames coronavirus pandemic on gay marriage

Moqtada al-Sadr called on governments worldwide to revoke laws allowing gay marriage [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 March, 2020

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The influential Iran-linked cleric has previously been linked to the torture and killing of gay men in Iraq.
One of Iraq's most influential clerics has claimed the devastating coronavirus pandemic was caused by moves to legalise same-sex marriage in recent years.

Moqtada al-Sadr on Saturday called on governments worldwide to revoke laws allowing for gay marriage.

"One of the most egregious things that have caused this epidemic is the legalisation of same-sex marriage," the prominent Shia Muslim cleric said in a Twitter post titled "Messages from heaven".

"I call on all governments to repeal this law immediately and without any hesitation," he said, adding that reversing the legalisation of gay marriage could be an act of "remorse" for the "sin".

While it may be tempting to make light of Sadr's claims, we should be aware of the militia leader's violent past towards the country's besieged LGBTQ+ community, Iraqi analyst Rasha Al Aqeedi warned.

"Last time his followers set on targeting homosexuals in Iraq hundreds of them were gruesomely murdered in ways we see on TV shows," Aqeedi wrote in a tweet. 

"This latest tweet of the spoiled son turned mafia clergy turned absolute madman can quickly turn into an accusation," she added.

Read more: 'We are here': The LGBT activists on the frontline of Iraq's revolution

Human rights groups and LGBTQ+ activists have accused militiamen loyal to Sadr of torturing and killing men suspecting of being gay. 

The Sadr-led Mahdi Army "exploited morality for opportunistic purposes" and "aimed at popularity by targeting people few in Iraq would venture to defend", Human Rights Watch wrote in 2009. The bodies of several gay men were found in the Mahdi Army-stronghold Sadr City that year.
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"Murders are committed with impunity, admonitory in intent, with corpses dumped in garbage or hung as warnings on the street," the New York-based rights group said in its 2009 report.

In 2016, Sadr called on his followers to refrain from violence, telling supporters to distance themselves from LGBTQ+ people but not "attack them".

More recently, the Iran-backed Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq militia was accused of luring gay men to their deaths via Grindr and Facebook.

Sadr is not the first religious leader in the region to mix homophobic sentiments with the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this month, an influential Israeli rabbi was condemned after he said LGBTQ+ pride marches in the country had "angered" God, prompting the spread of the novel coronavirus in revenge.

Iraq has reported 506 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, including 42 fatalities.

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