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The New Arab Staff

'It's permissible to mourn atheists, homosexuals,' Egyptian cleric says

Sarah al-Hegazy committed suicide in exile [Twitter]

Date of publication: 22 June, 2020

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A cleric in Egypt clarified it is permissible to mourn the lives of atheists and homosexuals, after a debate was triggered by the death of queer feminist Sarah al-Hegazy.
A senior Egyptian preacher has weighed in on an ongoing debate on the permissibility of praying and seeking forgiveness for non-believers and homosexuals, saying Islam was sent as a mercy to mankind, not just Muslims.

Khaled al-Jundi, a preacher and member of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, said: “We must pray for all people. If it is was up to some, they would change the verse to ‘and we sent you as a mercy to Muslims’”, referring to the Quranic verse which states the Prophet Muhammed was sent as a mercy to mankind.

“Slowly this would then become ‘mercy only to the righteous’ - not just any Muslim. After that it would become ‘only to those who pray’ and then ‘only to those who pray dawn prayers’. What is this nuisance?” he continues.

The comments comes amid an ongoing debate in the Arab world that erupted in the aftermath of the death by suicide of Egyptian LGBTQ activist Sarah al-Hegazy.

Hegazy was arrested in 2017 for raising the rainbow flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community during a concert in Egypt of Lebanese band Mashrou' Leila, whose lead singer is openly gay.

She was jailed for three months and, according to several LGBT activists, was tortured and sexually abused.

Hegazy was released on bail in January 2018 after an online campaign demanding she be set free.

That same year she sought asylum in Canada where her lifeless body was found at her home on Sunday, alongside a suicide note in which, according to Amnesty, she spoke of her detention.

"The experience was harsh and I am too weak to resist it. Forgive me," Amnesty quotes Hegazy as saying.

Hegazy's lawyer confirmed to AFP that the young woman had taken her own life.

"She committed suicide," attorney Amro Mohammed said.

Her death has sparked indignation on social media, with people posting message of condolences, pictures of rainbow flags in tribute to Hegazy and blaming Egyptian authorities for her death.

"The Egyptian regime jailed and tortured Sara Hegazy for this picture," tweeted feminist author Mona Eltahawy, alongside a picture of Hegazy raising the rainbow flag at the Mashrou' Leila concert.

"The regime is homophobic and it knows Egyptian society is homophobic. Homophobia kills," she added.

Read also: 
For Sarah Hegazy: In rage, in grief, in exhaustion

Human Rights Watch's Sarah Leah Whitson joined the chorus of condemnation on Twitter, saying in a post: "I met #SaraHegazy recently in Canada.

"She was clearly in pain, traumatised by her torture, suffering, and separated from her country, but very much wanting to turn a new page. It was too much to bear. Lest anyone have any doubt, the government of #Egypt killed her."

Homosexuality is not expressly outlawed in Egypt, but gay people have previously been charged with debauchery in the deeply conservative Muslim society.

In 2017, authorities banned media outlets from "showing homosexuals or promoting their slogans".

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