A cover from Israel's Time Out magazine, showcased at last week's Gay Pride parade, has caused quite a scandal. The image is a photograph, taken from behind, of Muslims kneeling to pray, along with the title "You see here a threat, we see here an opportunity" (we decided not to publish it, you can see it here). Have they gone a step too far?
The editors of Time Out reckoned they'd come up with a pretty funny title for this year's Gay Pride, held last Friday in Tel Aviv. Not everybody, however, was amused. Numerous Israeli and Palestinian associations have signed an open letter to the magazine, branding the title both racist and homophobic. They focus on the word "opportunity":
"Opportunities of what, we ask? ‘To f*** Islam'? ‘To f*** Muslims'? Is it because ‘they are a threat'? Or they are ‘exotic'? Is this an opportunity to ‘f***' the ‘enemy' and stab them in the back as they pray? Is anyone who turns their back an ‘opportunity' for rape?"
The magazine responded with an apology to "anyone who feels offended". Editor Itay Valdman explained to The Observers that the objective was "to mock and ridicule the unfortunately, widely held views of ‘Islamophobia' and ‘homophobia'. Obviously, we do not hate Muslims nor do we hate homosexuals. We simply love a good laugh, and we are surprised to learn that what raises our smile angers others".
Charbel El Maydaa lives in Beirut. He's a social worker for a Lebanese LGBT rights centre.
If we want religions to accept homosexuality, then we have to be ready to accept religion. To mix up religion and homosexuality in this provocative way is not going to help the gay community."
Samir Barkachi is a member of Moroccan gay rights association Kifkif.
There are many pockets of the Muslim world that are often over sensitive. They seem to think the Jewish and the West are constantly plotting against them. I work and socialise with Jewish people everyday, so I can safely say that that's not true! The media shouldn't have to censor itself in order to steer clear of a few overly suspicious types.
I'd like to highlight that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where homosexuals enjoy almost the same rights as heterosexuals. In Iran, homosexuals are hanged. That shocks me far more than this image does.
For me, those who are fighting against this image are in some way the same as the religious fundamentalists who incite hatered of homosexuals (and Jews, Christians and other branches of Islam for that matter). It's incredibly hypocritical."
John Aravosis is a gay rights activist from Washington. He writes for Americablog.
I would have expected people to get upset had I made this cover. They have a right to be upset. Time Out must have known that their words would be misinterpreted by many people. No religion is very good at being poked fun at, and when it's Israel poking fun at Islam, well...
It's less clear to me why gay and lesbian groups were offended, except for one thing: Time Out is a straight publication, and it's making sodomy jokes. That's a problem. In the US, only gays can make sodomy jokes, like only blacks can call other blacks ‘niggers'. Also, maybe the cover stirred the pot in a way that didn't help gay rights in the region, so they're angry.
The cover reminds me of the infamous caricatures of Mohammed that sparked so much anger in the Muslim world. Sometimes, if an image is too provocative, its message gets lost."