Maintaining Optimism in the Face of Reality. Occasional observations on the state of the world, society, business and politics. Usually anchored by facts, always augmented by opinion.
I was in Zanzibar for about a week in late 2000. The scuba diving was pretty good but visibility was much lower than I in the Carribbean or Pacific. We stayed at the Ras Nungwi, I recommend it. Zanzibar was certainly the most pleasant leg of my trip in Africa. Given that a good chunk of it was spent on or around Kiliminjaro, this shouldn't be a surprise.
In any event, I would not have guessed that homosexuality was even prevalent in Zanzibar. It was certainly no Provincetown or Key West. It seemed like a fairly traditional Islamic area, not so much as in the mideast, but close, especially as it is a little less developed. Apparently there was a high-profile gay wedding performed there last year. [A little background]
The Guardian report is pretty interesting:
A law banning gay sex has come into effect in Zanzibar, with homosexual men threatened with 25-year jail terms and lesbians facing seven-year sentences.The last paragraph I found odd. As it reads, I thought, "so did they later find gays were responsible for the bombings?" Of course, as expected, they bombings and arson are just "unsolved" because the local prosecutor felt there was flimsy evidence against an Islamic leader. In any event, it seems to be capitulation, not retaliation.
[First, I found it odd that girl-on-girl action carries a much lighter sentence. I guess even Islamic men are more accepting of lesbianism than male homosexuality.]
"This is what we have been aspiring for. If the government takes such steps, the country will really move ahead," said Sheikh Muhammed Said, a local Islamic leader...The islands, a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, are largely Muslim.
Travel agencies that specialise in trips for gays and lesbians have threatened to boycott Zanzibar.
[I am guessing that this will probably not be a huge economic impact, although I certainly agree with the sentiments, I think much less of Zanzibar now.]
Local supporters of gay rights have condemned the law, passed after bomb and grenade attacks on a restaurant and the homes of political and religious leaders, which police initially blamed on Muslim militants.
This tendency of fundamentalist Muslims to use terror at every turn to get their way is quite appalling: Madrid bombings before the Spanish election; taking French hostages in Iraq to demand repealing a French law; intimidating politicians into supporting a fundamentalist agenda. (And don't forget Russia's problems.)
Of course, I think the Spanish are most blameworthy in sending the messages that "terror works," by responding to the terror blast by voting in a candidate who would pull Spanish troops from Iraq; and I laud the French (and the vast majority of French muslims!) for telling the kidnappers "no." But that is an entirely different subject, and I don't want to go off on a rant now, but's it is something that has been bugging me since the French kidnapping.
And, yes, the irony is that Freddie Mercury, front-man for the band Queen, is the most famous native Zanzibari. I doubt they'll be erecting a statue for him anytime soon.
e-mail post | Link Cosmos | [Permalink] | | Monday, September 13, 2004