A fatwa by acting Grand Mufti Maksat Hajji Toktomushev in late January sparked fears that it could put gay and bisexual men at risk of deadly vigilante justice, said rferl.org.
Kyrgyzstan decriminalized homosexuality in 1998, and is generally regarded to have more liberal attitudes toward homosexuality than many of its neighbors. Sexual minorities have officially registered organizations, night clubs, and cafe-restaurants, and gay and lesbian leaders are well known and speak openly.
Nevertheless, a Human Rights Watch report issued on January 29 accused Kyrgyz police of extorting, threatening, arbitrarily arresting, beating, and sexually abusing gay and bisexual men, reports rferl.org.
Homosexuals in Kyrgyzstan, it wrote, “already live in fear due to widespread homophobic attitudes, and the police are making a nightmarish situation even worse.”
Toktomushev’s fatwa or religious decree, posted on the website of the Kyrgyz Muslims Spiritual Directorate, cited a hadith attributed to the Prophet Muhammad: “If you see a community of luts [eds.: a reference to the Lut tribe (also Lot), described in the Koran as practicing sodomy] doing their deeds, you should kill the one who is doing it and the one to whom it is being done.”
The fatwa concluded by saying, “To sum it up, all Muslims should stay away from [homosexuality] and live by Allah’s Shari’a.”
Human rights lawyer Tolekan Ismailova warned that the fatwa could incite violence against homosexuals and urged the Prosecutor-General’s Office to investigate.
Ismailova argued that the fatwa violated the Kyrgyz Constitution, which bans all forms of discrimination, rferl.org reported.
The Spiritual Directorate’s representative Jorobay Hajji Shergaziev, who heads the directorate’s Fatwa Department, defended the religious body’s actions. “It is absolutely wrong to say that we are forcing everyone to take actions against [homosexuals.] … We tell everyone about what Islam says, and then people are free to decide if they like [homosexuals’] behavior or not.”
Toktomushev told journalists in Bishkek recently that his fatwa, which was revised and eventually removed from the Spiritual Directorate’s website, was not a call for people to kill anyone. “The phrase we quoted from the prophet belongs to very ancient times, not at all to our days,” Toktomushev said. “Back then, it was said to prevent debauchery.”
Kyrgyzstan’s Interior Ministry said it was unaware of any complaints of police abuse against homosexuals.