Eight men attended what may have been a gay union on a boat on the Nile. We know this because in September a video of the event went public. The men were not seen to have engaged in any sexual acts; the most "damning" thing in the video is that the couple exchange rings, a kiss, and a hug. By the way, men kiss in Egypt all the time. It's a cultural norm.
Yet, Egypt's top prosecutor claimed that merely by being present the eight men had affronted God and disturbed "public morals." While under arrest, the "God-offending" suspects were subjected to forced anal exams. These produced no evidence, so the court convicted them of "promoting debauchery" and sentenced them to three years in prison.
Many in Egypt's middle class and elites have embraced the military coup that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power. Their relief at being out from under an Islamist government -- and a thoroughly incompetent one at that -- is understandable. But they've made a devil's bargain. Egypt's remarkable revolution of 2011, which championed liberal democracy, has decayed into Pinochet-style military fascism. And like General Pinochet's Chile, Egypt has shown itself eager to uphold the state religion even as it jails those Muslims whose politics it dislikes.
I've long maintained that Old Time Religion is much the same the world over, whatever brand name may appear on its packaging. Old Time Religion is authoritarian, repressive, and just plain mean. It burns "witches" and tortures "heretics." When in power, it uses the state to crush the freedom and joy out of life; when out of power it justifies any horror or cruelty in the name of God.
The actions of Egypt's new government (as well as those of the regime it overthrew) bear this out. Nothing is more personal than one's sexual identity, Only by invoking the wrath of God can something called "public morals" be used to justify imprisoning people for celebrating a gay wedding.
This is a blot on Islam. but it's not unique to Islam. Earlier this year, Uganda passed a law urged by evangelical Christians to impose the death penalty for homosexuality. (Thankfully, it has since been voided by a court.) Right here in the U.S. a Tea Party candidate for the Oklahoma statehouse has publicly stated his support for stoning gays to death.
Old Time Religion is a global scourge. People of good faith, whether they adhere to a mainstream religion, no religion, or humanism, need to stand united against religious fascism in all its guises.