Top Saudi cleric: Homosexuals should not be punished

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A prominent Saudi Muslim scholar has come out to disavow persecution of gay people.

Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia, with harsh punishments ranging from floggings to the death penalty.

But Dr Salman al-Ouda, a member of the International Union for Muslim Scholars and director of Islam Today, has called for an end to the persecution of gay people.

According to the Jerusalem Post, he affirmed in an interview: “Even though homosexuality is considered a sin in all the Semitic holy books, it does not require any punishment in this world. It is a sin that will accompany its committee in the life after death.”

He added: “Homosexuals are not deviating from Islam. Homosexuality is a grave sin, but those who say that homosexuals deviate from Islam are the real deviators.

“By condemning homosexuals to death they are committing a graver sin than homosexuality itself.”

He added: “Even though homosexuality does not distance oneself from Islam, the Islam does not encourage individuals who have same-sex attraction to show their feelings in public.”

The cleric, an influential figure in Saudi Arabia who was once held as a political prisoner, has provoked a fierce reaction in the country, where public opinion is strongly anti-LGBT.

It is often difficult to confirm data about gay people charged under Saudi Arabia’s justice system, as consensual homosexual acts are often legally indistinguishable from rape or paedophilia under the country’s laws.

But it was reported last month that prosecutors in the country are pushing to enforce the death penalty for homosexuality – because social media is turning people gay.