Iraqis accuse religious leader of ‘weaponising’ coronavirus by blaming the pandemic on same-sex marriage

Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr coronavirus covid-19 Pride flag

Iraqi Shia political leader Muqtada al-Sadr has been widely criticised online for claiming that the coronavirus pandemic was caused by same-sex marriage.

Writing on Twitter on Saturday (March 28), al-Sadr – who is the leader of the Sadrist Movement and the Saraya al-Salam militia, said: “One of the most appalling things that have caused this epidemic is the legalisation of same-sex marriage.”

He called on “all governments” to repeal their laws on same-sex marriage “immediately and without hesitation,” apparently believing that doing so would somehow reverse the pandemic.

His comments have been widely condemned by LGBT+ activists as well as Twitter users, many of whom took the time to reply to al-Sadr’s tweet.

Iraqi LGBT+ rights group accused Muqtada al-Sadr of ‘weaponising’ people’s coronavirus fears to stoke hate.

Iraqi LGBT+ rights group IraQueer yesterday accused him of “weaponising” fears and anxieties of the Iraqi people as the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen.

“Making such ignorant statements will not only endanger LGBT+ people’s lives, but will also put the lives of all Iraqis at risk,” IraQueer said in a statement seen by Middle East Eye.

“The coronavirus is a pandemic that must be dealt with seriously and medically, and Muqtada al-Sadr’s tweet will only distract us from what is really important, which is to save Iraqi lives.”

Making such ignorant statements will not only endanger LGBT+ people’s lives, but will also put the lives of all Iraqis at risk.

Iraqi Twitter users also widely condemned al-Sadr for his offensive comments. While his tweet was liked more than 10,000 times, it also received more than 6,000 mostly angry replies.

Twitter users widely condemned the political leader.

One Twitter user replied: “I am an Iraqi as well and I have the right to life and marriage like everyone else”.

Activist Abbas al-Wadi wrote: “Someone take the phone from his hands.”

Aya Mansour, editor of Iraq Media Network, insisted that coronavirus is “not as dangerous as your statements.”

Meanwhile, actor and researcher with the Albasheer Show replied: “One of the most dangerous things that will cause this epidemic to spread is your tweets and your herd,” referencing his followers’ decision to continue congregating despite social distancing guidelines.

A number of Twitter users also pointed out that some of the countries that have been worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic have not actually legalised same-sex marriage, such as China, Italy and Iran.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Iraq but discrimination is widespread and LGBT+ people are frequently victims of vigilante justice and honour killings.