Turkish cleric declares that the ‘evil’ of homosexuality ‘brings illness and corrupts generations’

Ali Erbaş: Turkish cleric who called gays 'evil' escapes investigation

Ali Erbaş, a senior cleric in Turkey, used a sermon at the start of Ramadan to call on people to oppose the “evil” of homosexuality.

Erbaş, who is the head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, made the inflammatory comments in a sermon on April 24 at the start of the religious festival.

He said: “Islam curses homosexuality. Homosexuality brings with it illnesses and decay to lineage. Let’s work together to protect people from such evil.”

It’s technically legal to be gay in Turkey, but LGBT+ people in the country have few legal rights and face extreme stigma — with Pride parades still often brutally repressed by police.

The cleric’s inflammatory comments — as well as the suggestion that gay people are in some form responsible for the spread of disease — have been condemned by human rights groups and the Ankara Bar Association.

Turkish cleric Ali Erbaş

Turkish cleric Ali Erbaş (Official photo: Directorate of Religious Affairs)

However, officials within President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s right-wing Justice and Development Party have strongly defended Erbaş.

In a Twitter thread, government official Ömer Çelik praised the cleric for “defending Islamic values” and decried the “fascist mentality” of those he claims are attacking “the most natural right for people to speak according to the value system they believe”.

Reuters reports that prosecutors have launched a probe into the Ankara Bar Association, over claims that their condemnation of the cleric is an insult to religious values.

Turkey has seen a spike in homophobic rhetoric

The latest attempt to whip up homophobic sentiment in Turkey follows a moral panic sparked by a Netflix series set in the country.

Rumours of a gay character on Love 101, released on Netflix this month, unleashed a torrent of fury from the state.

The president of the Radio and Television Supreme Council Ebubekir Sahin made clear: “We will not tolerate broadcasts that are contrary to the national and spiritual values ​​of our society.”

Online, posts have racked up thousands of likes accusing Netflix of “trying to normalise immorality”, branding the streaming giant “Islam’s enemy” for airing the show during Ramadan.

There was no visible gay character when Love 101 debuted on April 24 — with fans unclear if the rumour was false, or whether a decision was made to edit the show after the backlash.

In June 2019, police clad in riot gear fired tear gas at Istanbul Pride marchers to disrupt the event, marking the fifth year the event has been prevented from going ahead.

However, there is growing support for inclusion in the country. A survey last month found that 45 per cent of people in Turkey think that LGBT+ people should have equal rights — a rise from 36 per cent a year prior.