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Scotland Gay Vote Erodes Muslim Support

Published: 17/02/2013 01:18:20 PM GMT
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CAIRO - A planned vote on a government bill to allow religious bodies to perform same-sex marriages is drawing a strong opposition from Scottish Muslims, eroding support for the ruling party among the sizable minority.“Aft (more)

CAIRO - A planned vote on a government bill to allow religious bodies to perform same-sex marriages is drawing a strong opposition from Scottish Muslims, eroding support for the ruling party among the sizable minority.

“After the first consultation [in 2011], people gave their opinion and that was ignored - which is really not good for the political process in general,” Dr Salah Beltagui, of the Muslim Council of Scotland, told Scotland Herald on Sunday, February 17.“There is always the call for people from ethnic communities to be engaged in politics and this was an exercise where people engaged but that proved negative.”

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The Scottish government has proposed a bill to legalize gay marriages in the country.

Under the plans, religious and belief bodies would need to “opt in” to perform same-sex marriages.

But the government proposal is meeting opposition from the Church of Scotland and Roman Catholic Church.

Muslim leaders are also opposing the bill, accusing politicians of ignoring their views on the matter.

Representatives from Glasgow Central Mosque are scheduled to hold talks Monday with Health Secretary Alex Neil, who is in charge of the same-sex marriage plans.

The Muslim Council of Scotland is also due to meet with the Secretary later this month to discuss its response to the current consultation on the draft legislation.

The council, which represents Muslim associations, mosques and institutions, has vowed to lobby MSPs ahead of the vote on the bill, which is expected later this year.

The Muslim pressures follow the Scotland for Marriage campaign, backed largely by religious groups including the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Scotland, the Christian Institute and the Evangelical Alliance.

The campaign has stepped up its protests against the vote, delivering thousands of leaflets across the country against the bill.

Eroding Support

The gay marriage vote has caused to erode support for the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) among Scottish Muslims.

“We know of people who have actually withdrawn from the Scottish National Party (SNP) as a party member because of this,” Beltagui said.

Analysts also expect that the introduction of gay marriage would be reflected in the ballot box.

“I think people have it in their minds that when it comes to vote they will remember who voted where,” he said.

“Nearer the time [of the legislation vote] there might be a campaign aimed at politicians and MSPs especially.”

Yet, with almost all Scottish parties supporting the bill, including Labour, Liberal, Conservative and Green, Muslim protesters have few options for switching voting.

“The legislation is going to get voted through by a majority of MSPs from all parties. We shouldn't be surprised that there is very substantial debate about this as we are talking about an incredibly rapid change in social attitudes,” said John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University.

“There will be grumbles, but with that you have to remember that within religious communities, the view of younger people will be different to that of older people.”

Glasgow lawmaker Humza Yousaf echoes a similar view, calling for the government to guarantee Muslim imams the freedom to abstain from concluding same-sex marriages.

“It is of course the case that the leaders of every political party in the Scottish Parliament, and the UK Government support equal marriage. Every imam I have spoken to thus far understands that religious freedom cuts both ways,” he said.

“While legal safeguards for mosques and those who do not want to solemnize same-sex marriage are vital, there is an understanding from imams that what others wish to do in their faith institutions is entirely their own business.”

Scotland has about 75,000 Muslims. About 40% of them live in Glasgow.

Same-sex relationship and marriage are totally prohibited in Islam, Christianity and all divine religions.

Islam teaches that believers should neither do the obscene acts, nor in any way indulge in their propagation.The Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is not a sin, but considers homosexual intercourse as sinful.

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