Gulf | Oman

Article on gays stirs a hornet’s nest in Oman

Publication issues an apology for hurting sentiments of the people

  • By Sunil K. Vaidya, Bureau Chief
  • Published: 15:22 September 1, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • Omani English language weekly, The Week , issued an apology to readers after publishing the article.

Muscat: An article in a local weekly tabloid on homosexuality among Omanis has kicked up a huge controversy, prompting the publisher to carry a public apology on the home page of the publication’s online edition.

The article, carried by The Week in their latest issue, evoked ire from a cross-section of people, who gave vent to their feelings on cyber space.

The topic was trending on microblogging site Twitter over the weekend with the Shura Council chairman, Shaikh Khalid Bin Hilal Bin Naseer Al Maa’wali, assuring his followers on Twitter that the Media Committee at the Council will handle the issue.

“The tone of the article seemed that there was an attempt to promote the unnatural act as natural,” Tawfiq Al Lawati, Shura member from Muttrah constituency, told Gulf News.

He actively tweeted about the article, expressing his point of view. “The problem [about homosexuality] is understandable. However, promoting such an act and projecting Oman as [a] safe haven for homosexuality is unacceptable,” he reiterated, adding that the article promoted homosexuality and projected Oman as a safe haven for gay people in the Gulf, adding that the article has damaged Oman’s reputation.

However, the publisher, Saleh Al Zakwani, apologised in a statement on the home page of the freely distributed publication’s website.

“The Week places on record that there was never any intention to knowingly or unknowingly cause harm, offend, or hurt the sentiments of the people with our article last week, and we deeply and sincerely regret the article. The Week issues a public apology to our readers whose opinion we respect.”

“It was a good gesture by Saleh Al Zakwani,” Al Lawati conceded.

At the same time, the feisty Shura member wants a thorough and transparent investigation by the authorities. “Insulting Islam, values and challenging cultural morals is unacceptable.”

He pointed out that in the recent past people have been put on trial for their Twitter posts, therefore, if authorities do not take action for this article it would seem biased and selective punishment.

He added that people expect an explanation from the Ministry of Information about the violation and the measures taken by them as well as Public Prosecution for publishing such a damaging article.

“It is different when you discuss a problem to find solutions or when you promote an act forbidden by law and religion,” Al Lawati posted on Twitter.

“They have violated three articles, 25, 28 and 31 of the Press and Publication Law,” he told Gulf News.

Al Lawati also urged people not to blow the whole issue out of proportion but deal with it properly.

Meanwhile, the Oman Journalist Association “strongly condemned” the article and urged the Ministry of Information to take appropriate action to prevent publication of such damaging articles.

“The OJA considers this a setback in the history of Omani journalism... and calls on the authorities to suspend its [publishing] licence and bring the perpetrators to justice and punish all of those who stood behind it,” the statement read.

The Week did not respond to Gulf News’ request for a comment.

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