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An Islamist Threat to Eurovision?

An Islamist Threat to Eurovision?

The Eurovision Song Contest is by far the biggest entertainment event in the world. Up to 600 million people watch the annual contest, which has been held since 1956 and takes place this year on May 26.

Last year it was won by the former Soviet state of Azerbaijan and so this year’s contest is taking place in their capital Baku. For the Azerbaijanis, it’s a very big deal, a chance to put themselves on the international stage, and so they’ve built a special 23,000 seat venue just for Eurovision.

However, Azerbaijan is not a very democratic country. The country just freed one political prisoner in advance of the contest but many more are still being held and peaceful protest rallies continue to be broken up. Many people were forcibly evicted to build that new venue and surrounding ‘beautification.’

Although homosexuality is not criminalized, it is repressed in the mostly Muslim country, and there have always been fears that the contest, with its huge gay following and participation, would not be safe for gay people.

The government has been keen to allay concerns with a spokesman telling the BBC last year that it was “ill-informed speculation by some expatriates about how we treat our homosexual community.”

“We consider all this nothing more than an unsuccessful attempt by those naysayers to gain a better reputation in their respective countries in the light of the upcoming Eurovision song contest in Azerbaijan,” senior official Elnur Aslanov said.

However, false rumors that the song contest will be accompanied by a ‘gay parade’ have sparked outrage across the border in Iran — where a quarter of the population are ethnic Azeris — and now real threats from Islamists in the country. In Iran, massive crowds were whipped up by a prominent cleric in Tabriz and Astara.

A counter-protest was held outside the Iranian embassy in Baku, with people demanding Iran stop interfering in Azerbaijan’s affairs, saying ‘Iranian Islam is not Islam’ and ‘Iran sends terrorists to our country.’

Some have speculated that this is political due to the Azerbaijani government’s ties with Israel; a high ranking member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has said that “the May 26 gay parade in Baku is the result of the Zionists’ influence in Azerbaijan.”

But now Alchin Manafov, the acting leader of the Islamic Party in the Republic of Azerbaijan, who the government has jailed in the past, has been quoted in Iranian media saying:

They should know that they will have to walk over our bodies to have the Eurovision… They should know that if [gay pride] happens nothing else will matter to us. We will turn Azerbiajan into a burning hell and are not afraid of a possible civil war in the country.

His party is seen as tied to Iran and is underground in the staunchly secular country.

Last month The Irish Independent reported that an Islamic terrorist group had said they will target all the participants in the Eurovision song contest in Azerbaijan because they are ‘European scum.’ The group has also threatened the use of ‘knives and chemical weapons’ at the contest.

The country has seen a sharp international focus already because of the contest, not just on its growing wealth but also its treatment of both religious and secular political opposition. That will peak in two weeks time and the government is on the defensive.

“We have a young population, a young democracy, which is developing very quickly,” says Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijan’s foreign minister.

We have to be tolerant of criticism, but sometimes it is overplayed. I cannot recognise criticism of free media and free expression when almost 100 per cent of our people have access to the internet and can look at any media they want. There is always room for increasing the fight against human-rights abuses and strengthening rule of law. But as our late leader Heydar Aliyev said, democracy isn’t an apple I can buy in a store. It is a day-by-day process.

Related stories:

Faces Of Change: Leyla Yunus Speaks Out In Azerbaijan

In France, Satire Survives Firebombing (Video)

Iran Called to Account on LGBT Repression at UN

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43 comments

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2:16AM PST on Feb 4, 2013

Give a chance to your opponents if your opponents if you have been defeated once.

thx.

12:07PM PDT on Aug 29, 2012

And Sweden won! Have you heard the winning song, Euphoria? No? Listen to it at YouTube and sing-a-long! And Loreen, that sung it did a great job herself by meeting with the opposition in Azerbaijan. The only participant to do so. When she sang in Belarus, she met the wife of a political prisoner and spoke with independent journalists and signed a petition against the death penalty. Both her political actions have been condemned by the critizised Governments.
So, please, do me and her a favor by listening to the song. It is the best I've heard in a long time and I'm not a fan of the ESC.

2:33PM PDT on May 20, 2012

There is NO joy in Islam!!! Thus the hatred they have and the killing..attacking...ridiculing...double standards..hatred of women...abuse of women and the list goes on...there is NO joy in that at all!!

6:50AM PDT on May 18, 2012

Islam: no siging, no dancing, one loopy Imam in Australia says that football is Satanic, executing gays- what's wrong with these people?

The only things they seem to find joy in is slitting throats, oppressing women and anyone who doesn't agree with them, and wandering around the streets in their nightshirts complaining and threatening all and sundry.

6:49AM PDT on May 18, 2012

Islam: no siging, no dancing, one loopy Imam in Australia says that football is Satanic, executing gays- what's wrong with these people?

The only things they seem to find joy in is slitting throats, oppressing women and anyone who doesn't agree with them, and wandering around the streets in their nightshirts complaining and threatening all and sundry.

5:12AM PDT on May 18, 2012

Azerbaijan: A church in the Muslim-majority nation has "become the first religious community to be liquidated by a court since the country's harsh new 'Religion Law,' requiring all previously registered religious institutions to re-register, came into force in 2009. Greater Grace Protestant Church in the capital, Baku, "was stripped of its registration at a 15-minute hearing on 25 April. The decision, which was made in the absence of any church representatives, makes any activity by the church illegal and subject to punishment."

Abdul Aziz, you, like all Muslim liars, employ taquira, deception, as freely as you inhale air except that everyone on this forum knows exactly what you are. I'm actually glad that you're on Care2 as you are a constant reminder, along with Sian and John D. (probably all one and the same liar) of the encroaching horror of your interpretation of Islam.

Thankfully, not all Muslims are like you and many of them are as horrified and disgusted by your actions as non Muslims. Thank you for continually shedding light on the ongoing deceit and madness of your twisted interpretation of Islam.

4:46AM PDT on May 18, 2012

There are estimates that 20% of Muslims in the world are ready to die for Allahu Akbar...SO WHY DONT THEY JUST DIE...IT WOULD HELP SOLVING A PROBLEM!

7:08PM PDT on May 17, 2012

I guess it's too much to ask of silly people to just ignore something they don't agree with. Instead, the Olympics, the Eurovision song contest, the soccer cup, etc. are just more victims to all these idiotic political battles. Oh well............

4:50PM PDT on May 17, 2012

It takes very little to get most Muslims whipped up into a frenzy, no matter how paltry or ridiculous the alleged excuse (cartoon depictions of Muhammad, saying Islam is NOT a religion of peace, for example).

Iran, especially, uses its rhetoric to whip them up against Israel, no matter how stupid, so now its’ a "Zionist/homosexual plot" (Muslim accusations about shark attacks, spying birds and the list goes on). No accusation against Israelis is too implausible or insipid to create. Shame.

But that is what Iran perceives as its ticket to acceptance in the Arab and Sunni world. No matter how bad the hatred and strife between Sunni and Shia Muslims, Iran is pretty sure that both sides will come together to hang homosexuals and bang their chests with loud bravado of longing for Jewish blood.

I hope Azerbaijan is bigger than to let Iran's conniving and manipulation get it down, regardless of the quality of the songs and music at the Eurovision.

Of course, with few takers of Iranian oil and its economy slowly falling apart because of its intransigence about its nuclear weapons program, why should it waste a good opportunity to make trouble wherever it can elsewhere.

3:46PM PDT on May 17, 2012

I have followed the Eurovision Song Contest for more years than I care to admit to - I will simply say that I have seen a fair few of them. In the past few years it has lost all meaning, there was a time when winning the competition meant fame and fortune (ABBA being a good example), it certainly doesn't guarantee this anymore. Personally I am surprised that the competition, which simply seems to be an opportunity to show political support, still continues. It cannot generate anything like the audiences (and therefore income) that it used to. It is past its' sell by date, move on!

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