RABAT, MOROCCO—Elton John was the highlight of Morocco’s biggest music festival Wednesday evening despite calls by the country’s main Islamist party to shelve the British singer because of his homosexuality.
The public spat between organizers for the Mawazine Festival and the Justice and Development Party, or PJD, the country’s largest authorized Islamist group, illustrates the growing rift between Morocco’s Western-leaning authorities and the more conservative Muslim movements that are on the rise in the North African kingdom.The problem with"anti-apartheid" queers can be summed up in a paraphrase of that old Elton ballad: Sharia seems to be the hardest word.
“This singer is famous for his homosexual behaviour and for advocating it,” said Mustapha Ramid, a leader and spokesman for the PJD, the biggest opposition party with 40 lawmakers in parliament.
“We’re a rather open party, but promoting homosexuality is completely unacceptable,” Ramid told Associated Press in a phone interview, saying homosexuality is against Muslim values. Ramid feared the singer would “encourage the phenomenon” and be a bad influence for Morocco’s youth.
Like nearly all Arab and Muslim countries, Morocco is officially hostile to homosexuality. Homosexual practices are a crime punishable by fines and prison sentences of six months to three years. But in practice, such penalties are hardly ever applied, and Morocco has a long history of leniency toward homosexuality or other practices forbidden by Islam, such as drinking alcohol...