A Muslim preacher was reportedly chased out of his neighbourhood for advocating LGBTQ+ rights in a shocking incident that has sent shockwaves through the community of Anwiam in Kumasi, the Ashanti Region.
Shaikh Issah Suleman Guerni is reported to have ruffled the feathers of the predominantly Muslim community after questioning their moral rights to stop LGBTQ+ practises if the youth over there cannot do away with fornication and adultery.
Preaching at a marriage ceremony on Sunday, March 12, the invited cleric condemned the youth for the continuous practise of giving birth out of wedlock, while they condemned LGBTQ practises, questioning their moral rights.
Speaking to the media reporter in the Ashanti Region, Mohammed Mustapha Kamil, an eyewitness who had accompanied the cleric, said “It was a harmless suggestion made by the preacher”.
According to him, the scholar only drew the analogy that if the youth are relying on economic difficulty to avoid marriage while enjoying sex among themselves, it would not be far-fetched to allow LGBTQ+ people to also have their rights.
“In his preaching, he sought to raise awareness about the equal challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community in dealing with sexual orientation,” the eyewitness who spoke in anonymity said.
“He was only speaking about people’s right to choose a sex partner, be it in marriage or not, juxtaposing it with his endorsement of the choices that LGBTQ+ people make, but that was vehemently opposed.”
According to Sheikh Guerni, both the fornicators and the LGBTQ people face similar challenges in making choices, and there would not be any moral right for the former to question the latter.
“He said if fornication and adultery can be accepted as norms in an Islamic community, gay practises should be accepted too, as each and every soul has the right to choose what he or she wants to do,” another witness, Muhammed Malik, added.
“However, his efforts were met with intense opposition from members of the community who strongly opposed any discussion around LGBTQ+ rights. Several individuals organised themselves into a mob and began harassing and threatening the man, claiming that his actions were against their cultural and religious values,” he added.
And the situation quickly escalated, with the mob eventually cornering the young man and demanding that he leave the town immediately after he was manhandled, while an irate youth subsequently pursued him at his home in Kumasi, threatening to burn his house. It took the intervention of some neighbours to save him from being lynched, the witness adds.
Fearing for his safety, the man was forced to flee his home, leaving behind his belongings and his vulnerable children.
As news of the incident spread, the larger national community engaged in a heated debate about LGBTQ+ rights and the boundaries of freedom of expression. Prominent figures from both sides of the argument have voiced their opinions, sparking further discussions about tolerance, acceptance, and the protection of individual rights.
His whereabouts are not known, with his family expressing worry about his safety wherever he could be.
According to Kamil and Malik, they themselves have been facing similar attacks from the public, making it difficult to appear in the public domain.
They said that the incident serves as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community in societies where social acceptance is limited.
“It highlights the urgent need for education and dialogue to foster understanding and empathy while ensuring the safety and well-being of those advocating for equal rights”, Malik said.
As his family continues the search for his whereabouts, local authorities are under increasing pressure to address this issue responsibly and ensure justice is served. Meanwhile, the man remains missing from his community and is believed to be seeking refuge and support from organisations dedicated to protecting the rights of marginalised individuals.
According to opinion leaders of the community, they hoped that this distressing incident would serve as a catalyst for change and encourage communities to embrace diversity and inclusivity, offering a safe environment for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
However, the Parliament of Ghana in July unanimously passed an extreme anti-gay bill, known as the 2021 Promotion of Appropriate Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill, which seeks to tighten laws against members of the LGBTQ+ community.