The head of the Egyptian Musician Union has barred British musician Elton John for performing a private concert scheduled for May 18 because he made "controversial remarks attacking religion."
Elton John, 63, sparked controversy after telling Parade Magazine, "Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems...Try being a gay woman in the Middle East – you're as good as dead."
Following the news of John's statement, union boss Mounir al Wasimi said he started coordinating with Egyptian security bodies to ban John's concert, telling Deutsche Presse-Agentur that the Egyptian Musician Union is the only organization "authorized to allow performances by foreign singers in Egypt."
"How do we allow a gay, who wants to ban religions, claimed that the prophet Eissa [Jesus] was gay and calls for Middle Eastern countries to allow gays to have sexual freedom," Al Wasimi said.
In an interview with WGN-TV entertainment reporter Dean Richards, Elton John maintained that Parade pulled his quote out of context. "Let me clarify. I'm not saying to everyone that he definitely was gay; that's just how I see him from my point of view as a compassionate gay person. I see him as a compassionate person who forgave people. That's how I see him. Everyone's individual faith is their own business," John said.
Homosexuality remains a taboo in Egypt, with its existence rarely acknowledged by the Egyptian government. In 2000, Egyptian police arrested a gay couple and charged them with practicing indecent and immoral behavior. When the couple's lawyer asked that the judge drop the case, the judge refused, arguing that the men had offended religious and moral standards.
In 2001, the Egyptian government began public crackdowns against Egyptian homosexuals on grounds that they were violating the "Public Order and Public Morals" code passed to combat "lewd" and "Satanic" expressions. The most widely publicized of the crackdowns occurred at a Cairo boat party in which fifty-two homosexual men were arrested and charged with violating morality laws. Twenty-three of the men were sentenced to prison.