Officials in Saudi Arabia seized toys and clothing in the "colors of homosexuality" from stores in Riyadh earlier this week. According to the authorities, rainbow-colored objects refer to the LGBT+ flag that encourages homosexuality amongst children, which is contrary to "the Islamic faith."
The commerce ministry of Saudi Arabia announced this seizure of objects and the subsequent ban on rainbow-colored items, including toys, bows, clothes, hats, and pencil cases. Stores that continue to sell these rainbow-colored objects are also subject to face legal penalties. The ministry tweeted that the items were removed from the stores as they "contain symbols and signs that call for deviation and contradict common sense."
Saudi Arabia is confiscating rainbow-colored items from stores in Riyadh. A report from the state-run media says the government wants to "protect children" from materials promoting the "poisoned message" of homosexuality. pic.twitter.com/SA8NqRiC6q
— DW News (@dwnews) June 16, 2022
According to a report broadcast on June 14th on Al Ekhbariya, a Saudi news channel about the crackdown in the stores of Riyadh, an official added, "We are giving a tour of the items that contradict the Islamic faith and public morals and promote homosexual colors targeting the younger generation.". A journalist pointed toward a rainbow flag, saying, "homosexuality flag is present in one of the Riyadh markets," The colors send a "poisoned message" to the children.
In Saudi Arabia, where Sharia, the Islamic laws, are strictly enforced, homosexuality is seen as a severely punishable offense that can result in flogging or capital punishment. The country does not recognize, permit, or celebrate same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships. It is also forbidden for men to behave like women or to wear women's clothing, and vice versa.
Homosexuals and transgender people do not have religious autonomy either. They are not allowed to go to the sacred Muslim sites or go on the holy pilgrimage to Mecca.
Last year in December, the top religious body of Saudi Arabia declared homosexuality "one of the most heinous crimes." In the statement released, Islamic Scholar Abdelaziz Al-Sheikh, the current Grand Mufti, the most influential Muslim leader of the country, said that people belonging to the LGBT community are "a disgrace in this world."
While in recent years, the Gulf monarchy has promoted social reforms aimed at portraying a more liberal image of itself to the world and its youth. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in his "vision 2030," has been pursuing a policy of social and economic openness, authorizing women to drive and travel alone and relaxation of unfair gender rules. However, religious conservatism and political repression in the country remain very strong.
Deep-rooted prejudice against homosexuality in Saudi Arabia still prevails. It has left little room for social progress regarding issues related to the LGBTQIA+ community, which continues to live under persecution in the country.
Depiction of homosexual relationships in popular media is not tolerated. In April 2022, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia asked Disney to remove "LGBTQ references" from its film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. However, the entertainment conglomerate refused to back down. Recently, The Disney-Pixar animated movie, Lightyear, got banned for having a brief kiss scene between two lesbian characters.
A similar crackdown happened in the neighboring country of Qatar last year in December. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) in Qatar tweeted photos of objects which resembled the LGBT flag. It also carried out inspection campaigns on several retail outlets in different regions across Qatar "the campaigns resulted in the seizure and release of several violations, including the confiscation of children's toys bearing slogans that go against Islamic values."
#MOCIQATAR carried out inspection campaigns on several retail outlets in different regions across #Qatar, the campaigns resulted in the seizure and release of several violations, including the confiscation of children's toys bearing slogans that go against Islamic values.
— وزارة التجارة والصناعة (@MOCIQatar) December 20, 2021