The western Canadian city of Vancouver has banned an “anti-Sharia” float at this year’s pride parade saying that the sentiment expressed by the Middle Eastern men behind it is “Islamophobic”.The float, which is run by a gay activist group of Middle Eastern origin men and transgenders named Cirque de So Gay, took part in the Vancouver pride parade in 2011. The activists applied for a place in this year’s pride parade but were denied by organisers, who told them that the float could be seen as “culturally insensitive”, the Vancouver Sun reports.
Shawn Shirazi, an Iranian born gay man, is one of the activists involved with Cirque de So Gay and has expressed anger at the decision to prohibit the float this year. He said the rejection was “hypocrisy” for people to claim to support universal human rights yet also defend the cultural sensitivities of various religions and cultures.
Co-executive director of the Vancouver Pride Society Andrea Arnot defended the move saying: “Many women choose to wear burkas. It’s part of their identity, their religion and their culture,” but added: “Of course, there are places where it’s enforced.”
She said Muslims she spoke to on the issue claimed the float was “offensive” and said: “I definitely wanted to be sensitive to what is happening in our communities right now.”
In the UK, a similar controversy occurred in London in July when former Muslims carried signs reading: “Allah is Gay.” A formal complaint was lodged with the event organisers by the East London Mosque who said the signs incited hatred.
The issue of Islamisation and the role of Islam in Canadian public life has been hotly debated in Canada since the last federal election in 2015 when former Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to ban the full face veil for employees of public companies.
Since then, the country has been divided on the issue with the federal government under Justin Trudeau passing motion M103 which seeks to combat Islamophobia in reaction to a shooting at a Quebec mosque earlier this year which Trudeau deemed a terrorist attack.
Trudeau, who is a frequent attendee at pride parades, was also seen sporting Ramadan-themed socks at the Toronto pride parade earlier this year.
Some governments have gone the opposite way to Trudeau’s Liberal party like the provincial government of Quebec who recently passed an amendment to a bill which could see the niqab banned on public transit across the province.