Tribute to Mercury canceled after criticism from Muslim leaders

Posted on 07 Sep 2006 at 2:28pm
By Ali Sultan – Associated Press

Organizer says party to honor former Queen frontman who was gay and died of AIDS was to raise money for AIDS victims



A party in Tanzania planned to honor the late Freddie Mercury, the gay lead singer for the rock band Queen, was cancelled after protests from Muslim leaders. Mercury, who was born in Tanzania, died of AIDS in 1991.

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania After a Muslim leader criticized plans to honor the late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury with a huge beach party last weekend, organizers on Aug. 31 called off the bash.

Mercury, who acknowledged being gay, was born in Zanzibar when the country was still a British protectorate. He was educated in India and moved with his family to Britain in the early 1960s, after a bloody revolution that drove out many immigrants of Indian or Arab descent.

Mercury died of AIDS in 1991. Tuesday would have been his 60th birthday.

“Our main idea is to promote tourism, and Freddie Mercury was from Zanzibar. It’s part of our history,” said Simai Mohammed, manager of the Mercury restaurant which was named for the singer, in explaining why the party had been planned. “We are all Muslims and it’s not our intention to offend any religion.”

But on Aug. 31, Mohammed bowed to pressure and called off the party.

“We have decided to cancel the party after misleading and erroneous information was spread about it,” Mohamed said.

He added, “I urge Muslim groups in the future to seek correct information from us instead of relying on rumors.”

He said that the cancellation would hurt his intention to use the party to raise money for HIV/AIDS victims on Zanzibar.

But Azan Khalid of Zanzibar’s Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation said Mercury violated Islam with his flamboyant lifestyle.

Khalid said anything linking Mercury with Zanzibar’s Muslim population would be offensive.

Zanzibar, a semiautonomous region of Tanzania, criminalized gay and lesbian sex in 2004, but remains a popular resort destination for South African gays. Last year some 500,000 tourists traveled to Zanzibar, bringing vital foreign currency to the Indian Ocean island.

Zanzibar’s government sent a letter asking state-owned media not to report on Mercury’s birthday because of the tension between the religious group and the restaurant.

Mercury gained fame as the bravura singer for Queen, whose elaborate and occasionally bombastic songs made the group one of the favorites of the 1970s. Queen’s hits included “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Are the Champions” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, September 8, 2006.

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