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Last weekend, Jamaican-born reggae star Sizzla was supposed to headline a concert at the Paramount Theatre in Toronto, Canada.

He didn’t even pack his bags. The Canadian Embassy in Jamaica had denied him a visa, apparently because of his songs inciting hatred and violence against homosexual people. They were quite right to do so.

Sizzla (real name Miguel Orlando Collins) was known to Canadian authorities. He and another unrepentant homophobe at the time “Elephant Man” (real name O’Neal Bryan) had another concert in another venue in the same Canadian city in October 2007 cancelled after protests from community groups. A homophobe is an irrational disliker of homosexuals.

As spokesperson for the Stop Murder Music Canada Coalition correctly noted: “This (stopping of this show) was not about censorship or artistic freedom. That stops when hate propaganda is involved.” The SMMCC referred to one of Sizzla’s songs “Log On” which urged people to “stomp” on homosexuals (or “gays” as they are commonly referred to).

Homosexuality (in women, it is called lesbianism) is a sensitive and emotional issue. The average person in liberal democratic societies like Guyana and Barbados sometimes have difficulty in understanding it. After all, being called upon to accept men and men together and women and women together, especially sexual acts, goes against the grain of all they were taught from Biblical and other holy book teachings.

It took some understanding from the average man, like myself, who felt that nothing could be more normal (and pleasurable) than man having sex with a woman. After all,it made physical sense. That was how people evolved to have children.

It took some time but the average person’s essential decency and respect for other people’s rights emerged.

Now, there is a growing acceptance in many countries that homosexuals have a right to live normal lives so long as their behaviour doesn’t involve or encourage criminal and sexually unsafe practices. More importantly, that the behaviour of gays should be sensitive to the feelings of ordinary people about the issue. A growing understanding about gays and their place in society comes too as more scientific studies show gays to be that way because of such factors as genes rather than being a psychological disorder.

There have been deep revulsions over the violence and cruelty meted out to gays. Ten or so years ago, a 21 year old student named Mathew Shepherd was pistol-whipped by two men and tied to a wire fence in the U.S. state of Wyoming and left to die. The widespread horror shown by ordinary Americans at the hate crime against Matthew, who worshipped at the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church with his parents in home-town Casper, led to moves to include crimes against gays in existing U.S. hate crime legislation. First proposed by President Clinton, it was vetoed under President Bush’s watch but current President

Obama has pledged he will not veto the special amendments.

The state, whether it be in Canada or Guyana, must take some of the leadership where appropriate in properly channeling the increasing social disdain against violation of peoples’ rights on the basis of sexual orientation. Aside from Canada, the European Union (EU) group of countries also has strict laws prohibiting such discrimination. Last year, Sizzla found he was denied a visa to tour Europe. In 2004 he was banned from entering the UK.

The decisions of the state in these matters are based on interpretation of laws which can deny a person entry if it is determined he/she will stir up hatred and cause disorder among peoples. Their recordings should also not be on sale.

This was the rationale last year when Guyana’s Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee announced that the singers Bounty Killer and Movado , whose songs have equally repugnant anti-gay and pro-violence lyrics, would not be permitted to perform in Guyana again. The Minister should be commended for this forthright action . Guyana can do without such incitement to hatred and violence and inflammatory behaviour.

The Guyanese group Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) had voiced their opposition to the singers’ presence in Guyana as well as the recent detention in Georgetown of a group of “cross dressers” (men dressing up as women).

As I wrote to Barbadian authorities urging more control and regulation of a certain internet blog in the island which carries the most repugnant and racist postings against Guyanese nationals in Barbados , the prohibiting of airing of inflammatory and inciteful messages has nothing to do with freedom of speech. Hate mongers and racists should have no freedom of speech. We have to think of the overall good of society and its more important freedoms and rights which protect genuine freedom of speech and the well being and happiness of all, including people of sexual orientation.

Sizzla may be a creative artiste when singing about other subjects. I understand he has good social commentary in some of his songs. From working class roots, we must respect his creativity and look at his overall work.

However, when a singer gets up and publicly urges the audience to go out and kill a certain segment of the population, that is a hate crime. We have to take a stand.

In 1998, US senator Edward Kennedy told a legislative hearing . “Hate crimes are a form of terrorism. They have a psychological and emotional impact which extends far beyond the victim. They threaten the entire community and undermine the ideals on which a nation was founded.”

(Norman Faria is Guyana’s Honorary Consul in Barbados)

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