With the advent of the Covid-19 vaccine, a multitude of myths and bizarre notions have been proposed. Recently, a Cleric hailing from the Iranian city of Qom has vocalized his opinions against intermingling with people who have been administered the coronavirus vaccine. Ayatollah Abbas Tabrizian claimed on his Telegram that these vaccine jabs turn individuals into homosexuals.
He said, “Don’t go near those who have had the COVID vaccine. They have become homosexuals.” The Jerusalem Post reported about the huge outreach this Shia cleric has, with nearly 210,000 followers on Telegram. His ideology also stems from the fact that Iran has a history of being highly intolerant to homosexuals. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, thousands of gay people have been publicly executed by the state.
Ayatollah Abbas Tabrizian is described as the Father of Islamic Medicine by his followers. In 2020, he burnt a copy of Harrison’s Manual of Medicine (a book that is considered very valuable in the field of medicine), claiming that with the existence of the age-old Islam medicines, such books are ‘irrelevant.’
What were the reactions to this comment by the cleric?
Several people condemned and dismissed this outrageous homophobic claim by Tabrizian.
Iranian dissident Sheina Vojoudi told Arab News, “Actually, his goal of spreading nonsense is to try to scare people [out] of getting vaccinated while the leader of the regime and other officials got Pfizer and they don’t provide it for the people with the excuse that they don’t trust the West.” “Like other clerics in the regime, also Tabrizian relates all the shortages to sexuality. The clerics in Iran are suffering from lack of knowledge and humanity”, she further added.
He was also criticized by LGBTQ campaigner Peter Tatchell who told Daily Mail that the cleric’s words were directed towards portraying homosexuals in a derogatory light. He also felt that this was the cleric’s attempt to condemn the inoculations against Covid.
He remarked, "Ayatollah Tabrizian combines scientific ignorance with a crude appeal to homophobia."
What is the current COVID-19 situation in Iran?
Iran has been declared to be the worst-hit country in the Middle East with close to 1.5 million cases. Recently it launched a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Iran’s Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute. Thus, the country’s vaccination drive began in February for the most vulnerable groups i.e. frontline healthcare doctors and nurses functioning in direct contact with COVID-19 patients.
The coronavirus pandemic has been constantly associated with several other misunderstandings. Several religious figures in the past have also presented their views that have despised the LGBTQIA community. Last year, Rick Wiles, who was a pastor in the Trump government described the death of an LGBTQ lawyer as god’s “judgment” and said that a “plague was underway.” Similar comments were made by a conservative pastor in Tennessee who blamed same-sex marriage as the cause of COVID-19 claimed that the pandemic was “reckoning” from God. Further, ironically In August, an anti-LGBTQ Christian group that believed gay people caused the “disease” was declared a COVID-19 hotspot after an outbreak of the virus among its staff. Lastly, in November, an anti-LGBTQ televangelist who believed that the virus is due to the “fornication” and living off a “sinful lifestyle” passed away after contracting the virus.
Hence, these situations are a testament to the false homophobic sentiments associated with the virus. It is important to understand the fallacy associated with it and continue to uniformly practice all the precautions existent to battle the pandemic.