Hate cleric will not participate in Swedish conference

US-born Muslim preacher Abdullah Hakim Quick, who has described Jews as "filthy" and advocates the execution of homosexuals, will not be participating in a Swedish young Muslim conference he was scheduled to speak at over Easter weekend.

The decision to remove the controversial cleric from the conference schedule was based on a number of factors and made in consultation with Quick, according to the organisation.

“We have made what we believe to be the best decision – for us, for him and for society in general,” said Mohammed Amin Kharraki, chairman of Sveriges Unga Muslimer (‘Sweden’s Young Muslims’).

Last week, the youth organisation defended its decision to allow Hakim Quick to speak at the conference, claiming it was the victim of a smear campaign launched by Liberal Party politician Philip Wendahl.

Sweden’s largest gay rights group RFSL spoke out against the Muslim’s group decision to provide the hateful preacher a platform in Sweden on which to air his extreme views.

“I was previously under the impression that this organisation respected principles of equal rights for everybody but now it seems they couldn’t care less about the values they claim to stand for,” he told The Local.

Kharraki believes that the image of Quick portrayed by the media has been one-sided.

“The opinion is still the same that he is a certain way. And it upsets some people in this country who feel they have been violated.”

Kharraki also made reference to a an audio recording referred to by critics of the visit seeming to implicate the imam.

“We didn’t know about the recording before it was published,” Kharraki said.

He emphasized that the organisation will not take a stance on whether or not Quick is a “hate cleric”.

“It’s somewhat problematic to sit here and say that a person is a hate cleric when he isn’t,” Kharraki said.

The organisation has consequently published an open letter from Quick on their website.

“People can decide for themselves,” Kharraki said.

“On a recent visit to London, protestors denounced me as a ‘hate cleric’ and numerous attempts were made to keep me from my speaking engagements,” Quick wrote in the letter.

“With regard to my comments about the punishment for homosexuality, about 15 years ago I was approached by a group of gay Muslims who wanted me to re-interpret the basic principles of Islam. I refused and indicated to them the very serious condemnation in Islam toward homosexuality. My statements were a moral reprimand only,” he continued.

He further claimed that his anti-Semitic comments about the “filth of the Christians and the Jews” was a plea to “God to heal the spiritual corruption that afflicts some members of religious groups which in turn leads to injustice against innocent people.”

In 2004, the Broadcasting Standards Authority of New Zealand issued a reprimand to an Auckland television station for broadcasting hateful comments made by Hakim Quick in a lecture shown on the Voice of Islam programme.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority noted that Hakim Quick blamed the spread of AIDS on the “filthy practices” of homosexuals, whom he described as “sick” and “not natural”. He added that homosexuals were dropping dead from AIDS and “they want to take us all down with them”. He further stated that the Islamic position on homosexuality was “death”.

“Muslims are going to have to take a stand [against homosexuals] and it’s not enough to call names,” he said.

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Sweden to stop calling transgender people ‘mentally ill’

Transgender people will no longer be classified as “mentally ill” in Sweden, the country’s main national health authority has announced, in a decision widely criticised as overdue.

Sweden to stop calling transgender people 'mentally ill'
An archive picture of Swedes protesting against classifying transgender people as mentally ill. Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT
Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare, or Socialstyrelsen, announced late on Friday that it would no longer automatically apply the diagnosis “gender dysphoria” to transgender patients.
“…more than anything, this change has an important symbolic value,” Kristina Bränd Persson, the organisation’s head, said in a press release. “This is a completely reasonable change. Many divisions and categories are obsolete. For us, the decision is uncontroversial. We tend to follow the changes the WHO makes.” 
The decision was widely ridiculed on Twitter.  
“At fucking bloody last!” tweeted Leo Ringqvist. “We are not ill, most of all mentally.”  

“Wake me! Is it 2017 or 1817,” complained Ewa-Maria Åström. 

The move follows a decision made by the World Health Organisation in October to remove the transsexualism classification from the chapter on mental illness in its diagnostic guide.  
“This is welcome but no surprise,” said Frida Sandegård, chairperson of RFSL, which lobbies for the rights of gay, bisexual and transgender people.  
Transgender people have complained of receiving unwelcome questions and stigmatising treatment when dealing with health professionals in Sweden. 
The agency said the change would not take place immediately, as it would first have to incorporate the decision into its own national version of ICD-10, the latest disease classification manual issued by the WHO. 
The work is expected to be completed this year.