Birthday bash for
the late Freddie Mercury canceled in Zanzibar

A gala party
celebrating the late rock star Freddie Mercury's 60th
birthday has been canceled in the conservative Muslim region
of Zanzibar, where Mercury was born. Organizers
canceled the weekend event on Thursday after outraged
Muslims threatened to disrupt it, Agence France-Presse
reports.

On Wednesday
organizers said they would continue with the planned event
despite fierce opposition from Islamists, who complained
that the lifestyle of the flamboyant gay lead
singer of the band Queen was offensive to many on the
overwhelmingly Muslim archipelago, which is part of
Tanzania. Now organizers say they have no choice but to call
it off.

"We have decided
to cancel the party after misleading and erroneous
information was spread about it," said organizer Simai
Mohamed Saidi, who runs a Freddie Mercury-themed
restaurant in the capital. "I urge Muslim groups in
the future to seek correct information from us instead
of relying on rumors," he said in an open letter, adding
that the event was intended to be a celebration to
honor Mercury, who died of AIDS complications in
1991. Saidi also lamented that the cancellation would
hurt his intention to use the party to raise money for
people with HIV/AIDS in Zanzibar.

Conservative
Zanzibari Islamists last week demanded that authorities ban
the party and then vowed to stage mass demonstrations if it
took place, saying it would tarnish the islands'
reputation and culture and promote homosexuality. "We
were ready to join forces against the party because we
had information that a number of gays from abroad had come
to take part," Sheikh Azzan Hamdani, of the
Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation,
told AFP. "We had also written letters to the tourist
commission and the owner of the Mercury restaurant,
demanding that they stop the party."

Government
authorities, who have long tried to balance secular
constitutional ideals, the demands of a booming tourist
industry, and the wishes of conservative Muslims,
never formally responded to the Islamists, according
to AFP. But Zanzibar's information ministry this week
ordered local state-run media not to give the event any
coverage.

Few Zanzibar
residents are aware of Queen or Freddie Mercury, who was
born Farrokh Bulsara on the archipelago's main island, know
both as Zanzibar and Unguja, to Persian parents
employed by the British colonial administration on
September 5, 1946. But the appearance in recent weeks
of posters advertising the beach party to celebrate what
would have been his 60th birthday prompted the
Islamist complaints. Although he was educated in India
and moved with his family to England in 1963, Mercury,
who died in 1991, remains perhaps Zanzibar's most famous son
to many Westerners and rock music fans. (The
Advocate
)

Tags: World, World

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