New East Digital Archive

Russian imam calls for Elton John concert boycott

Russian imam calls for Elton John concert boycott
British pop star Elton John

4 October 2013

An Islamic cleric in Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan has urged Muslims to boycott a concert by openly gay pop star Elton John in the capital Kazan this December or face “divine retribution”. In a statement published on the website of Kazan’s Thousandth Anniversary of Islam Mosque, Imam Seidzhagfar Lutfullin said that that God would take vengeance on concert-goers who would be “taking part in a hotbed of sodomy”. He added that the British singer was doing “the devil’s work” and that the “promotion” of same-sex relations could result in a fire-and-brimstone moment for Russia.

In an interview with The Guardian in September, John said he would stick to his Russian tour despite the anti-gay law passed this summer and despite calls for his concerts to be cancelled from a number of religious and conservative groups. He said: “I’ve got to go. And I’ve got to think about what I’m going to say very carefully. There’s two avenues of thought: do you stop evyerone going, ban all the artists coming from Russia? But then you’re really leaving the men and women who are gay and suffering under the anti-gay laws in an isolated situation. As a gay man, I can’t leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got to go.”

John, who has a civil partnership and two children with his long-term partner David Furnish, is a staunch advocate of same-sex marriage around the world. He has said he will defend gay rights while on tour in Russia, a position that could land him with a 15-day prison sentence and a fine under the new law. Both Madonna and Lady Gaga landed in hot water with the Russian authorities this year after openly defending gay rights while on tour in the country, although no legal action was eventually taken.

The anti-gay law bans “the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors”. Since its passage, a number of high-profile cultural figures have declined invitations to visit Russia including Prison Break actor Wentworth Miller, German playwright Marius von Mayenburg, US TV host Andy Cohen and British choreographer Ben Wright.