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As I write, the passage of the Gay Marriage bill in Saudi Arabia still hangs tensely in the balance. Opposition from the religious establishment shows no sign of relenting with peaceful protests held overnight in Jeddah and Riyadh.

Meanwhile, supporters of the bill have delivered a petition with over a million signatures to the office of domestic affairs in Jeddah. The government has promised to consider both sides carefully.

Divisions between the two sides have been civil but impassioned and both feel strongly that they are on the brink of triumph.

Abu-Majid, a prominent advocate of gay liberties and executive of Saudi Gay Empowerment Committee (SGEC), said to reporters:

“This is obviously very tense. It’s also hugely exciting. The vote could go either way but I have faith it will be in the right direction: Forward. This is a chance to show the world the true progressive spirit of the Saudi people. Our values can help to lead the world.”

Meanwhile, across the ideological barricades, Sheikh Mohammad Sulayyil claimed his camp was the better placed to succeed.

“We represent the conservative majority in this country” he said “.. the silent majority, who oppose the desecration of marriage but are too polite to make their voices heard. We are a progressive, friendly society, but this is one step too far.”

Asked whether he harboured any hostility toward homosexuals (a frequent allegation by the SGEC), Sulayyil responded resolutely; “Of course we don’t. You cannot hate anyone in Islam. We love and care for homosexuals. We wish only that they respect our believes as well as their own.”

Despite observers predicting a close result, the ‘yes’ faction has easily been the most high-profile to date, with celebrities from throughout the Kingdom lining up to demonstrate their support for the bill. The 30 year old Lesbian actress Aafreeda Aftab has spoken at rallies up and down the country, accompanied by such LGBT superstars as Mohammad Badaidah, Abdul Laqiya and Osama Bin Haroum.

Some events in support of the bill have more dramatic than others. Laqiya and Haroum courted controversy by French-kissing in Medina during the Hajj season. Some clerics deemed this to be inappropriate behaviour and letters of complaint were written to various elected officials. Both actors may face a small fine if officials concur with the motion.

Within religious circles the debate has been particularly profound, with liberal and female imams taking a cautious stand in favour of tolerance and hard-line clerics stating frank opposition.

One thing is clear. Whichever way the result goes, the bill threatens to redefine the traditional identity of this gilded Kingdom and cause waves through the settled political landscape.

D, LDN

(That my satire here is almost see-through exposes how alien the Saudi world is to the one we inhabit).

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