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Moroccan magazine recalls 'burn gays' issue amid backlash

Maroc Hebdo withdrew this week's edition from sale and from its website 'given the particularly strong reactions' it caused
A man consults weekly magazine "Maroc Hebdo" in Rabat on 25 March 2011 (AFP)

RABAT - A Moroccan magazine said on Friday it was recalling its latest issue, whose cover asked "Should We Burn Gays?", after it sparked a fierce debate in the conservative Muslim kingdom.

Homosexuality is illegal in Morocco and can carry up to a three-year jail sentence.

The cover of this week's Maroc Hebdo shows two young men at swimming pool, smiling and gazing into each other's eyes, with the banner headline: "Should We Burn Gays?"

The magazine’s latest issue, which hit newsstands on Thursday, comes a few days after the Health Ministry called on authorities to decriminalise homosexuality.

The ministry recommended a policy change in order to reach as many members of the gay community with HIV and other STDs prevention services.

Maroc Hebdo said it "decided to withdraw from sale and its website" this week's edition "given the particularly strong reactions" it caused.

The issue said "homosexuality is, of course, an individual right", but added that debate on the topic had to take into account "moral and religious values".

The cover, first circulated on social media, drew instant criticism, with some commentators chiding it as "homophobic", but with its creators saying it was designed to provoke debate.

The magazine said it was not engaging in "sensationalism" but had rather sought to demonstrate "homosexuality and its place in society".

Inside the magazine are three articles about homosexuality in Morocco, Buzzfeed reported. One is a basic summary of the situation for gay people in the country, another is an interview with an LGBT activist, and a third article says decriminalisation of homosexuality need not be a priority in Morocco given the various other human rights issues facing the country.

The subject has been in the headlines recently, after Morocco deported two female protesters from the activist group Femen after they staged a topless demonstration criticising Morocco's treatment of homosexuals. 

A member of the British rock band Placebo used a festival performance in the capital Rabat last week to also protest Morocco's anti-gay law.