FREDDIE MERCURY Birthday Celebration Cancelled In His Homeland

Launch Radio Networks reports: A celebration planned for this weekend in Zanzibar to honor native son Freddie Mercury has been called off due to religious protests. The population of the Tanzanian islands off the East Coast of Africa is primarily Islamic, and conservative Muslims threatened to disrupt the event, which would have marked the 60th anniversary of the late QUEEN singer's birth, according to the AFP news agency. Sheikh Azzan Hamdani of the local Association For Islamic Mobilization And Propagation said, "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."

Organizer Simai Mohamed Saidi said, "We have decided to cancel the party after misleading and erroneous information was spread about it. I urge Muslim groups in the future to seek correct information from us instead of relying on rumors." Saidi, who owns the "Mercury's" theme restaurant in Zanzibar, had also intended to use the party to raise money for people with HIV/AIDS.

Local religious leaders felt that honoring Mercury, who was gay and who died of AIDS in 1991, would have gone against their faith, and that it would have brought shame to Zanzibar, where Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara on September 5, 1946.

The local government had been asked to close the party down before it started. Officials, who never formally responded to the request, are said to walk a fine line between the needs of people who lead a secular lifestyle, a busy tourist industry, and religious conservatives. However, media outlets that are overseen by the government were told by the information ministry not to cover Saidi's Mercury event.

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