In examples of blatant religious extremism, a prominent Kabbalah rabbi says gays are to blame for bird flu, while an Iraqi leader calls for the killing of gays.

David Basri, a well known Kabbalahist rabbi has claimed that an election campaign to legalise same-sex marriage in Israel is responsible for an outbreak of bird flu in the country. The campaign is being headed by Yossi Beilin from the liberal Mertez party, who is hoping to attract votes from gays and lesbians in the polls.

The statement by Basri was contained in a religious edict, which was quoted by his son as saying that, “God punishes depravity first through plagues against animals and then in people… It should be obvious that bird flu is caused by political parties strengthening and encouraging homosexuality”.

Kabbalah is an arcane offshoot of Judaism that has gained much prominence of late with celebrities, like Madonna, taking to its beliefs.

In strife torn Iraq, the highly influential Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has issue a fatwa against gays and Sunni Moslems on his website.

The Shiites are involved in a long-running conflict with the Sunnis, with Sistani emerging as the most influential religious leader of the movement – boasting 20,000 soldiers – for a Shiite Islamic republic.

On the website, in a question and answer section, he calls for the killing of homosexuals in the “worst, most severe way”.

Exiled gay Iraqi Ali Hili, of the London-based gay rights group OutRage, said that, “Sistani’s murderous homophobic incitement has given a green light to Shia Muslims to hunt and kill lesbians and gay men.”

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