The PE Herald has apologised profusely for publishing an advert from an Islamic organisation warning gay people that they face God’s wrath.

The ad was placed in the daily on Wednesday by the Islam Awareness Centre, which appears to be based in Port Elizabeth.

The headline of the text ad ominously proclaims “Happy to be ‘gay’? Be warned”. It then quotes an excerpt from the Quran which recounts the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah due to the “immorality” of men “approaching men with desire instead of women”.

The centre then states that this “evil legacy… still lives on” today and warns “liberated people” to submit themselves to God or presumably face the same fate as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The advert was spotted by the SA Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (SAGLAAD) who slammed the newspaper for running it and said that it was “in contravention of the Equality Act as well as the Press Code”.

SAGLAAD’s Media & Press Liaison, Christina Engela, stated that “This advert is an assault on the freedom of citizens of this country to enjoy their constitutional right to protection from discrimination and intimidation on the grounds of religious prejudice.

“It is an affront to the dignity of gay people and comes across as intimidating and intolerant. While such opinions are legal within the context of religious meetings and within religious publications, the placement of this item in a public newspaper is an insult to the dignity of people based on their inborn sexual orientation,” she said.

Mambaonline contacted the PE Herald, which earlier admitted in its pages that the advert could be construed as hate speech, and spoke to Bev Gaia, the newspaper’s Regional Sales Manager. She apologised unreservedly for having run the advert.

“It was a bit of a mess on our side. We did not read it [beforehand]. We would not have placed the ad with that content if we had seen it,” she explained.

Gaia insisted that the advert “does not express the views of the newspaper, Avusa or Times Media,” adding “We apologise profusely”.

She said that the newspaper had published an apology and that “it has made us more aware to check the content of our ads before running them”.

Meanwhile, the Islam Awareness Centre has published the advert on its Facebook page, which can be viewed here, calling on its supporters to share it.

Engela urged “the organisation which placed the advertisement to show tolerance for diversity and to refrain from such concerning acts of intimidation.

“We also urge the Herald and other news media in South Africa to show some more sensitivity and professionalism in verifying that advertisements placed with them check out before causing offense to their readership and to the general public,” she said.

Mambaonline called the number listed in the Islam Awareness Centre’s advert but it does not appear to be in service.

Update: The PE Herald’s Editor, Heather Robertson, posted the following statement on the newspaper’s Facebook page.

“The Herald distances itself from the contents of the advert by the Islam Awareness Centre on page 3 on 12/06/2013, which goes against the basic tenets of our constitution which protects the rights of same-sex relationships.

“All adverts are meant to be passed by the editor but an advertising sales rep sent through this particular ad without first sending it to me to vet it. I as editor only saw the ad when it appeared in the paper.

“On behalf of The Herald I apologise to all who might have been offended by this ad. Bev Gaia our regional sales manager has committed herself to checking all advertisements in future and having them vetted by the editor.”

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