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For authoritarians, stifling the arts is of a piece with demonising minorities | Elif Shafak

As well as misogyny and homophobia, censorship is now a weapon for the popular right

Early this month, Brazil’s leading literary event, the Bienal do Livro Rio, found itself at the centre of the country’s culture wars when a comic book was ordered to be confiscated by the authorities. The book in question was Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, which in one scene showed two fully-clothed men kissing. The gay kiss so upset Rio’s mayor, Marcelo Crivella, who once called homosexuality “a terrible evil”, that he ordered the book to be removed by police in order “to protect children”.

Crivella, a former bishop, belongs to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, which is known for its statements that homosexuals and bisexuals are possessed by a female devil. Crivella has also argued that Hindus hold “unclean spirits” and Catholics are “demonic”. The evangelical organisation has hundreds of branches and is one of the major forces behind the electoral success of the country’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. The church’s founder, the billionaire Edir Macedo, by far Brazil’s richest pastor, according to Forbes magazine, claims that “prostitutes, homosexuals and bisexuals are always possessed by pombagiras”, Afro-Brazilian spirits associated with witchcraft.

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