interesting gay/muslim exchange

Gay Pride row between London mosque and ex-Muslims escalates
Amandla Thomas-Johnson, Middle East Eye, Aug 9 2017

placardCEMB at this year’s Pride (supplied by ELM)

The East London Mosque (ELM) has accused an organisation representing ex-Muslims of “feeding anti-Muslim hysteria,” as a row into the display of allegedly Islamophobic placards at this year’s Pride march in London escalates. The Whitechapel-based mosque, one of Britain’s largest, has sent a formal complaint to Pride in London after pictures emerged of members of CEMB parading with placards that said “Allah Is Gay”, East London Mosque incites murder of LGBT” and “Fuck Islam(ic Homophobia)”. ELM’s executive director Dilowar Khan said in a letter yesterday to Pride co-chairs Alison Camps and Michael Salter-Church:

Let there be no mistake: Islamophobia is real, hateful and often violent, as we tragically saw in the recent Finsbury Park terrorist attack. It is CEMB who deliberately conflate Islamophobia with criticism of Islam, as a way to excuse hatred directed at Muslims. There can be no doubt that such a barrage of abusive placards has an adverse impact upon Muslims, feeding anti-Muslim hysteria, especially in the current climate of increasing attacks against Muslims. (They seek to) alienate all Muslims from Pride in London, including LGBT Muslims.

Pride opened an investigation into the placards last month after a complaint from the mosque. A letter from Pride’s co-chairs to CEMB’s Pride organiser, Daniel Fitzgerald, which CEMB published, said:

LGBT+ Muslims play a vital and important role in London and in Pride. We recognise that LGBT+ Muslims face discrimination on both sides, from people within their faith and also from within the LGBT+ community. Over the years the parade has been a place of acceptance for LGBT+ Muslims and this year Imaan, the LGBT+ charity, was voted the winner of the best walking group in the parade for the diversity and passion they displayed. What’s more, this year we supported the ‘Big Gay Iftaar’ as part of the Pride in London festival. We also hosted a vibrant and positive discussion about Islam and the LGBT+ community on the faith episode of our Facebook Live series. This is part of our dedication to supporting the full spectrum of the LGBT+ community. Equally, it is also very important that individuals who once did but no longer follow the Muslim faith have a welcome place in the Pride parade. We acknowledge the difficulties individuals leaving the faith can sometimes encounter and do not in anyway seek to diminish the significance of those experiences. … (However) the placards may be seen to reject the existence of Islamophobia, to make defamatory statements about a specific group of people, and overall could have been seen to proactively question the ability to be LGBT+ and Muslim.

Pride’s community advisory board, which assesses each parade entry after every year, will now decide whether CEMB has breached its code of conduct. A breach could see CEMB banned from marching next year. Pride’s code of conduct asks parade groups to not make derogatory remarks about aspects of a person’s identity, including their religion. CEMB’s response was scathing. CEMB spox Maryam Namazie wrote in a letter to the London Pride organisers in which she referred to ELM as a “centre of homophobia”:

We don’t need your permission to march for LGBT rights or the rights of apostates. (You are only taking the complaints) seriously because of a cultural relativism and tone policing that is only applicable to critics of Islam and never (to) critics of Christianity. (The claims have been) given credence because of the erroneous conflation of criticism of religion and the religious-right with bigotry against Muslims. It seems Pride has bought into the Islamist narrative that betrays the persecuted and defends the persecutors. This is a politics that rewards bullies and blames victims.

The row has provoked a strong reaction on social media with New Atheist Richard Dawkins, activist Peter Tatchell and the Muslim Council of Britain all weighing in. The CEMB says its accusation centres around the mosque hosting a speaker 10 years ago whose presentation contained slides titled “Spot the Fag” as well as in 2016 hosting Pindosi Muslim scholar Yasir Qadhi, who had once said, in a talk not delivered at the mosque, that the punishment for homosexuality in Islam is death. CEMB maintains that its placard accusing the ELM of incitement to murder was “entirely appropriate” in keeping with the theme of this year’s CEMB’s Pride march which was solidarity with LGBT who are being brutalised in concentration camps in Chechnya. For its part, ELM said it “condemned without reservation” its own apparent instance of homophobia, and blamed an external third party hiring the mosque, a think-tank called the Hittin Institute, for hosting the speaker. It said that it has taken action to prevent it from happening again. LM also said that it has worked with a range of LGBT groups to tackle “racism, discrimination and hatred of all forms,” something recognised by London Pride, which in response to ELM’s original complaint privately thanked the mosque for “the support you have provided our community.” The Pride letter to ELM, seen by MEE, added:

We stand side-by-side with you in this endeavour. We also feel that we can play a part in tackling hatred and bigotry in all its forms, especially Islamophobia.

ELM spox Salman Farsi said the placards carried “Islamophobic messages” and urged Pride to exclude CEMB from next year’s Pride event. He said:

As Londoners, we live in a pluralistic society with many diverse cultures and communities, and we should work towards valuing it – not embarking on campaigns of abusing one another under the guise of freedom of speech. The mosque will continue to collaborate with its partners to challenge bigotry of all kinds and not just Islamophobia.

The CEMB was unwilling to provide further comment.

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