There was a good article in the Guardian yesterday offering background to the recent controversies in East London regarding Muslims and gays.
The article by Jack Gilbert starts off describing the ‘Gay free zone’ stickers that were stuck around East London, and then says:
Coverage of the sticker campaign, particularly online, often seemed ill-informed. Comment pieces from both sides tended towards a rabble-rousing tone, inspiring a torrent of racist and Islamaphobic abuse. I experienced more back-to-my-roots shivers, this time thinking about my grandparents’ fight against Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts.
Acting on Rainbow Hamlets’s advice, a joint statement was issued by Tower Hamlets’ mayor Lutfur Rahman, the Inter-faith Forum, and the East London Mosque & London Muslim Centre (ELM). This represented the first public condemnation of homophobia by both Rahman and the ELM.
Both the points: about the tone of the debate online (I wonder which blogs he was thinking of!) and of who were the first to issue a condemnation, should be noted.
Jack Gilbert then highlights two more points. First, that the law is inadequate in dealing with homophobic abuse in the way that it deals with racist abuse for example. I suspect this is partly because tightening that up would instantly render both the Testaments and the Qu’ran as illegal writings. Nevertheless, I believe more needs to be done.
Secondly, he does say that the East London Mosque initially failed to back its initial action with more public statements. But he later says:
Today, moderate communities have a simple unequivocal duty: to be seen to show all their neighbours respect – whether or not they agree or approve of their beliefs or lifestyle. What is needed is a paradigm shift among LGBT and Muslim opinion formers, one that enables the leaders to find a rhetoric that can speak of respect and joint-working publicly, and which addresses patterns of prejudice on all sides without fear
He is right. There is an internal battle going on at the ELM right now between conservative and more moderate voices. Like in the Usama Hasan case, I hope that saner, moderate voices prevail. In fact I’m sure they eventually will.
But the likes of Andrew Gilligan and certain blogs with their incendiary and one-sided reporting don’t help this debate. In fact they poison it.
I hope the ELM will pay close attention to the progress report and listen to local communities in how it can tackle homophobia, regardless of what racists outside of the area say online.
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Filed in: London Politics,Race politics,Religion