Britain & homophobia – The London Pride, the East London Mosque and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain: responses to critics

 A response to ELM/LMC

CEMB is merely exposing the East London Mosque’s incitement to Hate and murder of LGBT at Pride in London

Response to East London Mosque Statement dated 20th July 2017 [1] and Muslim Council of Britain Statement, dated 26 July 2017 [2].

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) represents former Muslims who are from Muslim-majority countries or diaspora communities. Frequently, these are refugees seeking asylum as they are being persecuted for leaving Islam or for being LGBT. We are committed to calling out oppressive narratives, racism and anti-Muslim hate and homophobia – all of which directly impact our members.

Ironically, CEMB’s presence at Pride in London has been labelled ‘Islamophobic’ by the East London Mosque (ELM), a word we reject as a disingenuous misnomer and which conflates criticism of a set of beliefs (Islam) or the religious-Right (Islamism) with bigotry against a group of people (Muslims). This word is used by religious fundamentalists to silence criticism of Islamic doctrine – even if that doctrine explicitly calls for the death of apostates and homosexuals. Juxtapose it with ‘Christianityphobia’ or ‘Hinduismphobia’ – words which are never used despite ample criticism of both ideologies.

CEMB maintains that its placard accusing the ELM of inciting murder against LGBT was entirely appropriate given that the theme of CEMB’s Pride march was solidarity with LGBT in Chechnya, with an alarming resurgence of concentration camps for gay men, as well as those persecuted and facing execution in 14 states under Sharia (15 if you count ISIS-held territories). The ELM has hosted a number of speakers who have publicly called for the persecution of homosexuals and apostates and has even been criticised for this in the past by activists such as Peter Tatchell and organisations such as Oxfam. Unbelievably ELM hosted a speaker’s presentation which contained slides titled “Spot the Fag” and hosted Yasir Qadhi who stated on homosexuals “…I know that his punishment is death. This is all a part of our religion. This doesn’t mean we go and do this in America but I’m saying if we had an Islamic state we would do this.”

CEMB maintains that the ELM’s hosting of Islamic preachers that promote the persecution and murder of homosexuals is incitement to harm and murder of LGBT individuals. Furthermore, we highlight the absurdity of ELM’s victim narrative accusing us of incitement against ELM, when in fact we are exposing their incitement to violence against LGBT ex-Muslims and Muslims.

The MCB says our banner “’East London Mosque incites murder of LGBT’ is utterly fictitious and is tantamount to inciting hatred against this religious institution” which apparently “has a track record in speaking out against homophobia”. If this is the case, we look forward to receiving public statements from ELM and MCB, which rejects the execution of gays and apostates under Sharia law in any country, including in an ideal Islamic caliphate.

Jimmy Bangash
On Behalf of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

July 28, 2017

* https://www.ex-muslim.org.uk/elm-mcb/


 Pride has the chance to do the right thing

28 July 2017

Michael Salter-Church
Alison Camps
Co-Chairs – Pride in London

Dear Michael Salter-Church and Alison Camps

Thank you for your letter dated 21 July addressed to CEMB’s Pride Organiser, Daniel Fitzgerald (available below).

The crux of the issue, which you have failed to recognise, is this:

Pride in London has taken complaints against the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) by the likes of the East London Mosque – a centre of homophobia – seriously because of a cultural relativism and tone policing that is only applicable to critics of Islam and never critics of Christianity.

Moreover, complaints have been given credence because of the erroneous conflation of criticism of religion and the religious-Right with bigotry against Muslims.

We remind Pride that “tolerance, acceptance and recognition” are for people (whether LGBT, Muslims or ex-Muslims), not beliefs or regressive political movements and States. Whilst we must hold all human beings – even those we disagree with – in high regard, this is not the same as accepting all beliefs without criticism. Clearly, Pride is able to make distinctions between criticism of beliefs and an attack on people when it comes to non-minority groups and religions other than Islam so it should not be too difficult for you to understand our position.

In your letter you say, protest “does not give people in our parade the freedom to ostracise, discriminate against or humiliate anyone else taking part.” But the question that remains is how has our presence and placards criticising Islamic homophobia, the East London mosque, States that murder LGBT and apostates ostracising, humiliating or discriminating against anyone? Are placards critical of Christianity, the Church, Jesus, the Pope… “ostracising, humiliating and discriminating against” Christians? 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.

You add: “…Pride celebrates diversity and will not tolerate any individual making derogatory remarks about a person’s sexuality, gender, gender identity, race, age, nationality, disability, appearance, religion or any other factor.” Again, you confuse criticism of religion as being the same as attacking someone because they are Muslim or gay or a woman. You merely need to change any of our placards critical of Islam to ones critical of Christianity to see how absurd your position is.

You say: “there were some placards we feel may have the potential to breach our code of conduct. These 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.”

This is more disingenuous nonsense and merely an attempt to justify your unjustifiable position. Islamophobia is a misnomer that conflates criticism of religion and belief with discrimination against Muslims; we can be critical of Islamophobia as a political term used to silence dissent whilst opposing racism. We certainly don’t need a lesson in racism from Pride; our members live it every day. Also we can be critical of Islam; this doesn’t mean one cannot be Muslim and LGBT. In fact, some Bangladeshi Muslims marched with us on the day. Unlike Pride, CEMB fights on several fronts, including against Islamism, the far-Right and racism. You say some of our placards were “defamatory”? Which ones? Presumably, the defamed can take us to court; we welcome it.

As for your determining whether CEMB has broken your code of conduct and will be able to march again in future parades, we must say this: your decision will be more important for you than for us. After all, we don’t need your permission to march for LGBT rights or the rights of apostates. But your decision will determine whether Pride, which has been a source of inspiration for LGBT globally, will continue to be a beacon by showing the courage to give LGBT ex-Muslims the right to self-expression alongside our Muslim friends and family and as a respite from our daily experience which are intrinsically linked with fear, violence and intimidation, or whether it will remain firmly corporate Pride more concerned with causing “offence” that the rights and lives of ex-Muslim and Muslim apostates and LGBT.

As a follow up to a resolution on Pride adopted at the 22-24 July International Conference on Freedom of Expression and Conscience, we ask Pride to do the following:

1) Provide evidence for the serious allegations made against CEMB

2) Make a statement against all laws criminalising homosexuality, apostasy and blasphemy and against incitement to hate and murder by preachers at mosques like the East London mosque

3) Clarify whether by condemning ‘Islamophobia’, Pride meant to side with Islamists supporting the judicial murder of ex-Muslims and gay men

4) Affirm CEMB’s continued presence at Pride in London to show that they side with dissenters and those defending the right to think, live and love as they choose.

Thankfully, as you point out, you don’t have a role in making “a legal judgement about offense or freedom of speech.” If you did, you would have already imposed de facto blasphemy laws on those of us who have fled de jure blasphemy and apostasy laws which call for our murder.

You do, however, have the chance to do the right thing. Whether you do is another matter.

Sincerely

Maryam Namazie
CEMB Spokesperson
Daniel Fitzgerald
CEMB Pride Organiser

LETTER FROM PRIDE IN LONDON

21 July 2017

Dear Mr Fitzgerald,

Thank you very much for your email.

As you are aware, we have received a number of complaints regarding some of the placards your group chose to carry during the Pride in London parade.

At its heart, Pride is a movement of acceptance, diversity and unity – a safe place that celebrates difference and rejects intolerance.

Our parade has always been a home to protest, and not just to celebrate, which means we are used to seeing conflicting points of view. The tolerance, acceptance and recognition that we demand for ourselves as LGBT+ people, can only happen if we are also prepared to offer those whose opinions we don’t agree with the same courtesy.

It is also incredibly important to Pride in London that groups are able to use our platform to protest, to challenge authority and stand up for all LGBT+ rights. It is especially important that groups are able to challenge governments and states that continue to persecute, torture, imprison and even kill people simply because of their sexuality.

However, this does not give people in our parade the freedom to ostracise, discriminate against or humiliate anyone else taking part. If any individual or any group does this, they undermine the very principles on which we exist.

Our code of conduct, which every group agreed to as part of taking part in the parade, is very clear on this matter. All volunteers, staff and parade groups agree that Pride celebrates diversity and will not tolerate any individual making derogatory remarks about a person’s sexuality, gender, gender identity, race, age, nationality, disability, appearance, religion or any other factor.

LGBT+ Muslims play a vital and important role in London and in Pride. We recognise that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender 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.

To specifically address the complaints we have received, we want to be clear that we do not feel it is our role to make a legal judgement about offense or freedom of speech. However, it is our role to determine if a group has broken our code of conduct and whether they can be permitted to march again in future parades.

It has been argued that some of the placards are a legitimate form of protest. However, there were some placards we feel may have the potential to breach our code of conduct. These 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.

We have referred these complaints to our Community Advisory Board, who assess every parade entry after each year and decide on which groups will be allowed to march again. This decision will be taken prior to the opening of parade entries in 2018. Both the CAB and Pride in London commit to ensuring you are able to engage fully in this discussion, and welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss further.

We believe Pride in London must continue to play a vital role in supporting LGBT+ Muslims, as well as those who have left the faith. We want to work with community groups and charities to further these efforts, and would encourage any organisation that can play a role in building a vital bridge to get involved.

We also want to thank you for any support you can provide in the fight against hatred and bigotry. We are eager to stand side-by-side with you in this battle, supporting any actions you take to support LGBT+ people, but we also feel that the LGBT+ community can equally do more to tackle hatred and bigotry in all its forms, especially Islamophobia.

Together, I hope we can build common ground to stand up for communities that are more harmonious and supportive, valuing all citizens, no matter their faith or sexuality.

Sincerely,

Michael Salter-Church
Alison Camps
Co-Chairs – Pride in London


 East London mosque has filed formal complaint about CEMB to Pride

East London mosque has filed a formal complaint [3] regarding the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s presence in Pride in London [4] and stated that our placards, including “East London mosque incites murder of LGBT” were “inciting hatred against Muslims” and that the mosque had a “track record for challenging homophobia in East London”.

In fact, though, the very reason CEMB was at Pride was to combat hate and to highlight the 14 states under Islamic rule that kill gay men (15 if we include Daesh-held territories). We included placards on the East London mosque to bring attention to the fact that there are mosques here in Britain that promote the death penalty for homosexuality and apostasy.

As ex-Muslims, we are at risk from hate preachers that speak at some mosques and universities; our gay members are at an increased risk.

The East London Mosque has a long history of hosting hate preachers who incite against blasphemers, apostates and homosexuals so we felt naming and shaming them was very apt.

In our experience, whenever incitement to hate and violence has been exposed, it is explained away as mere “theology”. Here, too, the East London Mosque spokesperson says: “Yes, there might be theological topics dealing with homosexuality in Islam, but that’s clearly very separate from promoting hatred and homophobia” [5].

We beg to differ.

Given the context of executions for homosexuality and apostasy in many countries and the threats, violence and shunning that ex-Muslims, including LGBT, face here in Britain, the hate preaching can be considered incitement to murder though it is ignored because it is done under the cover of the “right to religion”.

Moreover, the East London mosque is merely using double-speak. Their supposed “track record for challenging homophobia” only seems to extend to white gay men in East London and never to Muslim and ex-Muslim LGBT or LGBT persecuted outside of Britain in countries under Sharia.

This is because the mosque is part and parcel of the Islamist movement. The East London Mosque (and its affiliate, the London Muslim Centre) share the ideology of the Jamaat-e-Islami – the Salafis of South Asia [6] so their promotion of an Islamist worldview that imposes the death penalty for homosexuality, apostasy and blasphemy is business as usual.

Why are we inciting hatred by exposing their incitement to murder?

And why is criticism of Islam off-limits?

Self-appointed “Muslim leaders” say our placards were “Islamophobic”. But in our point of view, Islam, like all religions, is homophobic. Why is it not possible to say this without accusations of Islamophobia?

The only reasons our signs are seen to be “provocative” are because criticism of Islam is deemed to be impermissible, because there is the constant threat of violence by Islamists against ex-Muslims but also dissenting Muslims and others in order to silence and censor, and because criticism of Islam and Islamism is erroneously conflated with an attack on Muslims.

Pride is full of placards saying “God is Gay”, “Jesus had two fathers”, as well as those mocking the church and priests and pope, yet CEMB members hold signs saying “Allah is Gay” – as we did – and the police converge to attempt to remove them for causing “offence”.

Offence has become the catch-phrase to impose de facto blasphemy and apostasy laws here in Britain. Yet aren’t we all offended at least some of the time? Some of us are offended by religion but we don’t ask believers to stay away from Pride or stop praying because of it. Why is it that what offends us is irrelevant? Because we do not back our offence with threats and violence?

The politics of offence is a politics that rewards bullies and blames victims.

Critics say our presence in Pride is a provocation in the weeks following the attack at Finsbury Park. But why must our criticism be linked to an attack on a mosque? Did anyone tell those holding “Jesus had two fathers” signs that it was a provocation given that a priest was murdered in Normandy and Christians killed in Egypt? There is no connection, except of course it seems when it comes to Islam.

Believers are not told to stop any expression of their beliefs because of an attack on children at a concert in Manchester but our placards apparently have some link with an attack on Muslims and a mosque. Why?

This is the Islamist narrative that equates criticism with an attack on Muslims. Its aim is not to stop bigotry but to silence dissent.

And by the way, bigotry affects us too. We were Muslims once; our loved ones are Muslims. And fascists and bigots cannot tell any of us apart anyway. We all look the same to them.

But as a minority within a minority facing serious threats to our lives, shunning, ostracisation, discrimination (and that’s only in Britain), is it fair to ask us to remain silent because of other forms of persecution or bigotry? Why can we not confront racism AND homophobia, bigotry AND hatred against apostates, women, blasphemers… To do that, we have to be able to criticise the far-Right (including our far-Right – the Islamists) and religion and regressive beliefs.

We ex-Muslims, including LGBT ex-Muslims, are fighting for our lives. We too have the right to live, think and love as we choose. And to fight for that right, we have to be able to confront apostasy and blasphemy laws as well laws that criminalise and execute apostates, LGBT, and freethinkers.

We owe it ourselves but we also owe it to those living under Islamic rules who are in prison, on death row or being murdered by vigilantes for doing just that.

The right to religion is a basic human right that must be defended but what is often forgotten is that there is a corresponding right to be free from and to criticise religion. As long as we can be killed for being ex-Muslims, LGBT, apostates and blasphemers, we have a duty to speak up – especially for those who cannot.

* * * *

As an aside, the Pride spokesperson has said that the East London mosque’s complaint has been referred to the community advisory board to assess whether CEMB can join Pride next year and added: “While our parade has always been a home to protest, which often means conflicting points of view, Pride must always be a movement of acceptance, diversity and unity. We will not tolerate Islamophobia.”

A note to Pride: There were for sure some Muslims who were offended by our presence and others who supported us, as there were some Christians who were offended by placards poking fun at Christianity and others who found them funny. This is what real diversity looks like. For too long, self-appointed Islamists feigning to represent the “Muslim community” have stifled dissent via threats and accusations of offence and Islamophobia. CEMB has fought for ten years now to bring real diversity into the debate, which is a matter of life and death for many of us.

Criticism of Islam or Islamism is not anti-Muslim bigotry just as criticism of Christianity or the DUP is not anti-Christian bigotry. CEMB plans to be at Pride next year and every year and hopes the community advisory board sides with dissenters and those fighting for LGBT rights and not those inciting hatred against Muslim and ex-Muslim LGBT.

For those on the community advisory board who are interested in finding out more about the East London Mosque beyond the double-speak, there is a wealth of information on their links to Islamism and their incitement to violence, hate and yes murder:

In this piece [7]: Almost immediately after Jamaat’s arrival in government, attacks against religious and ethnic minorities in Bangladesh began to be reported. A British peer and parliamentary human-rights representative, Eric (Lord) Avebury, said that “Bangladesh is an increasingly dangerous place for women, minority faiths and ethnic groups, opposition parties and secular organisations”. He argued that at the root of these problems lies the “cancer of a maverick branch of Islamism” that aims to “transform the country into a Taliban-style dictatorship” [8].

The ELM/LMC’s reaction to requests to ban these hatemongers was to “go quiet” for a few months, and then return to hosting the worst of Britain’s extremists. It is pretty clear that promoting hatred is part of the ELM/LMC’s core mission. Ibrahim Hewitt: – a “reformed” white racist, who now works for the Hamas fundraising charity, Interpal. He wrote “What Does Islam Say?”, a pamphlet explaining what he sees as the Islamic approach to several social and political issues. Apostates and proven adulterers get the death penalty. Sexually active gays must face “severe punishments” for their “great sin”, possibly including death [9].

Open letter posted online by 12 LBGT campaigners [10], including writers Julie Bindel and Paul Burston, which lists a series of events hosted by the East London Mosque allegedly attended by anti-gay Muslim clerics. These included Abdullah Hakim Quick, a supporter of the death penalty on gays and Abdul Hattin who incorporated a ‘Spot the Fag’ contest into his sermon in 2007.

Andrew Gilligan in The Telegraph [11]: The East London Mosque’s response to accusations of extremism has three stages. First there are the injured protestations of its deep commitment to community cohesion, democracy, etc, often accompanied by straightforward lying…Then there are silly legal threats from its libel lawyers, again often based on lies: tedious, but perfectly easy to see off if you know what you’re doing. Finally, if none of that works and their backs are absolutely against the wall, the mosque will crank out one of their statements claiming they’ve banned hate preachers. The supply of bad guys will dry up for a month or two, then as soon as the coast is clear they’ll start creeping back again. Let’s hope it’s different this time. But you’ll forgive me, I’m sure, for being a little sceptical about the East London Mosque’s “good faith.”

The charity Oxfam cancelled an event at the East London Mosque after it learned the headline speaker had declared gay people should be “severely punished” under Islamic law [12].

At the East London Mosque, the Friday sermon was delivered by hate preacher Assim al-Hakeem [13] who teaches that apostates must be killed (“As long as they have been Muslim, once they reject it, their Devine punishment is execution. This takes place on the instruction of the ruler after a panel of judges talk to him and try to convince him. His execution is due to his betrayal to Islam which is like grand treason.”)

In Police ‘covered up’ violent campaign to turn London area ‘Islamic’ it says [14]: Khalid Yasin, a hate preacher who describes Jews as “filth” and teaches that homosexuals must be killed has spoken at least four times since 2007 at the East London Mosque. Although the mosque claims to be against extremism, discrimination, and violence, it has hosted dozens of hate, extremist or terrorist preachers and also hosted a “Spot The Fag” contest. In the same week that it issued a press release condemning the anti-gay stickers, the mosque was also due to host a “gala dinner” with Uthman Lateef, a homophobic hate preacher. The mosque is controlled by a fundamentalist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe, which says that it is dedicated to changing the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam.”

According to ‘Nationalism, Community & the Islamization of Space in London’ [15], see page 219: “The East London mosque was more closely aligned with Arab states, in the Middle East and Pakistan. King Fahd of Saudi Arabia contributed over 1 million for the building of the new centre and ambassadors of Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the mosque management.

According to ‘Bangladeshi diaspora in the UK: socio-cultural dynamics, religious trends and transnational politics’ [16] See page 5: The East London Mosque – this claims to be the oldest mosque in London going back to the early 1940s. It has maintained close links with the Jamaat i Islami, largely through the Islamic Forum Europe and the Young Muslim Organisation, whose offices are located nearby. The ELM’s leaders and other local activists have been highly successful at building alliances with local government officials through campaigns against drug abuse, family breakdown, anti-social behaviour, school truancy, etc.

The Spirit of ’71: how the Bangladeshi War of Independence has haunted Tower Hamlets [17].

Jamil Iqbal and Richard Phillips – ‘Taking Stock: Respect, SWP and Islamist politics in Tower Hamlets’ [18]

Communities & Local Government – ‘The Bangladeshi Muslim Community in England Understanding Muslim Ethnic Communities’. See pages 42, 61

‘Bangladesh Genocide: what human rights, anti-racist and peace organisations won’t tell you’ [19], at 54 mins Chowdhury Mueenuddin/IFE, at 1.10 mins MCB/Iqbal Sacranie, 1,13 mins Chowdhury Mueenuddin and at 1.20 SWP/Left/Muslim Brotherhood

‘Siding with oppressor: the Pro-Islamist Left, London’ [20], One Law for All, pages 27-29

Jamaat-e-Islam links to East London Mosque & Darul Ummah
DeHanas, Nilsson (2013) ‘Elastic Orthodoxy: the Tactics of Young Muslim Identity in the East End of London’, Farnham, Ashgate [21], Pages 15, 16

East London Mosque admits Chowdhury Mueenuddin’s involvement [22]
The East London Mosque has confirmed Mueen Uddin was involved with the mosque from 1978 as honorary secretary, and was until recently vice chairman, but has not been a trustee since 2009.

East London Mosque/London Muslim Centre link to Jamaat
Policy Exchange’s ‘Choosing our friends wisely’ (2009) [23], p 36

Channel 4 Dispatches programme investigated fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami headquartered in Britain [24], and its network in the UK. Using undercover recordings, investigative journalist Andrew Gilligan reveals the group’s ambitions to create a worldwide ‘Islamic social and political order,’ and the concerns of a mainstream party that they are being ‘infiltrated’.

Britain’s jihadi bride groomer [25]: Schoolgirl radicalised in East London mosque recruited her three classmates to join ISIS in Syria

How Jamaat’s UK wing IFE infiltrated Tower Hamlets Council youth service 2016 [26]

Facing Jamaat-e-Islami by SADF 2017 See page 16 [27]

10 April 2017 Azad Ali, a Jamaati Islamist who has said that he supports killing British soldiers, was named a director of Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend) [28], a group which advises the British government. Ali recently said that the jihadist attack at Westminster on March 22, 2017 was not an act of terrorism.

11 April 2017. The Charity Commission, which regulates charities in England and Wales, asked Islamic Relief to explain why it invited a hardline Muslim preacher to star in a fundraising tour of Britain [29]. Yasir Qadhi, a Saudi-educated American academic, has been recorded telling students that killing homosexuals and stoning adulterers was part of Islam. Qadhi, who featured in an eight-city tour, described Islamic punishments such as cutting off the hands of thieves as “very beneficial to society.” The commission also questioned two other charities, Muslim Aid (Jamaat charity founded by Chowdhury Mueenuddin) and Read Foundation, about their sponsorship of a speaking tour by Qadhi in 2015.

Maryam Namazie, CEMB Spokesperson, July 14, 2017

Thanks to Ansar Ahmed Ullah, Gita Sahgal and Daniel Fitzgerald for the above information.

* https://www.ex-muslim.org.uk/east-london-mosque-has-filed-formal-complaint-about-cemb-to-pride