A recent story in the Guardian entitled, Ban homophobic clerics from mosques, gay rights campaigners urge has prompted much heated debate on Facebook and no doubt various other websites.
I am not surprised by this. A few years ago when delivering a guest lecture at a Muslim institute I had two young Muslim men get up and walk out when I had the audacity to mention that discriminating or prejudicing against gays and lesbians was unacceptable in any circumstance.
Likewise this year, I made a very similar statement at an event organised by a Muslim organisation. So incensed were five young Muslim men in the audience that they approached me after the event to angrily try and convince me that it was perfectly acceptable for them to hate – and indeed punish – gays. When asked why, they replied by explaining that gays were “sinners”.
I replied by asking whether they hated adulterers in the same way as they hated gays because from my understanding adultery was a “sin” also. Unsurprisingly, it was met with further anger: anger at my apparent insolence rather than at those who commit adultery !!!
Because of this and the recent news story in the Guardian, I feel it necessary to reiterate exactly where I stand on this issue in an attempt to offer some clarity of thought.
Tis is not the first time that I have aired these views. For last year’s report from the European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC) I was asked as someone who has been researching Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime for more than a decade to pen an introductory piece about my personal perspective on trying to combat Islamophobia over that time. Given this opportunity and the fact that many people were going to read this report, I saw this as a unique opportunity to convey exactly my views about how we might move forward together in combating Islamophobia.
Unlike many others, I do not believe that this will be through dawah or merely telling people about Islam.
Nor do I believe that this will be through being hypocritical: you cannot combat Islamophobia if you are prepared to be complicit in tolerating and openly allowing other forms of hatred and prejudice to ferment and be expressed.
To explain this in more detail and to clarify exactly where I stand on this debate, I have reproduced a part of my piece from the EMRC report below:
[To combat Islamophobia]…will be the need to utilise and commit to the equalities agenda, something that – maybe understandably – some campaigning to tackle Islamophobia have bypassed. Equality is not only for those who come from a particular ethnic background, religion or have a disability for example: equality is for everyone.
There can be no fair society if age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation and transgender status are markers of disadvantage, and there can be no lasting or deep-rooted progress for disadvantaged groups unless we make a robust case for fairness which involves everyone in society.
But it is fair to say that equalities legislation could present some – including both Muslims and non-Muslims – with difficult challenges.
This will be most prominent and contentious where the rights and equal treatment of those who may be seen to be ‘sinful’ or lesser because of a particular theological interpretation for instance, appears to contest, contend or be contrary to the beliefs and understandings of a religion or belief.
However, if all agree that discrimination on the basis of religion or belief should be outlawed, then so too must there be the same acknowledgement that all other forms of discrimination be outlawed too. Discriminate against or deny the rights of one person or group and it becomes much easier for the rights of others to be denied or to be discriminated against also, including one’s own.
The value of equalities therefore is that everyone is treated fairly and that all forms of discrimination including Islamophobia are afforded protection.
I hope that others begin to see this.
NB: I have written on the subject of gays and Muslims before on this blog. You can read the article by clicking here