Livingstone Sidelines Liberal Muslims, Women And Gays
Mayor plans to embrace homophobic cleric again in October.
"Ken Livingstone has sided with male Muslim misogynists and homophobes against women and gay Londoners," said human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell of OutRage! who was one of a group of protestors outside London's City Hall this morning, 12 July 2004.
He was commenting on the Mayor of London's decision to host controversial Muslim scholar, Dr Al-Qaradawi, and to invite him to a further conference at City Hall in October.
"By kow-towing to Islamic fundamentalists like Dr Al-Qaradawi, the Mayor has betrayed liberal Muslims who are already isolated and terrorised within sections of British Muslim society," said Mr Tatchell.
"Young Muslim girls in some parts of London are pressured by their families and religious leaders into wearing the hijab. Gay and lesbian Muslims have been threatened with violence by Islamic activists. Progressive Muslims who speak out in support of gay and women's rights are intimidated and cowed into silence."
"Ken Livingstone has associated himself with Muslim religious tyranny against liberal Muslim opinion," added Mr Tatchell.
The protest outside City Hall was against the participation of Muslim theologian Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi in a GLA-sponsored conference on the hijab.
It involved activists from the gay and lesbian human rights group OutRage!, together with Green London Assembly members, Darren Johnson and Jenny Jones, and campaigners from GayEgypt.com and the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association.
The protesters say Dr Al-Qaradawi's homophobic and misogynist views sanction the oppression of women and the execution of lesbians and gay men.
Despite claims by Ken Livingstone and the Muslim Association of Britain that Dr Al-Qaradawis has been misinterpreted and misrepresented, Dr Al-Qaradawi is the chief advisor to the website, IslamOnline, and supervises its content. He is therefore responsible for the views it expresses.
IslamOnline promotes policies contrary to key principles of international human rights law. The website tacitly endorses the right of husbands to beat their wives and to force them to wear the hijab. It blames rape victims who dress immodestly and defends the right of Islamic states to impose the death penalty for homosexuality, says OutRage!
"Dr Al-Qaradawi is the chief scholar on the website IslamOnline which issues fatwas - religious edicts - on a range of contemporary moral issues and responds to ethical questions posed by Muslims seeking theological guidance. In addition to answering many questions personally, Dr Al-Qaradawi heads a panel whose role it is to ensure that nothing appears on the site that 'violates the fixed principles of Islamic law'," said Brett Lock of OutRage! who has researched Dr Al-Qaradawi's IslamOnline site.
"Some of the fatwas issued via IslamOnline by Dr Al-Qaradawi and his colleagues support the death penalty for homosexuality (including burning and stoning).
"Though he has told the Guardian that he does not support individual Muslims attacking individual gay people, tellingly, he leaves the issue of government-sanctioned persecution - including execution - open, saying 'any punishment was a matter for the state'. Currently, at least six Islamic countries have the death penalty for homosexuality. Instead of using his position as a respected cleric and popular broadcaster to bring relief to the persecuted, he gives theological authority to the persecutors.
"The conference on the hijab was a farce. It claimed to promote 'choice' but Dr Al-Qaradawi has himself ruled that wearing the hijab is not a matter of choice, but one of religious obligation. The conference speakers included no liberal or progressive Muslims. The voices of Muslim feminists, who reject the hijab, were excluded. It was a one-sided presentation of religious fundamentalism masquerading as a human rights debate."
"Interviewed in The Guardian on 12 July 2004, Dr Al-Qaradawi defended his statements on wife-beating as 'scholarship', and said that in his view it was neither 'obligatory or desirable'."
"We welcome this clarification," added Mr Lock, "however we are disturbed that Dr Al-Qaradawi seems unable to grasp that scholarly opinions that appear to condone wife-beating give legitimacy to domestic violence, whatever Dr Al-Qaradawi's intentions. They may influence the attitudes and behaviour of many Muslims who hold Dr Al-Qaradawi in high esteem. His illiberal scholarly views help legitimise and encourage intolerance in the wider Muslim community.
"The UK Muslim support group, Safra Project, report that domestic violence is a major problem faced by many Muslim women. A man prone to wife-beating is unlikely to appreciate the scholarly subtleties of Dr Al-Qaradawi's arguments, especially since IslamOnline's format is similar to that of an Agony Aunt - dispensing advice to people presenting real-life problems and situations. How can Dr Al-Qaradawi claim that his answers are merely academic?" queried Mr Lock.
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