Muslim Council Rejects Gay Dialogue
Action against homophobia axed, gays condemned.
London - 21 April 2006
The Muslim Council of Britain has rejected talks with gay organisations and rebuffed proposals to tackle homophobia within the Muslim community.
Inayat Bunglawala, media spokesperson for the MCB, has disowned the MCB's advisor on equality issues, Muhammed Aziz. Mr Aziz had endorsed dialogue with gay groups and indicated the MCB's commitment to tackle prejudice and discrimination against gay people.
Mr Aziz made this commitment during round table equality talks that included gay lobby group Stonewall. The talks were sponsored by the Equality and Diversity Forum of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Mr Aziz is named on the forum's membership list as an MCB advisor and is seen as representing the MCB at the forum.
The DTI talks resulted in agreement on a five-year plan for dialogue between Muslim and gay groups and for joint action against homophobia within the Muslim community and against Islamophobia within the gay community.
Everyone thought an amicable agreement had been reached until Mr Bunglawala denounced the talks with the claim: "There are no talks with any gay groups anywhere."
Mr Bunglawala told the Islam TV Channel that the MCB rejected dialogue with gay representatives. Opposing any Muslim and gay cooperation on equality issues, he reiterated the MCB's hardline homophobic condemnation of same-sex relationships as "sinful" and "not acceptable."
Mr Bunglawala is apparently so anti-gay that he refused to speak to journalists from the online Pink News service.
"We are deeply saddened that the Muslim Council of Britain has slammed the door on dialogue with the gay community and has rejected proposals to tackle homophobia," said gay Muslim Aaron Saeed, who is the Muslim Affairs spokesperson of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights group OutRage!
"OutRage! and Stonewall are willing to work with the MCB to combat homophobia and Islamophobia. Sadly, the MCB is unwilling to reciprocate our offer of cooperation and solidarity.
"We applaud Mr Aziz's efforts to promote constructive engagement between the gay and Muslim communities. It is a great pity his commendable, generous outreach has been dashed by Mr Bunglawala and the rest of the MCB leadership," said Mr Saeed.
OutRage! spokesperson Peter Tatchell confirms that he has written to MCB leader Sir Iqbal Sacranie "many times" in the last few years, urging "mutual understanding, tolerance and respect."
"All our efforts to promote an exchange of ideas and a common agenda for equality have been ignored by the MCB," said Mr Tatchell.
"It was a big setback when Sir Iqbal Sacranie earlier this year denounced gay people as harmful, immoral, unacceptable and diseased."
"Official news releases on the MCB's website attack gay equality and demonise same-sex relationships as 'offensive', 'immoral' and 'repugnant'. Some of the MCB's tirades against lesbians and gays echo the homophobic hate language of the BNP.
"The MCB opposed all the gay equality reforms of the last decade. On every issue, it supported legal discrimination.
"The MCB opposed an equal age of consent, same-sex civil partnerships and the outlawing of homophobic discrimination in the workplace. It also backed the retention of Section 28 and a ban on gay couples fostering or adopting children," said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!
"One reason the MCB refuses to participate in Holocaust Memorial Day is because it objects to the ceremony including a commemoration of what it dismisses as 'the so-called gay genocide.' The MCB regards the murder of gay people in Nazi death camps as unworthy of remembrance.
"This year's Festival of Muslim Cultures is being funded by the Home Office and the British Council. Its aim is to showcase the "diversity and plurality" of Muslim communities. But the festival has banned gay Muslim events from its programme, allegedly at the insistence of the MCB," said Mr Tatchell.
Below is a copy of the 20 April QX magazine story (syndicated to QX by Pink News) regarding the MCB's rejection of the DTI's five-year plan for dialogue between Muslim and gay groups and for joint action against homophobia within the Muslim community and against Islamophobia within the gay community.
Below that story is a copy of Pink News's original story on 10 April about Mr Aziz endorsing the five-year plan, apparently on behalf of the MCB.
QX - 20 April 2006
MCB DISPUTE OVER GAY CONSENSUS PLAN
A dispute appears to be emerging within the board of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and its advisors in regards to their policy on gay issues.
Last week PinkNews.co.uk revealed a 5 year MCB plan to combat homophobia amongst Muslims and Islamophobia in the gay community, after talking to the group's policy consultant, Muhammed Aziz.
The story, seen as a landmark move in the organisation, was picked up by several news media including the Islam Channel, but when they spoke to the MCB media secretary, Inayat Bunglawala, he denied all knowledge of any work.
He insisted that Mr Aziz does not represent the MCB and told the Islam Channel, "There is no truth in these quotes, our position is very clear, our Secretary General (Sir Iqbal Sacranie) was nearly prosecuted for this because we maintain that homosexual relationships are sinful in Islam."
Mr Bunglawala claimed that he spoke to Mr Aziz who refuted the comments. His insistence that Mr Aziz does not represent the organisation is contradicted by his participation on the Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF) and the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, where he is listed as an "advisor" to the MCB.
In the minutes of the 18th January 2006 meeting of the EDF he speaks on their behalf and suggests talks with the gay charity, Stonewall.
Mr Aziz is referred to as an "advisor" to the MCB in the notes of the meeting and refers to homophobic comments made by MCB head, Sir Iqbal Sacranie on Radio 4. The EDF document said: "This affair has been a wake-up call. Up until now, the strategy of Mohammed and others who were asked to be MCB advisors around 2002-2003 was to steer the MCB away from the topic of homosexuality.
"To some extent this strategy succeeded, for example in relation to Section 28 and civil partnership. with the support of colleagues Mohammed plans to take this problem forward in three ways. at the APPG on conflict of rights to put some thoughts forward on how to deal with issues about theology and conflict with other rights; to engage some Islamic scholars with a human rights background to address this problem; and to develop a project of engagement between the communities involved, which he has already discussed with Stonewall."
Alan Wardle, Stonewall's director of Parliamentary and Public Affairs, was also at the meeting, he confirmed there has been some contact with the MCB but said any specific projects are in the early stages, he said "It is something we may look into for the future."
A DTI spokesman also told PinkNews.co.uk that talks had taken place.
But in his interview with the Islam Channel, Mr Bunglawala insisted, "There are no talks with any gay groups anywhere."
He added: "Islam has a clear moral position which is that it does not regard homosexual relationships as acceptable." Mr Bunglawa told Pinknews.co.uk, "I will always be too busy," when asked to comment. If Mr Aziz is not a representative of MCB then this raises the question of who speaks for them on equality committees such as the EDF and CHR, as no one else is listed from the organisation on their websites or in their minutes.
Muslim group reveals plan for gay consensus
PinkNews.co.uk has been told of a five year plan to combat homophobia in the British Muslim community.
Muhammed Aziz, policy advisor to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), told PinkNews.co.uk that significant progress is expected following internal discussions after a productive All Party Parliamentary Group meeting earlier this year, which included the Muslim organisation and gay charity Stonewall.
Mr Aziz revealed plans to look at homophobia in the Muslim community and Islamophobia in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in reaction to controversial comments by MCB leader Sir Iqbal Sacranie on homosexuality.
It is hoped that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will help conduct the project, a DTI spokesman confirmed discussions have taken place.
This marks a shift from previous years where there has been little dialogue between the MCB and gay groups, Mr Aziz said: "We have brought about a lot of change from five years ago when the MCB were behind issues such as section 28, and against gay adoption.
"The first part of the strategy was to tell MCB if you have nothing positive to say keep your mouth shut, most of the negative statements now date back to 1999."
Alan Wardle. Stonewall's director of Parliamentary and Public Affairs, confirmed there has been some contact with the MCB but said any specific projects are in the early stages, he said "It is something we may look into for the future."
Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill calmed the rumours, "We have been in meetings with a range of faith groups, there is nothing formal at the moment."
The potential partnerships were first fostered at a meeting of the Equality and Diversity Forum on January 18, attended by Mr Aziz, and Mr Wardle, where both agreed their should be further discussions and debate between the communities.
This sentiment was reinforced at the January 31 meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Equalities.
Other gay rights groups including Outrage are offended that they have been excluded from plans, but Mr Aziz said the issues had to be treated sensitively, "They may be uncomfortable about individual personalities, Stonewall are seen as a safe pair of hands."
Outrage's Peter Tatchell said: "How does Muhammed Aziz square this commitment to fight homophobia with Sir Iqbal Sacranie's comments that gay people are immoral, harmful and diseased. If the leader of the MCB holds these homophobic views how can we take seriously the MCB's claimed commitment to fighting homophobia.
"The MCB supports legal discrimination against lesbians and gays, It has opposed every gay equality reform of the last decade.
"These actions do not look like the actions of an organisation committed to fighting homophobia."
The MCB worked with gay groups such as the Lesbian and Gay Coalition Against Racism at last month's Unite Against Conference. Secretary, Inayat Bunglawala said at the time, "British Muslims welcome working with everyone including members of the Lesbian and Gay community against a common enemy, fascism."
Mr Tatchell said: "Outrage and other gay groups have been lobbying the MCB for a long time, it's great that the MCB is now willing to reciprocate cooperation with the LGBT community."
The next step according to Mr Aziz is to get the DTI to take the issues seriously, "We are looking to create productive policies rather than news and publicity."
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