Muslim Leader Urged: Drop Homophobia
Gay group calls for solidarity against intolerance.
London - 4 January 2006
"It is sad to see the leader of the Muslim community attacking the gay community," said Peter Tatchell of the gay human rights group OutRage!.
"We share a parallel experience of prejudice and discrimination. Victimisation of Muslim people is wrong, and so too is the victimisation of gay people. Instead of sowing division and promoting homophobia, the Muslim Council of Britain should be working with gay organisations to challenge the twin evils of homophobia and Islamophobia."
Mr Tatchell was responding to anti-gay comments made by the leader of the Muslim Council of Britain on BBC Radio 4's PM Programme, yesterday, 3 January 2006.
Sir Iqbal told the programme that homosexuality is "harmful" and "not acceptable." He suggested it was immoral and spread disease. Implying that being gay is a sickness, he said homosexuality is linked to "other illnesses and diseases."
Mr Tatchell expressed concern that the MCB had long campaigned in support of discrimination against lesbians and gay men:
"On every recent gay human rights issue, the MCB has campaigned in favour of discrimination. It opposed an equal age of consent, partnership rights for same-sex couples and the outlawing of homophobic discrimination in the workplace. The MCB also backed the retention of Section 28 and a ban on gay couples fostering or adopting children."
Resorting to inflammatory language barely distinguishable from the homophobic tirades of the BNP, news releases on the MCB website condemn same-sex relationships as "offensive", "immoral" and "repugnant".
"While demanding rights for Muslims, the MCB wants to deny rights to lesbian and gay people - both Muslim and non-Muslim. It sees no double standard or inconsistency in its selective approach to human rights," added Mr Tatchell.
"OutRage! has written to Sir Iqbal Sacranie several times, urging dialogue to explore our common interest in defending the human rights of both our communities. We suggested working together to eradicate the twin hatreds of Islamophobia and homophobia. Sir Iqbal never replied to our letters.
"OutRage! recognises the shared humanity of all people everywhere. We endorse the MCB's concern about the abuse of Muslims in Palestine, Bosnia, Chechnya, Iraq and in Britain. But our solidarity with Muslims has been repaid with only hostility and prejudice from the MCB.
"Tolerance is a two-way street. How can the MCB expect to secure respect for Muslims when it shows such obvious disrespect to other people because of their sexual orientation?" queried Mr Tatchell.
Transcript of BBC Radio 4's PM Programme, 3 January 2006. Interview with Sir Iqbal Sacranie, leader of the Muslim Council of Britain
When you look at same-sex civil partnerships, for instance, what are your thoughts?
Sacranie: "Our view is very clear on that. I'm carried by the teaching of my faith. It is something which is not acceptable in Islam the same way it is not acceptable under Christianity or Judaism or other divine religions. Our religion, our faith is very, very clear. This is harmful. It does not augur well in building the very foundations of society - stability, family relationships. And it is something we would certainly not, in any form, encourage the community to be involved in."
Is homosexuality itself harmful to society?
Sacranie: "Certainly it is a practice that - in terms of health, in terms of the moral issues that comes along in society - it is not acceptable. And what is not acceptable, there is a good reason for it."
"Each of our faiths tells us that it is harmful and I think, if you look into the scientific evidence that has been available in terms of the forms of various other illnesses and diseases that are there, surely it points out that where homosexuality is practised there is a greater concern in that area."
And how does one society square and comfortably hold your view with the views of same-sex couples who have been getting married in recent weeks? Does that "tolerance" always get bourn out?
Sacranie: "Well tolerance comes from both ways. We have an opportunity to express our views. This is what we have, this is the privilege we have living in an open democratic society. This is something which we felt deeply concerned about because we felt it does not promote the social or family harmony in society. Now, whilst its there, what do we do? We have to confront in the manner which is acceptable to all of us, but in the same way I have the right to express my view, others have the right to oppose and put their arguments.
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