This letter by Peter Tatchell has been reproduced with the permission of his foundation. For more information on their work or to make a donation, go to www.PeterTatchellFoundation.org.
Dear Pride in London,
I write as one of the co-organisers of the UK’s first LGBT Pride in 1972, as a Patron of Pride in London and as a human rights campaigner for the last 50 years:
I understand that complaints have been made against the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) by the East London mosque and others. The claim is that the CEMB's placards at this year’s Pride London parade on July 8 were "Islamophobic".
They were certainly very critical of Islamic homophobia. Such criticism is legitimate, justified and necessary in order to defend LGBT Muslims who have been victimised by followers of Islam in the UK and by Islamic governments worldwide.
The CEMB placards condemned “Homophobes, Islamists, racists.” They supported LGBT Muslims and LGBT people fleeing persecution by Islamic states. One said: “End Islamic hatred and violence to gays.” Others highlighted UK mosques that have hosted hate preachers who have endorsed or justified the persecution, even the killing, of LGBT people.
Some placards said “Allah is gay.” The factual basis of such a claim is questionable. However, since there is nothing wrong or shameful about being gay - and only gay sex acts (not gay people) are condemned in the Qur’an and Hadiths - there is nothing insulting about saying Allah, God, Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Shiva or any other religious figure is gay. A person would only say it was insulting if they were anti-LGBT.
The CEMB’s placards against Islamic homophobia were entirely justified and commendable. We have to oppose Islamic homophobia in the same way that LGBT groups have long opposed Christian and Judaist homophobia.
None of the CEMB placards were against Muslim people. They did not incite hate against Muslims. They criticised homophobic religious ideas. People and ideas are two very different things.
In a free society, all ideas, including Islam and other faiths, should be open to scrutiny and criticism. That's what freedom of expression is all about.
Criticising ideas is fine. Stirring hate against people is not.
The CEMB did not, in my view, cross that red line. It did not say a word against Muslim people.
You have said that Pride participants have a right to protest but “this does not give people in our parade the freedom to ostracise, discriminate against or humiliate anyone else taking part.” I agree. But the CEMB did not do this. They did not target anyone in the parade. They targeted Islamists who want LGBT people dead.
You say that Pride participants should treat others with tolerance and courtesy. True. But not if they want to kill us and incite their followers to hate and despise LGBTs.
One of the complainants against the CEMB is, I am told, the East London Mosque. This mosque for many years used to host Islamic extremist preachers who stirred hatred against LGBT people and, in some cases, justified the murder of LGBT people in accordance with Sharia law.
I have been informed that East London mosque and its allied London Muslim Centre (LMC) have invited homophobic clerics who have variously incited prejudice towards LGBT people, including Ibrahim Hewitt, who has compared gay people to paedophiles; Haitham al-Haddad, who has described homosexuality as a "criminal act"; Yasir Qadhi, who has said that, in an Islamic state, homosexuals would be killed; Assim al-Hakeem, who has described homosexuality as an illness; and Yusuf Estes, who says homosexuality has caused diseases and suggested homosexuals should seek counselling.
Some years ago, OutRage! and I organised a campaign against the mosque's anti-LGBT preachers. They eventually pledged they would not host them anymore. But as soon as the fuss died down I discovered that the East London mosque was again hosting viciously anti-LGBT preachers.
They had made untrue, misleading promises that they did not keep.
It is true that many, many years ago the London Muslim Centre (LMC), which is linked to the East London mosque, did agree to meet me to discuss LGBT concerns. But I felt it was just a PR exercise. They paid lip service to opposing homophobia; being unwilling to engage with or affirm LGBT Muslims and not doing anything serious to challenge homophobia within the Muslim community.
In the last two years, I and my colleagues at the Peter Tatchell Foundation have 11 times contacted the mosque and LMC, requesting them to have a dialogue with the LGBT community: to build bridges and solidarity between LGBTs and Muslims to combat the prejudice, discrimination and violence that both communities suffer. We specifically requested them to dialogue with and host LGBT Muslims. All our requests have been rebuffed. They have repeatedly ignored our 11 appeals since 2015.
I urge you to reject the complaints against the CEMB by the East London Mosque and others. Instead, I urge you to ask them to explain why they refuse to have a dialogue with the LGBT community, refuse to publicly challenge homophobia within the Muslim community and why they refuse to publicly acknowledge and support LGBT Muslims.
I also request you to confirm that the CEMB can participate in future Pride parades.
If you have any queries, please get in touch.
Keep up the great work that Pride in London and the Community Advisory Board does. My thanks to you and all the volunteers for making Pride possible.
Much appreciation and best wishes,
Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
In response to the claims made in this article, the East London Mosque has supplied the following comment:
The East London Mosque’s initial statement in response to the awful placards produced by CEMB at Pride can be found online here and our subsequent letter to Pride in London, after CEMB and Peter Tatchell published their letters can be found here.
In his letter, Peter only chooses to focus on the content of one placard and ignores the others, being selective with his approach. The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain carried offensive signs such as ‘F**K Islam’ and ‘East London Mosque Incites Murder of Homosexuals’. Their inclusion in the Pride parade caused much concern amongst other participants and other LGBT groups, including the Imaan charity, which supports LGBTQI Muslims, have also condemned the placards.
The Mosque’s track record on challenging homophobia locally in East London can be seen in a number of previous articles, including pieces by Pink News and the BBC. Only last November, our media officer spoke to a crowd of over thousand people and publicly condemned all kinds of bigotry including homophobia specifically.
Peter Tatchell is wrong if he claims we have not replied to his emails – we have – but we have not agreed to his demands for further meetings. We have referred him to the Muslim Council of Britain, which deals with national issues. Meanwhile, we have engaged in dialogue with local LGBT groups, who have a less confrontational approach.