16 December 2005
Obviously the notion of seasonal goodwill to all does not apply to those homophobic and antisemtic idiots behind the website Islamophobiawatch. To read what I'm talking about click here
This site has the scary overtones of Red Watch. The article I've linked to singles out Brett Lock of Outrage! (and also carries a photo of him) but much of the rest of it is full of the bile and hatred that one would normally associate with the BNP and other far-right groups. Indeed, I'm probably putting myself up for inclusion just by posting this, but having heard first hand comments about gays and Jews from members of so-called 'moderate' Islamic groups at this year's NUS conference I'm no longer under the illusion that Islam preaches tolerance towards either of those groups. As such I fear that this website is not actually an attempt to track instances of Islamophobia in the media, but actually to use this excuse as a thin veil behind which to hide an agenda of inciting hatred against gays, Jews, and anyone else who Allah isn't too fond of. The fact that the 'comments' option on the articles has been turned off further suggests that the site's owners aren't even the slightest bit interested in promoting dialogue and understanding. This is simply hate-mongering.
Now I'm not gay, and I'm obviously not a follower of Judaism, but I do think we should stand in solidarity with oppressed groups in our society. Defending the rights of someone who is being persecuted for their sexuality should be a no-brainer, and I can stand by the right of someone to believe in a religion (no matter how ridiculous I think religion is) because that is simply defending freedom of speech and expression - providing those same people are willing to accept that I have a right to criticise their religion just as much as they are free to criticise my freedom from it. If you must insist that race and religion can be one and the same (a nonsensical claim made by many followers of both Judaism and Islam) then I will shout from the highest hilltops that you're clearly deluded and lack even a tenuous understanding of biology, but I won't resort to verbal, literal or physical intimidation to try and burst your bubble.
Having said that I do have some Muslim friends who are happy with the race/religion distinction and who do not go round telling others that 'gays are evil' and that 'it's ok to burn down synagogues' (both of which are quotes from conversations I had with Islamic delegates at NUS conference) but it seems increasingly clear to me that these individuals are not 'moderates' under the working definition of the word.
What really concerns me is that, were it not for the hate-mongering of groups such as Islamophobiawatch, the entire left would be queueing up to stand in solidarity with Muslims against religious discrimination (and against the occupation of Iraq, but we're doing that anyway without the zealots) but to do so now would go against the concept of solidarity itself. Now if you're prepared to abandon that concept then there's a party that has sold out the last remnants of its socialist principles in order to court the votes of homophobic and anti-semitic individuals within the Muslim community, as well as anti-abortionists of all faiths. It goes under the somewhat ironic name of Respect and is backed by the Socialist Workers' Party. Now a brief warning to those now thinking 'I didn't know that's what they're up to, next time I see someone selling the Socialist Worker I'll go and have a chat with them'. I'm not saying don't do it, in fact quite the opposite, but be prepared, it's not very pleasant to be publicly branded as a racist or 'part of the Zionist conspiracy', which seems the de facto response from SWP/Respect members to this line of questioning (and that's if you're lucky).
In conclusion, it's time for a bit of honesty and frank discussion. If the real moderate face of Islam has a problem living in a society that accepts gays and Jews as equals then I have a major problem with living with those who share those views (and this applies to Christians, Jews, Hindus, atheists, and anyone else whose beliefs, or lack of them, support bigotry and intolerance). If you, like me, want a future where society treats everyone equally regardless of race, religion, gender or sexuality then now is the time to ask some hard questions and expose those groups who claim to share the same vision but in reality promote discrimination and hate. We've managed it with the BNP and we'll do the same with the rest of the facists - and those groups will find that hiding behind the religious and racial hatred laws isn't an option, or that verbal or written intimidation and threatening behaviour will get them anywhere either. Join me. Join Leicester Secular Society, the National Secular Society, Workers' Liberty, or one of the many other groups who share the only consistent position on this issue. It's time to stand up.