Row over Ex-Muslims at London Pride

July 17, 2017 at 8:48 pm (gay, Human rights, Islam, islamism, Jim D, LGBT, relativism, religion, secularism)

Today’s Morning Star carries an article citing “Muslim leaders” accusing the Council of Ex Muslims of Britain (CEMB) of inciting hatred against Muslims. The basis of the charge seems to be banners and placards carried by the CEMB contingent at the London Pride march, including “Allah is Gay” and “Fuck Islamic Homophobia.”

The M Star article quotes East London Mosque spokesman Salman Farsi saying “Our track record for challenging homophobia in East London is quite well known … For us to see such a mainstream event that is supposed to celebrate tolerance and love used as a hate platform is really quite shocking.” It has to be said, incidentally, that some people say the Mosque’s record on homophobia is “quite well known” for rather different reasons.

The M Star also quotes at some length “anti racist campaigner Maz Saleem”, whose comments to the paper are almost word-for-word what she wrote at the Counterfire website, criticising Pride organisers for having allowed CEMB to participate at all. Refering to Maryam Namazie, an Iranian-born leftist and one of the leaders of CEMB, Saleem says, “In an Islamophobic society this incident is not surprising. But Islamophobic attacks are at unprecedented levels. Pride organisers should have known better and stopped Namazie’s contingent from marching.”

Maz Saleem’s Counterfire piece concludes “Namazie’s motivation is to reinforce negative stereotypes of Islam and Muslims. We must resist.”

We reproduce below, the account that appeared on Maryam Namazie’s website:

Ex-Muslims Out Loud and Proud at Pride in London

On 8 July, CEMB was at Pride in London in full force highlighting the plight of LGBT in countries under Islamic rule with bodypainting by the award-winning Victoria Gugenheim.

The march went ahead as planned, though police initially tried to remove placards with the slogan “Allah is Gay” because of complaints of “offence”.

Whilst a few were not pleased to see apostates in Pride, we were met with overwhelming and heart-warming support and solidarity. For all of those who participated, it was an unforgettable moment in the struggle for freedom of conscience, expression and the fight for LGBT rights in countries under Islamic rule.

Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson for CEMB, said: “In a world where apostasy, blasphemy and ‘immorality’ are punishable by death in many Islamic states, and religiously non-prescribed sex and women’s bodies are so despised, it becomes all the more important to celebrate them and show very clearly that people have a right to think, live and love as they choose without state or group intervention and persecution. Of course some were and will be offended by our message as we are offended by Islam and religion but offence can never be a reason to silence and threaten nor is blasphemy and offence more important than murder.”

Daniel Fitzgerald, CEMB Pride organiser, said: “CEMB is challenging a narrative. Never before in the history of Pride London since its start in 1972 has a group consisting of those from a Muslim background, including refugees, come together to protest crimes committed to LGBT people in the name of Islam and topless too! These are VERY brave people who speak from direct experience. All states that have the death penalty for gays are Islamic, yet this alarming fact is ignored time and time again. No more excuses.”

Gita Sahgal, Director of Centre for Secular Space, said: “I marched with… extraordinary activists who keep alive the idea of international solidarity. In many countries Islamic law decrees the death penalty for homosexuality and sex outside marriage. On a very corporate march we kept alive the idea that refugees are welcome, apostasy is a right and that we weep for those under constant vigilante and state death threats. My wonderful young friend marched with a banner for Xulhaz hacked to death in Bangladesh for the right to love. In some places we cannot celebrate. We honour those struggles.”

  

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LGBT movement faces big challenges from DUP-Tory alliance, Trump, Brexit

July 6, 2017 at 4:54 pm (campaigning, Europe, homophobia, Human rights, LGBT, posted by JD, Trump, TUC)

By Maria Exall chair of the TUC LGBT committee

AT London Pride this weekend we will see on the streets the diversity of our LGBT+ communities. We will be reminded about the freedom we have.

At the TUC LGBT conference taking place today and tomorrow at Congress House we will be discussing the freedom we have still to achieve, the threats to our equality and the opportunities for us to progress.

On the agenda of the conference are many of the challenges of the year ahead. Up front is the fact that the Conservative government is in power through an alliance with the homophobic DUP.

This is a party that has blocked progressive legislation on same sex marriage using a “petition of concern” when the rest of the UK and Ireland have moved forward.

This is a party is at the forefront of a reactionary fightback against our equality, with bigotry cloaked as the pursuit of religious freedom.

With DUP votes crucial to maintaining this Tory government, it is also worth remembering that the majority of Conservative MPs did not support same-sex marriage in the last Parliament.

We have no guarantee at present that there is a progressive majority in the House of Commons for defending our equality or pursuing future positive change.

More socially liberal Conservatives are conveniently keen to forget the details of their homophobic, biphobic and transphobic recent past and promote the business case for equality — something we as LGBT+ workers know is shallow and ineffective.

This year the TUC has conducted a LGBT+ workers survey which has shown the persistence of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in the workplace.

Prejudice still massively affects our working lives and our private lives. Shockingly many LGBT+ people of all ages still find it hard to be fully out at work.

The progressive social change of the last few decades has not altered the experience of many LGBT+ people in the workplace, of isolation, of verbal and physical abuse, with consequences for our mental health.

Too often we face a choice between being ourselves and being secure at work. The corporate agenda cannot deliver, whether promoting employer-controlled “employee networks” or working with those campaigning groups that do not challenge the economic status quo.

It is only by building up strong working-class LGBT+ organisations supported by the wider labour movement that we can tackle the persistent homophobia, biphobia and transphobia we see in our workplaces and in society.

The international agenda for LGBT+ rights will also be discussed at the conference. We will consider the volatile and hostile approach to our rights in the US under a Trump administration, and the need to pursue a worldwide approach to LGBT+ equality in all the Commonwealth countries as the 2018 meeting of the Commonwealth heads of state in London approaches.

The results of the Brexit negotiations also threaten our future equality. We know the Tories want Brexit so they can undermine workers rights and cut “red tape” on working conditions.

We have to make sure that the “Great Repeal Bill” does not roll back the laws from Europe on LGBT+ employment rights or equal treatment in access to goods and services. We need to ensure we do not fall behind European legal standards.

We need to maintain close relations with those in the European trade union movement who are fighting the same battles for equality at the workplace and defend freedom of movement for LGBT+ workers in Europe.

Last year the TUC LGBT conference met on the day of the Brexit referendum result. There was fear and concern about the future, and one year on many of us have the same concern.

Since then we have seen a massive increase in hate crime against LGBT+ people but also against immigrants and foreigners, against those with disabilities. An injury to one is an injury to all — we need to fight back for our rights and those of all working people.

As a country we appear to be going backwards towards a politics of hate. Our society is more brutal and more narrow-minded.

Whether it be the rise in hate crime, the regular homophobic, sexist and racist abuse on social media and in public and political life, or the passive acceptance of increasing economic inequality with foodbanks, real wages falling, and public sector pay held back.

We need to stand in solidarity when individuals and groups are scapegoated and oppressed, it is through the practice of this solidarity that we show there is another way we can live together in freedom.

At this year’s conference we will be considering a proposal discussed at the TUC Youth Workers Forum.

The Youth Workers Forum recognised that equality and respect have not been successfully embedded in our society. We support their call to have a movement-wide campaign to defend workplace equality rights and advance the case for equality.

The upsurge in support for the Labour Party at the last election gives us grounds for hope, that as a society that can turn its back on the failed austerity of the last seven years and pursue a new deal for working people, one that has equality centre stage. The future is there for us to claim.

  • This article appeared in the Morning Star as Big Challenges lie ahead for the LGBT movement

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Anti-gay purge in Chechnya: torture and concentration camps

April 14, 2017 at 3:35 pm (Andrew Coates, homophobia, Human rights, LGBT, posted by JD, protest, Putin, thuggery)

Hundreds of activists gather outside the Russian Embassy in central London in protest against the treatment of homosexuals in Chechnya.

Slightly adapted from Tendance Coatesy:

Gay men are being held in “camps” in the Chechen Republic where they are subjected to torture and beatings, human rights campaigners have claimed – these claims are now backed up by a detailed report in today’s Guardian

The claims follow reports last week that 100 gay men had been rounded up and imprisoned in Chechnya, with at least three people allegedly murdered. The allegations were made by a Russian newspaper and human rights campaigners. “In Chechnya, the command was given for a ‘prophylactic sweep’ and it went as far as real murders,” independent newspaper Novaya Gazetaclaimed.

At the time, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s spokesperson denied the claims on the grounds that no one in Chechnya is homosexual. “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” spokesman Alvi Karimov told Interfax (Independent.)

Close the gay concentration camps.

Chechnya has opened the world’s first concentration camps for gay people and they’re as horrific as they sound. Men are being electrocuted, tortured until they reveal other names of gay people, and beaten so badly that some have died.

This is the first time we’ve seen camps like this since the Nazis. It’s both terribly upsetting and infuriating all at once, but we have a plan to stop it.

Avaaz will work with activists on the ground to help rescue the prisoners and set up a safe house, but first we need to show there’s a massive global outcry to end the crackdown. Join the urgent campaign and tell everyone – let’s get to one million.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Russian embassy in London on Wednesday to protest after reports from human rights groups that up to 100 gay men are being held and tortured in “camps” in Russia’s southern region of Chechnya.

Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported at least three of the men detained had been killed in secret prisons that were branded “concentration camps.”

More hereHundreds protest against ‘gay concentration camps’ in Chechnya outside London’s Russian Embassy.

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Young people and mental health – a political issue

March 30, 2017 at 8:07 pm (Cuts, Human rights, LGBT, mental health, posted by JD, youth)

Image result for picture young people mental health

By Joe Booth (this article also appears in the present issue of Solidarity and on the Workers Liberty website)

Statistics show that help for young people with mental health issues is dramatically decreasing. A 2016 investigation by the Guardian and 38 Degrees showed that trusts around England were “drawing up plans for hospital closures and cutbacks” in an attempt to avoid a £20 billion shortfall by 2020. This means that young people aren’t getting the help they need or deserve.

Some 75% of mental health issues begin before the age of 18. The charity, MQ, estimates that on average, there are three children in every classroom with a diagnosable mental illness or unrecognised mental health problems. In January, a 16-year-old friend of my family committed suicide: she was severely depressed, and the problems in the world were hard for her to cope with.

She was not alone. 26% of young people in the United Kingdom experience suicidal thoughts. Likewise, the 44% of 16-24-year-old LGBT+ people who are frequently bullied are at a higher risk of suicide, self-mutilation and/or depression. Looked-after children and care leavers are between four and five times more likely to attempt suicide in adulthood. 18.9% of looked-after children below the age of five (19.3% of boys and 17.4% of girls) showed signs of behavioural or emotional problems.

These statistics emphasise that there are too many young people — and adults — who kill themselves, harm themselves or suffer from depression because of living under an oppressive and alienating society. Depression and self-hatred may come from loneliness or pessimism, or from alienation and oppression. We need improvements in facilities to help young people. YoungMinds is the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people.

According to them, more than 850,000 children and young people in the UK have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. YoungMinds do the best they can as the leading organisation committed to philanthropically helping people, but they are limited by being a charity. Young people may receive help from this charity, or from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services), but we also need to discuss and address why young people are suffering, and the ultimate solution to it.

I want to respond to the death of my family friend by learning from her and campaigning for the politics that will prevent it happening again.

We need not just philanthropy but political demands and a significant change. I think we need help groups or services to become politically radical and open to the prevention of young people harming themselves or become depressed. We need a fund or organisation that is socialistic, with an overall objective to understand why young people with mental health issues, and neurodivergent young people, commit suicide, harm themselves and/or suffer from depression, and to consider the solution to it. We need solidarity against the causes of mental ill-health and low self-esteem; we need activism and revolutionary socialist politics.

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George Michael and the subjectivity of conservative socialism

December 30, 2016 at 9:10 am (celebrity, culture, Human rights, LGBT, music, Robin Carmody, socialism)


Above: George Michael comes out on CNN, 1997

By Robin Carmody

What we have found out about George Michael since his death – which, out of sheer modesty and desire to avoid publicity as much as he could, he largely kept quiet when alive – confirms that, certainly by comparison to everyone else who achieved exceptional wealth by those means at that time, he lived his life by redistributive socialist principles. It confirms his essential decency and separation from the world in which he found himself, hailed by some for the wrong reasons, dismissed by others (his most natural allies) for the same, equally wrong reasons.

And this is part of the reason why he seemed such a tragic figure, caught and trapped between two worlds, the world he might theoretically have wanted to live in (but which he knew would never have accepted him, not least because – Roy Jenkins and Leo Abse’s great work notwithstanding – of his sexuality which had to remain hidden for so long) and the world in which he made his fortune but which he knew instinctively to be empty, hollow, lacking in unifying soul. But he also knew – as I do – that he was an inherent outsider who could find no place within any notional unifying soul. So he had no option but to take himself out of things, out of the world entirely; he spoke of, and for, a moment at which and a people for whom neither the past nor the future seemed particularly promising or enticing. How could a gay man, successful in global pop in the age of AIDS and the simultaneous waves of deregulated capitalism and reignited fear and puritanism, with an atavistic feeling for socialist community have felt otherwise?

(It would be interesting, by the way, to find any latterday quotes from him about the effect of pop on non-Western cultures and societies, considering his central role just as it was beginning when Wham! broke new ground by performing in China in 1985; it would seem likely that his view would have been similar to his view of his own country, doubtful and unsure of the full implications of that uncontrollable wave but simultaneously aware that there had been a lot of narrowness and insularity before that deserved to be swept away; very similar, in fact, to the view the 1986 NME – to which he spoke, sensitively and thoughtfully, on related matters, in an interview available on Rock’s Backpages – largely took of nascent deregulated broadcasting, namely a plague on both Reithian and Murdochian houses.)

By the time of his initial success, those who would not accept him as a socialist had embraced the Beatles as heroes and icons of a socialist idyll and golden age. They did not know, yet, that the later revisiting of that era during the Blair ascendancy (during which George Michael actually reached his commercial pinnacle in his home country, which many had seen as impossible for him, again no doubt because his image had blinded them to his true politics, as if the Gallagher brothers – and yes, I know and understand and respect what Alex Niven thinks they could have been – ever really gave back) would be a smokescreen for the institutionalisation, without any real public call for it in the immediately preceding period, of Thatcherism. But even before that, they gave the public impression that they had always been pro-Beatles, and that certain inconvenient truths – that the colonel who returned twelve medals in protest at their MBEs in 1965 supported Labour, for a start, and let’s not even mention the Marine Offences Act – had never applied.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Those who disputed George Michael’s socialism in his heyday, as they dispute the even putative or potential socialism of even some of the music generally associated with the BBC’s 1Xtra station today, had been equally dismissive of the Beatles’ claim to represent any kind of socialism, saw them simply as capitalist useful idiots, false consciousness, a betrayal of the noble struggle to inauthentic candyfloss culture. I do, in fact, think that those people were right to dismiss the Rolling Stones. But pop has never begun and ended at Home Counties grammar schools and the LSE. And if you put Flambards and Upstairs, Downstairs – which were seen as on the right of British TV drama at the time of their production – next to their notional equivalents today, they seem like a Trevor Griffiths Play for Today. The same applies to Follyfoot and to the historical adventure series that Richard Carpenter, Paul Knight & Sidney Cole made. And it applies even more so to George Michael when set alongside, say, the Middle England credentials of Clean Bandit, the umpteenth-week chart-toppers at the moment his heart gave out (this does not, of course, mean that the working class are always right or always trustworthy – if High Wycombe & Guildford were more progressive, even if by mistake and by default, than Sheffield & Bradford over the EU so it must be, and it certainly doesn’t make Brexit progressive or the EU “a capitalist club” – but through his long slow fade and internal exile, George Michael’s position certainly came to seem more progressive when the openly and actively Cameronite likes of Keane & James Blunt appeared).

If they could get two generations of pop, and much else, so wrong, how can or should we trust anything these people – still lingering on, indeed enjoying something of a (chiefly Scottish-inspired; it is true that the Scottish equivalents of Paul Johnson & Keith Waterhouse did stay on the Left, but in a country many times the size and with far more diversity that would always have been harder) revival – say, any judgements or assumptions they make?

Or did it in fact come from something much deeper and more fearful? Was it, in George Michael’s case, an expression of plain racism – in the sense that anti-black racism is also directed at white people, often the very same ones attacked by black cultural purists – and homophobia? They have shown themselves guilty on those fronts on many other occasions, after all.

At any rate, we have lost someone whose personal tragedy and eclipse very well represents what has tended to happen to socialism when it has played the pop game, as it did in his case every bit as much as it did with any “approved” NME crossover acts, and certainly far more so than it did with any of those around 2006, the last time there were a lot of them. The question is: does it have to be that way?

I hope not. But to invoke 1996 again, who will be next to spin that wheel for us?

After all, to take us back to 1983, nothing looks the same in the light.

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Tatchell: ‘gay cake’ verdict is defeat for freedom of expression

October 24, 2016 at 7:35 pm (Christianity, Civil liberties, Free Speech, gay, homophobia, law, LGBT, Peter Tatchell)

Peter Tatchell once again demonstrates his fairness, generosity of spirit and commitment to freedom of expression:

web-gay-cake.jpg
Ashers Baking Company refused to make this cake

The law should not compel businesses to aid political messages

London & Belfast – 24 October 2016

The Appeal Court in Belfast has today ruled that a local Christian-run business, Ashers Bakery, was wrong to refuse to decorate a cake with a pro-gay marriage message.

“This verdict is a defeat for freedom of expression. As well as meaning that Ashers can be legally forced to aid the promotion of same-sex marriage, it also implies that gay bakers could be forced by law to decorate cakes with homophobic slogans,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

“It seems that businesses cannot now lawfully refuse a customer’s request to propagate a message, even if it is a sexist, xenophobic or anti-gay message and even if the business has a conscientious objection to it.

“Although I strongly disagree with Ashers opposition to marriage equality, in a free society neither they nor anyone else should be compelled to facilitate a political idea that they oppose.

“Ashers did not discriminate against the customer, Gareth Lee, because he was gay. They objected to the message he wanted on the cake: ‘Support gay marriage.’

“Discrimination against LGBT people is wrong and is rightly unlawful. But in a free society, people should be able to discriminate against ideas they disagree with. I am saddened that the court did not reach the same conclusion.

“The judgement opens a can of worms. It means that a Muslim printer could be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed and a Jewish printer could be required to publish a book that propagates Holocaust denial. It could also encourage far right extremists to demand that bakers and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim opinions.

“What the court has decided sets a dangerous, authoritarian precedent that is open to serious abuse.

“Discrimination against people should be illegal but not discrimination against ideas and opinions,” said Mr Tatchell.

Read Peter Tatchell’s detailed reasoning as to why he changed his mind on the Ashers case (he initially supported the verdict against them) and why he opposes the new legal ruling:

Why I changed my mind on the Ashers gay cake row

The law should not require bakers to aid the gay marriage campaign

By Peter Tatchell

Like most gay and equality campaigners, I initially condemned the Christian-run Ashers Bakery in Belfast over its refusal to produce a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan for a gay customer, Gareth Lee.

I supported his legal claim against Ashers and the subsequent verdict, which last year found the bakery guilty of discrimination. My reasons for supporting Gareth’s claim were:

1. Ashers had falsely advertised their services, saying they were willing decorate their cakes with any message that a customer wanted. They did not say there were any limits on the designs or wording.

2. I feared that Ashers actions could open the flood gates to allow sectarian loyalist-republican discrimination and discrimination against women, LGBTs and other minorities – and their points of view.

But I later changed my mind. Much as I wish to defend the LGBT community, I also want to defend freedom of conscience, expression and religion.

While Christian bed and breakfast owners and civil partnership registrars were clearly wrong to deny service to gay people, this case is different. It is about the refusal to facilitate an idea – namely, support for same-sex marriage.

I will continue to oppose the proposed “conscience clause” in Northern Ireland. It is intended to allow discrimination against LGBT people. I do not accept that people of faith should be permitted by law to deny service to LGBTs – or anyone else. Discrimination against people is never acceptable.

The whole saga began in 2014 when Ashers said they were not willing to ice a cake with the words “support gay marriage” and the logo of the equality group, Queer Space; claiming it was contrary to their Christian beliefs to promote homosexuality and gay marriage.

This struck many of us as discrimination based on religious-inspired homophobic prejudice. Ashers believe that the relationships of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are wrong and should not be eligible for the status of marriage. They translated these beliefs into action and declined to make the cake. Ashers would have decorated a cake with a message celebrating traditional heterosexual marriage and promoting a Christian organisation. Surely this was an example of clear-cut anti-gay discrimination?

Gareth Lee’s legal case against Ashers was backed by the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland. It argued that the bakery’s actions breached the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 and The Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998, which prohibit discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the respective grounds of sexual orientation and political opinion.

A Belfast court last May agreed and found Ashers guilty of discrimination on both grounds; ordering them to pay Gareth £500 compensation.

I profoundly disagree with Asher’s opposition to same-sex love and marriage, and support protests against them. They claim to be Christians and followers of Jesus. Yet he never once condemned homosexuality. Moreover, discrimination is not a Christian value. Ashers’ religious justifications are, to my mind, theologically unsound.

Nevertheless, on reflection, the court was wrong to penalise Ashers and I was wrong to endorse its decision.

For sure, the law suit against the bakery was well intended. It sought to challenge homophobia. But it was a step too far. It pains me to say this, as a long-time supporter of the struggle for LGBT equality in Northern Ireland, where same-sex marriage remains banned.

The equality laws are intended to protect people against discrimination. A business providing a public service has a legal duty to do so without discrimination based on race, gender, faith, sexuality and so on.

However, the court erred by ruling that Gareth was discriminated against because of his sexual orientation and political opinions.

His cake request was not refused because he was gay but because of the message he wanted on the cake. There is no evidence that his sexuality was the reason Ashers declined his order.

Despite this, Judge Isobel Brownlie said refusing the pro-gay marriage slogan was unlawful indirect sexual orientation discrimination because same-sex marriage is a union between persons of the same-sex and therefore refusing to provide a service in support of same-sex marriage was de facto sexual orientation discrimination.

I disagree. Refusing to facilitate a message in support of same-sex marriage is not sexuality discrimination. It is discrimination against an idea, not against a person.

On the question of political discrimination, the judge said Ashers had denied Gareth service based on his request for a message supporting same-sex marriage. She noted: “If the plaintiff had ordered a cake with the words ‘support marriage’ or ‘support heterosexual marriage’ I have no doubt that such a cake would have been provided.” Brownlie therefore concluded that by refusing to provide a cake with a pro-gay marriage wording Ashers had treated him less favourably, contrary to the law.

This may be a case of differential treatment. However, it was not discrimination against views held or expressed by Gareth but against words he wanted on a cake. Moreover, the law against political discrimination was meant to protect people with differing political views, not to force others to further political views to which they conscientiously object.

The finding of political discrimination against Gareth sets a worrying precedent. Northern Ireland’s laws against discrimination on the grounds of political opinion were framed in the context of decades of conflict. They were designed to heal the sectarian divide by preventing the denial of jobs, housing and services to people because of their politics. There was never an intention that this law should compel people to promote political ideas, such as same-sex marriage, with which they disagreed – let alone on a cake.

The judge concluded that service providers are required by law to facilitate any “lawful” message, even if they have a conscientious objection to it.

This begs the question: Will gay bakers have to accept orders for cakes with homophobic slurs? I don’t think LGBT people should be forced to promote anti-gay messages.

The court judgement also leads me to ask: Should a Muslim printer be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed or a Jewish one a book that propagates Holocaust denial?

If the current Ashers verdict stands it could, for example, encourage far right extremists to demand that bakeries and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim opinions. It would leave businesses unable to refuse to decorate cakes, print posters and emblazon mugs with bigoted messages.

In my view, it is an infringement of freedom to require private businesses to aid the promotion of ideas to which they conscientiously object. Discrimination against people should be unlawful but not discrimination against ideas and opinions.

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We need to be honest about the Muslim ‘community’ and homophobia

June 14, 2016 at 12:47 pm (Civil liberties, communalism, culture, homophobia, Human rights, Islam, islamism, LGBT, posted by JD, tragedy, truth)

This article appears in today’s Morning Star:

We need to talk about homophobia

LGBT education is needed now more than ever in the wake of the Orlando shootings, argues RABBIL SIKDAR


FIFTY people killed because of their sexuality in Orlando. It’s clear that though 21st century is here with increasing legislations in support of LGBT people, there is still an entrenched camp of bigots who have nothing but seething hatred for these people.

What struck me the most wasn’t the incident itself. Jihadist violence against innocent people is becoming increasingly common. The appeal of Islamic State (Isis) is far-reaching.

What particularly struck me was the grief and rage of Owen Jones later on Sky News when he was trying to explain this to two heterosexuals.

This wasn’t violence against humanity, as they blindly insisted. It was violence against one of the most viciously oppressed and marginalised groups in the world, who face varying degrees of discrimination, prejudice and violence.

What happened was a terrorist attack, but it was also an attack on LGBT people. The killer’s father would come out and say his son was openly repulsed by the sight of two men kissing.

With any terrorist incident there come the inquests. Why did it happen, the motivations, the factors, who to blame, who not to blame?

Muslims often find themselves dragged into that blame game as the far-right brigade come out in their numbers.

Atrocities become shamelessly hijacked for right-wing propaganda. With the attacks in Orlando, we had Donald Trump praising himself and the EU Leave rightwingers warning about Islamism.

The issue of gun control and the easy access that mentally deranged lunatics and terrorists have to weapons has not been addressed.

It’s a failure of Barack Obama that he has been effectively blocked from gun reforms by an NRA-backed Republican Party.

The country has shifted in its opinion, but Republicans remain firmly wedded to the free access to guns. Even as violence rips through the US, the second amendment is fiercely protected.

But those who place the biggest problem from this at gun reforms are wrong. The biggest problem is homophobia.

It’s still rampant. Within the US, the LGBT community faces immense prejudice and discrimination. The right to marry and adopt is fiercely contested.

Though many states have now legalised gay marriage, the US faces a battle with homophobia.

The Orlando killer was also a Muslim. That doesn’t automatically mark Muslims out as being uniquely homophobic, as many are claiming.

But people need to be honest: the stances towards the LGBT community within parts of the Muslim community are often extremely regressive and troubling.

It’s why gay Muslims rarely come out. In the Muslim world, the punishment for homosexuality is often death.

In Britain, polls have shown that over half of Muslims believe homosexuality is wrong.

And of course at the extreme end of the scale Isis punishes homosexuals by throwing them off towers.

This despite the Koran itself never prescribing a punishment. Homosexuality is often treated as some sort of sin that’s as morally corrupt as murder or rape.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have institutionalised and rationalised homophobia rather than showing tolerance.

Within Britain, it’s not talked enough about in households or in schools. LGBT Muslims face huge identity conflicts, fear of being marginalised and treated as freaks, unable to find mosques welcoming them.

Conservative Muslims have insisted that whatever their stance on homosexuality, murder is wrong. But it misses the point.

When you treat homosexuality as a sin and LGBT people as abominations, you strip them of their humanity and empathy and forge a scenario where acts of violence can be inflicted upon them because they are regarded as lesser beings who have strayed wildly.

When the media continuously demonises Muslims or black people, we immediately point out how the antagonist was radicalised by the social environment of hatred and poisonous bile and bigotry towards these people.

Homophobia isn’t exclusive to Islam and, indeed, polls show that overall Roman Catholics tend to be more negative towards homosexuality than ordinary Muslims.

Historically, it wasn’t always the case that Muslim society reacted like this to LGBT people.

Under the Ottoman empire, homosexuality was not treated as a crime. But right now religious authorities have to act.

Within the Muslim world, Muslims who are politically, culturally or sexually different from others are treated as deviants and heretics. Their punishment is often execution.

LGBT people still have to live in fear of being who they are. Homophobic attitudes are harder to defeat in later stages of life. So start early. LGBT education is needed now more than ever.

And acknowledging that there are huge swathes of the Muslim community that do not tolerate homosexuality, peaceful though they may be, is one of these tasks.

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Owen Jones attempts to have rational discussion on Orlando atrocity

June 13, 2016 at 9:01 am (crime, homophobia, islamism, Jim D, LGBT, media, murder, tragedy, United States)

I’m not Owen Jones’s biggest fan, but on this occasion I can completely understand his anger and frustration at the refusal of Sky News presenter Mark Longhurst to recognise this as a homophobic attack. Longhurst told him “you cannot say this is a worse attack than what happened in Paris”, which Jones did not say. Eventually, Jones walked out, and good for him:

The US Socialist Worker (no longer related to the UK organisation/paper of the same name) at least makes an attempt at a serious analysis, but is not entirely coherent and verges, towards the end, on a version of “blow-back”.

Donald Trump is all too predictable … and loathsome.

Owen Jones explains himself at greater length here

Leave.EU has wasted no time in cashing in:

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Ck1HGLZWsAAXwdt.jpg:large

 

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Meet John “The Baptist” Mason: MSP and creationist

March 1, 2016 at 4:21 pm (Christianity, LGBT, posted by JD, religion, scotland, SNP)

By Dale Street (also published on the Workers Liberty website):

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Above: Mason

In January of 2015 Glasgow Shettleston’s SNP MSP John Mason tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament advocating that creationism be taught in schools. According to the motion, which was backed by two other SNP MSPs:

“Some people believe that God created the world in six days, some people believe that God created the world over a longer period of time and some people believe that the world came about without anyone creating it.

None of these positions can be proved or disproved by science and all are valid beliefs for people to hold. … Children in Scotland’s schools should be aware of all of these different belief systems.”1

There was nothing surprising about Mason’s decision to table a pro-creationism motion. He had already expressed his belief in creationism in an earlier debate In Holyrood:

“We believe that when God made the world he had a close relationship with human beings, that that relationship was broken, and that the reason why Jesus came was to restore that relationship.”2

In fact, according to Mason, creationism is a defining tenet of Christianity, Islam and Judaism:

“The idea of a God that creates the world is a very central belief to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. … Christianity would unravel if creationism was proved wrong. I don’t see how you could be a Christian, Muslim or Jew and not believe that God created the world.”3

And just as the Bible provides Mason with an ‘explanation’ of the origins of the universe, so too it dictates his views on gay sex and gay relationships:

“I am a member of Easterhouse Baptist Church. I believe that the Bible is the word of God and its teachings are God’s direction as to how I should live my life. … The Bible’s teaching is that a follower of Jesus should not have a sexual relationship with someone of the same sex.

I see it as very much secondary whether the relationship is called a civil partnership, marriage, or anything else. … As someone seeking to follow Jesus Christ, I can say that I am clear that people following Him should not be in same-sex marriages.”4

When legislation on gay marriages was progressing through Holyrood (2011-14), Mason claimed – some would say: dishonestly and hypocritically – that he was “relaxed” about such marriages and that his only concern was ‘discrimination’ against opponents of same-sex marriages:

“[My concern is] the legal protections that can be given to those in positions like ministers or priests as well as to public and private sector employees, the third sector, and even volunteers.  I am still not sure whether these protections can be guaranteed.”5

The high point of this tactic of counterposing possible ‘discrimination’ against opponents of same-sex marriages to support for LGBT equality came in a letter sent by Mason to constituents who backed gay marriages.6

It began: “I also support full equality for LGBT people in Scotland.” It ended: “I also want a fairer and more equal Scotland and for that reason I plan to vote against the Bill.” The leap in ‘logic’ from professed support for equality to voting against actual equality was the argument:

“This Bill introduces the likelihood of further discrimination against religious people. Amendments were introduced which might have given some comfort for Christians and those of other religions.

Unfortunately, the Government and the [Equal Opportunities] Committee refused to accept any of these amendments. So we are left in the position that discrimination may well switch from LGBT people to religious people.”

Although Mason has written that “church and state are separate and neither should control the other,”7 he has repeatedly used Holyrood as a platform to promote his religious beliefs and the politics which flow from them.

His pro-creationism motion and his parliamentary campaign against gay marriages legislation are two instances of this. And there are plenty of other examples. Read the rest of this entry »

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Now NUS loons denounce Tatchell … for defending himself against their slander

February 28, 2016 at 8:21 pm (academe, Beyond parody, Free Speech, gay, Human rights, Jim D, lesbian, LGBT, NUS, Peter Tatchell, students, surrealism)

Readers may remember the incident a week or so ago when Fran Cowling, the NUS lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) representative, said that she would not share a stage with Peter Tatchell, whom she described as “racist” and “transphobic”. The row was covered in some detail by Comrade Coatesy here, and in the Guardian here.

Tatchell, a long standing campaigner for gay rights and human rights more generally, quite understandably, decided to mount a public defence of his good name against these outrageous slurs. As a result of doing so, he was denounced yet again, in this hysterical Open Letter – which includes the truly Orwellian charge of Tatchell referring to a “confidential email chain” that had been forwarded to him “without permission”, thus apparently making Tachell’s accuser the true ‘victim’ of this story!

The signatories include not just the usual NUS suspects and their petty bourgeois and authoritarian friends in academia,  but shamefully, the editor of the anarchist Freedom News has signed, too.

It’s a depressing read, but serious in its way, as an example of the anti-free speech, authoritarian logic of extreme identity politics and the hysteria it can induce.

Note, in particular, this paragraph:

Tatchell has a long record of urging that public platforms be denied members of ethnic and religious groups, especially Muslims. He has called for banning so-called “Islamist” speakers from Universities. He has even demanded mosques apologise “for hosting homophobic hate preachers” and give “assurances that they will not host them again.” Tatchell claims the right to decide who qualifies as a “homophobic hate preacher”; what counts is not inciting violence or any tangible threats to LGBT Londoners, but rather simply expressing religious opinions about homosexual acts. The peculiar urgency with which Tatchell targets Muslims lends credibility to the charge of racial insensitivity.”

So, at some point, it has apparently become acceptable for supposed leftwingers to consider speaker tours for homophobic bigots to be a matter of indifference, and that it is “racially insensitive” for LGBT rights campaigners to object to people expressing “religious opinions about homosexual acts“. Most decent lefties (and liberals) will find this euphemistic description of far-right hate preachers pretty sickening. Now, some might disagree with Tatchell on minor tactical issues of precisely how he approaches this, but my gut response, when ‘lefties’ tell gay rights campaigners to shut up about organised far-right bigotry is: “fuck off”.

Also: “The particular urgency with which Tatchell targets Muslims“? Well – which Muslims? All of them? An attack on a far-right preacher who thinks all gay people are animals is an attack on all Muslims? Isn’t it “racially insensitive” to identify all Muslims with the hard-right ideologues that Tatchell feels “urgent” about?

What a wretched, hypocritical shower these self-righteous NUS authoritarians and their academic friends, are!

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