Concerning Islamophobia and pink washing, it is not just how ever, the usual suspects that one might expect on the neo-conservative right. There are also those who are (nominally at least) from the centre and ‘far’ left who seem determined to book a ticket on the carnival ride of reaction. Maajid Nawaz, Julie Bindel, Maryam Namazie, Peter Tatchell are in a loose alliance with those such as Douglas Murray, Melanie Phillips, Brendan O’Neil, Hardeep Singh and Anne-Marie Waters.
The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) attended the London Pride march that took place in London in early July 2017. They carried several controversial placards that had the slogans; “Allah is Gay”, “Fuck Islam” and “Islamophobia is an Oxymoron”. *Update 18th July 2017, it seems that the placards saying “Fuck Islam”, have been removed from the CEMB website
LGBTQ has become a cipher for other issues and politics, and it has also become the new social and cultural frontline concerning Muslims here in the UK. Maajid Nawaz, Julie Bindel, Maryam Namazie, Peter Tatchell, as well as Douglas Murray, Melanie Phillips, Brendan O’Neil, and Anne-Marie Waters would no doubt regard themselves as honourable people, fighting for ‘liberal’ and ‘enlightenment’ values. Indeed, such is their ‘honour’, that I am reminded of the barbs thrown by Marc Antony at the false pieties of Julius Caesar’s assassins
(From Julius Caesar, spoken by Marc Antony)
“Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man”.
On July 12th 2017, Maz Saleem wrote an article for Counterfire and also on her Facebook page. Both have generated threads of up to 100 comments, and in the article itself, ‘Islamophobic Placards Have No Place at Pride’. http://www.counterfire.org/articles/opinion/19090-shock-and-controversy-over-islamophobic-placards-at-pride
Maz Saleem said, “Maryam Namazie and activists from the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) were seen waving placards with “Allah is gay”, “Fuck Islamic Homophobia”, “East London Mosque incites murder of LGBT” and other Islamophobic slogans written on them during the Pride march in London.
These placards are something the EDL or a Nazi would carry. Pride is supposed to represent people, as they are, faith or no faith, so how were they even allowed on the parade? This goes against everything Pride stands for and it is absolutely appalling to see that that Maryam Namazie’s group got away with it.
Namazie and the Council of Ex- Muslims clearly want to cause conflict between Muslims and the gay community, and they don’t care who they hurt or offend in the process”.
There has been a common, and often publically asserted statement by secularists on the right, centre left and elements of the ‘far’ left, that to be a Muslim is to automatically be against LGBTQ. Also, that pointing out the usage of Islamophobic comments, slogans and narratives, according to them means that one is siding against “free speech” and in favour of the Islamists.
Strange Meeting: Maryam, and her supporters, in their responses back to Maz, made the point that they were highlighting homophobia in Islamic countries and that many of the members of the ex-Muslims are LGBTQ. Whist that might be true, it is also not the main issue, because the right, has members who’re also LGBTQ and who also do this false conflation.
From the CEMB website, 8th July 2017, Daniel Fitzgerald, CEMB Pride organiser, made the claim that, “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.” https://www.ex-muslim.org.uk/cemb-pride
Douglas Murray, a gay neo conservative is in no doubt that gays are making a rod for their own backs if they do not denounce Islam and Muslims. It also has to be said, that Douglas Murray, has enjoyed the freedoms won by LGBTQ activists and the left, whilst at the same time decrying them for fighting for them. He said ‘Most Western Gays Remain in Denial about Islam’ June 14, 2016.
“For historic reasons principally the political Right’s opposition to gay rights—most gay spokespeople continue to think that the political right is the sole locale from which anti-gay sentiment can come.
For many years Pat Robertson was their worst nightmare. But Pat Robertson just wanted to stop gays from marrying. He didn’t call for people to throw us off high buildings. RELATED: Killing Homosexuals Is Not ISIS Law, It Is Muslim Law”. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/436567/islam-gays-they-remain-denial-about-threat
Douglas Murray writes with such bad faith, as remind one of a comment by the Cardinal de Richelieu, “Si vous me donnez six lignes écrites par la main des hommes les plus honnêtes, je trouverai quelque chose qui les pendra”
Writing online for ‘Yes Magazine’, on June 26th 2016, ‘Stop Asking Me to Denounce Islam to Prove I Care About LGBT Rights-Surely, I am not less queer just because I am Muslim’, Aaminah Khan had this to say. “In this and other instances, LGBT Muslims are seen as impostors and our Muslim families and communities as threats. After events like the recent tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida, this problem becomes more pronounced”.
And that “Many came from fellow LGBT people, who asked me how I justified homophobic laws in Muslim countries (I don’t) and demanded that I “disavow” Islam as proof that I really did care about LGBT rights (I won’t, but I do).”
Many LGBTQ people, who’re not particularly political, do join in with Islamophobia, as Aaminah Khan found. But I submit that this has to do with a genuine fear of intolerance and bigotry that many have faced and that many Islamic conservatives display. It is clear, though that of those on the political right do not care especially about the dilemmas and concerns of LGBTQ people. But they get a sudden rush of ‘Pink’ activism if they can use it to bash Muslims.
On March 1st 2016, The UK newspaper, the Independent noted ‘Founder of Europe’s first LGBT-friendly mosque says being gay and Muslim is ‘like deciding which arm to cut off’’. “Being gay and Muslim is like “trying to decide whether to cut off one arm, or the other”, says the founder of Europe’s first inclusive mosque. Dr and Imam Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed told the Evening Standard that being gay “is not sin” but that the rejection of LGBT Muslims is “modern and new in Islam”.
Imam Zahed said: “It has to do with colonisation, complexes and the fact that Arab Muslim societies are in turmoil and are looking for very macho identities to push forward. Dominic Arnall, who works for LGBT rights charity Stonewall, believes events such as last month’s LGBT History Month celebrating religion means the future looks bright for gay people of faith.
“There are a number of excellent groups springing up, based here in London, all of which are specifically seeking to support LGBT people of faith.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/founder-of-europe-s-first-lgbt-friendly-mosque-says-being-gay-and-muslim-is-like-deciding-which-arm-a6905521.html
Tim Stanley, a member of the conservative commentariate, remarked upon this, when writing about the Orlando shooting in 2016, but it applies, just as much to those who think they can counter pose being LGBTQ with being Muslim in 2017. ‘Islam does have a problem with homosexuality. But so do western conservatives’ 13th June 2016.
“When we ask Muslims to interrogate attitudes towards sexuality in their community, we do so assuming that our own culture is 100 per cent gay friendly. It is not. Polls suggest that around a third of Americans still believe that homosexuality should be discouraged. Homosexual acts have only been legal in the West since the 1960s. Gay marriage has only been on the agenda for a decade and is still bitterly resented by social conservatives”. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/13/islam-does-have-a-problem-with-homosexuality-but-so-do-western-c
Conclusion: Centre left liberals and sections of the ‘far’ left seem to have made political alliances with sections of the neo conservative right, when it comes to LGBTQ and Muslims. They are very fond of quoting social survey attitudes conducted within the Muslim community that has highlighted their attitudes to certain issues.
James Kirkup, though in the Daily Telegraph points out, in his article from February 13th 2015, when quoting the British Social Attitudes (BSA), “much of the difference on socio-moral opinions was due to socio-economic disadvantage and high religiosity, both factors which predict social conservatism among all Britons and not just Muslims”. In other words, “Muslims’ moral and social attitudes, the old-fashioned and illiberal attitudes that worry so many people aren’t so very different from those of other poor and badly-educated non-Muslims”.
Also the viability and methodology of the C4 / Juniper Survey of Muslims 2015, has been called strongly into question. Louise Ridley Assistant news editor at The Huffington Post UK, noted ‘Channel 4 British Muslims Poll Called ‘Skewed’ For Targeting ‘Conservative’ Areas With 20% Muslims’ on April 11th 2016, that “Surveying areas with a high Muslim population would give different answers”. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/channel-4-british-muslims_uk_570badf0e4b0fa55639d65a9
One would hope that Maryam, Peter, etc. would note that in both in the UK and also the USA, conservatives have been strident in their opposition to pro LGBTQ legislation. At the same time, we also see (and it also happens in Liberal circles in and outside of the LGBTQ community), the tokenization of oppression.
As Sarah Harvard wryly notes on pink washing, in Bitchmedia, March 17th 2016 ‘Stuck in the Media Spotlight, LGBT Muslims often feel Exploited’. “Activists point out how common it is for lobbying organizations and policymakers to use pink washing to frame interventions into majority Muslim countries as humanitarian efforts rather than imperialist ventures.
We’ve seen this with the Human Rights Campaign, who has been outed as the largest LGBTQ donor to drone manufacturers (http://mic.com/articles/39043/human-rights-campaign-largestlgbt-donors-are-drone-manufacturers#.RVnmi9plB) using gay rights abroad as justification for their support of the killings of many innocent civilians” https://www.bitchmedia.org/lgbt-muslims-media-spotlight-islamophobia-queer-feminism-hearken
As stated there is a critique to be made of religious conservatism and that also of course includes that of Islam. But there are ways and means of carrying out that critique that does not repeat the orientalist, ‘othering’ of Muslims as being a bunch of over sexed, head chopping, clit cutting, religious fanatics tropes.
The claim has been made by, The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), and groups similar to them that accusing them of “Islamophobia”, is a means of shutting down debate and free speech.
This is ironic when you consider that they are happy to use the term “Islamist” and Islamofascists” against the left. Anti-Muslim sentiment, chiding the Muslim community for not signing up to every PC list imaginable can be seen from the most degenerate tabloid to the snottiest of broadsheets.
Muslims are not stupid, and they can smell a bottle of political snake oil from a mile off. Especially if it is coming from publications, individuals and organisations that have spent most of they’re existence, sneering at the very idea of LGBTQ.
Samar Kaukab, was writing concerning FGM and how right-wing forces try to co-opt this issue, but applies just as well to LGBTQ, on April 14th 2017, “To not be like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, we must center what needs to be centered; namely, Muslim women and girls. We must actually care for them.
When we reduce the sexual violence that occurs in particular Muslim communities to sectarian divides and perpetuate dangerous myths and tropes about already persecuted minority Muslim communities, we do not care for Muslim women and girls. Muslim women — particularly Muslim women with complex identities who come from already marginalized communities — do not deserve simplistic analyses that flatten their lives, their stories, and their own advocacy”.
The Muslim community, in the UK, is not a monolith, nor is it stuck in the dark ages, and if they are fed up with hearing how backward they are from the right, then why should they listen to anyone on purporting to be on the left, coming out with the same sentiments?
One cannot but help but wonder however, if they truly realise the role that they are playing. Do Maryam, Bindel, Tatchell realise, or indeed care, that repeating the tropes, by eroticising oppression, they merely reinforce the social conservatism they fight against.
There were groups on the Pride march, who were Muslim LGBTQ, groups that are just as committed to freedom and equality. Groups who nonetheless do not share the sentiments, let alone the politics of Dawkins, Sam Harris, Bill Maher, or the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), etc. so does this then make them ex-LGBTQ in the yes of the above or ex-Muslims in the eyes of the conservative Imams?