That storm in a teacup March 27, 2006Posted by Mujahid Mustaqim in Homosexualists, Media, Responses, StraightWay.
Rasheed has written quite a few posts about Peter Tachell and OutRage, so I thought it would be worth reminding ourselves of how our relationship blossomed. It all goes back to the visit to the UK, in July 2004, of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi: a person whom not everyone follows, but nobody of any knowledge or fairness can deny is an eminent Islamic jurist and thinker, indeed one of the highest (unofficial) authorities for Muslims around the world today.
The tabloid papers and various lobbies pounced on the opportunity to demonise him and call for him to be kept out of the country (bizarrely, even after he arrived). This despite his visiting the UK many times previously, to attend conferences similar to what he came for on that occasion. He was described as a “sheikh of terror” and things much more obscene, with the common thread being that he was misogynistic, anti-semitic and homophobic. His hosts, the Muslim Association of Britain, offered some defence, including this article in the Guardian: If Qaradawi is an extremist, who is left?
As well as the Zionist MPs on his case, joined even by the unrepresentative Board of Deputies of British Jews – who tried and failed to have al-Qaradawi prosecuted – there emerged a motley crew of “Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, gay people, students and some Muslims” calling themselves the London Community Coalition. Led by Peter Tatchell, they focused their energies on castigating the London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, who had welcomed (and even hugged) the Sheikh.
In response to the heightening situation, and concerned specifically with the labelling of a Muslim scholar as “homophobic” for merely expounding what is found in the Islamic sources, we at the StraightWay Foundation circulated the following document:
Nobody really seemed to pick up on that. When the situation didn’t go away, thanks to the persistence of Tatchell and his friends, we decided to send the following letter to the London Mayor to offer some words of support for his stance:
I am glad to see that there is still support for your decision to host the eminent Islamic scholar, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, despite the ongoing campaigns against him and yourself. I can assure you that you have made a great impression on the whole Muslim community, in the UK and beyond, thanks to your unwillingness to succumb to smearing tactics employed by Islamophobes masquerading as human rights campaigners.
Of particular concern to me and my colleagues were the statements made by “gay Muslim Ramzi Isalam” under the banner of OutRage!. Opportunists like him attract media attention due to the novelty of hearing a “gay Muslim” voice. If we define “gay” simply as “attracted to members of the same sex”, then it is certainly the case that many Muslims fall into this category. Yet many prefer to use the more neutral term “same-sex attracted (SSA) Muslims” [explaining the reasons for this would take too many lines].
While there are some SSA Muslims who embrace the prevailing paradigm on homosexuality, there are many others who prefer to maintain a sincere approach to their Islamic way of life. That means abstaining from homosexual acts and striving to overcome desires that are considered contrary to God’s wishes for humankind. With this in mind, it should be clear that Ramzi Isalam and his colleagues certainly do not represent the views of all SSA Muslims! The majority do not speak to anyone about their feelings, let alone seek media attention for political agendas, in the manner of OutRage!
The vast majority of Muslims stand by you in your stance regarding Sheikh al-Qaradawi, whom you have rightly identified as an important voice for moderation and progress in Islam, as well as dialogue with the West. SSA Muslims who have contacted us have agreed with our opinion that everything stated by Sheikh al-Qaradawi on the subject of homosexuality is in agreement with the texts of Islam. Understanding the context and spirit of his words, and those of all Islamic scholars, we do not feel condemned or insulted by the rulings the Sheikh has expounded.
I have attached a copy of the statement we issued last month explaining our position on the recent campaign against you, as well as some of the wider issues of Islam and homosexuality. I would be grateful if you would read it in order to understand how SSA Muslims interpret their feelings in the light of Islam.
Yours in solidarity,
Chairman, the StraightWay Foundation
We copied the letter to members of the London Assembly, and received some responses, of varying levels of intellectual engagement! One of the responses was from the Mayor, or rather, his office:
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2004 15:48:48 -0000
Subject: MGLA131204-7161: RE : Letter of support ESF
Thank you for your email and for your kind comments.
Your support is very much appreciated.
The wretched people at OutRage eventually noticed this, after we had of course published the correspondence via our Newsgroup, and felt they had made a great scoop. So they sent out their press release, and soon StraightWay was being mentioned across the internet, including in stories like this one from This is London. Given that the site is run by the Evening Standard, which is engaged in a long-running war with Livingstone (of which the “concentration camp guard” Finegold incident is one battle), it’s not surprising that they lapped this story up.
In response to the smears in the press release from OutRage, who did not even bother to check their “facts” about StraightWay, we issued the following points by way of rebuttal, on 6th March 2005:
1. We are not “an organisation set up to campaign against gay Muslims” – but we are against any attempts to rewrite the Qur’an or deny explicit prohibitions therein regarding homosexual acts. Among our membership are same-sex attracted Muslims, who know that Islam regards them just as highly as anyone else who is sincere in worship and obedience to God.
2. We do not have “links to the Christian fundamentalist ‘ex-gay’ organisation, The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality”, but we have linked to them on our website and they have linked to us. That’s all.
3. We do not advocate “converting” anyone to “heterosexuality”. In fact, what we say is that a Muslim should seek to enjoy marriage (with the opposite sex) if that is possible, seeking psychological, spiritual and practical solutions. Otherwise, he or she should not resort to anything that is forbidden by our Creator.
4. Yes, we ” republishe[d] articles from the Islamic Party of Britain”, and have placed numerous articles on our website from a multitude of sources. However, our homepage clearly states: “Not all articles on this site represent the views of the StraightWay Foundation. Only those written by members do so, whereas others are provided only due to their containing some useful information or advice. We do not accept responsibility for any inaccuracy found in such articles.” We say “inaccuracy” because our only concern is to convey honestly what Islam says about such issues – not to please people of any opinion.
5. It is not true that our document “describes homosexuality as ‘an affliction'”. Referring to page 5 will show that that was how we described same-sex attractions. For any Muslim, these must be an affliction, since they present him or her with huge dilemmas. The only options are to abandon the religion, to change it to suit one’s sexual desires, or to realise that faith and obedience to God is the most important thing in life. This third way is what we advocate.
6. Our so-called “repugnant homophobic views” are what the Islamic sources teach, no more, no less. This won’t please the homosexualist brigade, but that’s not why the Prophets were sent. They often had to tell their people what they didn’t want to hear. Take the Prophet Lot, for example.
7. Brett Lock asks, “How can the Mayor offer his appreciation to a group that publicises fatwas urging the execution of queers?” We consider it merely a matter of courtesy to respond to a lengthy letter and document expressing thanks for the Mayor’s stance. When we received his response (which was the last to arrive, from those we received from GLA members), we were disappointed that it had the tone of a “standard response”, which now a mayoral spokesperson has confirmed it to have been.
8. It’s rather rich for OutRage! to use a term like “aggressively homophobic organisation”, when their militancy is beyond limits of decency. We, on the other hand, merely share the teachings of Islam as we understand them. New members are joining our support groups every day, seeking to understand better how they, as same-sex attracted Muslims, can live healthy, happy and halal lives (i.e. permitted by God).
9. This one is unbelievable. Lock says: “Their straight therapy programme causes huge damage to vulnerable individuals who fall into their clutches.” On what information does he base this accusation? We do not run any “straight therapy programme”. We simply advise Muslims who come to us on how to gain control over their feelings and actions, while increasing their inner contentment and closeness to God. We do believe that it is worth figuring out the causes of a person’s same-sex attractions to find whether there are any obvious ways in which he or she can overcome these unwanted feelings. In
many cases, this simply involves reconciling flawed relationships. We do not, and have never, advocated any drastic “therapies” that damage a person, let alone administered such ourselves.
The other reason I was reminded about this whole messy incident is that the Annual Conference of the National Union of Students is taking place in Blackpool this week. Back at the LGB Conference in June 2005, members of the insane cult called the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty were among the chief proponents of a motion calling for Livingstone to apologise for embracing al-Qaradawi, and for the LGB(T) campaign not to support him in any way until he does so.
Strangely, the motion writers decided to malign StraightWay along the way!
1. Many politicians believe that they can give a nod to our rights, while also kow-towing to reactionary, homophobic forces.
2. Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, recently sent a message of gratitude to an organisation set up to campaign against gay Muslims, in which he says “your support is very much appreciated”
3. The Mayor’s ” thank you” was in response to The Straightway Foundation’s support for his embrace of homophobic Islamist cleric Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi who advocates the death penalty for LGBT people. 4. The Straightway Foundation, which has links to the Christian fundamentalist “ex-gay” organisation, The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, is a reactionary, homophobic Muslim organisation which advocates “healing” LGB people and converting them to heterosexuality. 5. It also republishes articles from the unrepresentative so-called “Islamic Party of Britain”, which advocates the death penalty for public displays of homosexuality.
Conference Further Believes:
1. That the bigots such as al-Qaradawi, and their counterparts from all parts of the religious spectrum, would like to destroy everything our movement has fought for. They must be unreservedly condemned. 2. That the Mayor must be condemned for accepting support from an aggressively homophobic organisation just as strongly as if he had done from an explicitly racist group. 3. That just as you cannot fight homophobia by promoting racists and sexists, so you cannot combat anti-muslim prejudice by embracing homophobes and misogynists.
I don’t know if the motion was passed.
More on the Qaradawi controversies over at Islamophobia Watch.