It’s our fault a handful of bigots have hijacked Islam
A 2009 poll by Gallup found that British Muslims have zero tolerance towards homosexuality. “None of the 500 British Muslims interviewed believed that homosexual acts were morally acceptable,” the Guardian reported in May that year. Even more worryingly, younger Muslims had more stridently anti-gay views than older Muslims.
Sadiq Khan and fellow Muslim MPs who voted in favour of the same-sex marriage bill faced death threats and accusations of apostasy from a handful of Muslim extremists. In East London, a clutch of thugs and vandals decided they were doing God’s work by putting up sticker declaring the area a “gay-free zone”.
East London has seen the highest increase in homophobic attacks anywhere in Britain, and some of the worst in Europe. Everybody knows why, and nobody wants to say it. It is because East London has the highest Muslim population in Britain, and we have allowed a fanatically intolerant minority of a minority to incubate there, in the name of tolerance.
Not only are these actions hateful, they’re based on fiction. The gay Muslim scholar Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle, who teaches Islamic studies at Emory University in the United States, says that notions such as “gay” or “lesbian” are not mentioned in the Quran. He blames Islam’s hostility towards homosexuality on a deliberate misreading of the texts by ultra-conservative mullahs. British Muslim intellectual and writer Ziauddin Sardar argues that “there is absolutely no evidence that the Prophet punished anyone for homosexuality”.
So why have we let a handful of crazies sully the name of one of the most beautiful texts ever written, the faith that gave us the world’s first universities and the culture that unites a sixth of humanity? And by ‘we’ I mean specifically those who champion freedom, tolerance and social liberalism. By turning a blind eye to bigotry, and that’s what it is, we’re guilty of two crimes; cowardice and racism. The cowardice is obvious; we don’t like picking fights with people we think might fight back. When confronted with accusations of complicity in institutional child abuse, Catholic leaders squirm rather than call for a crusade against heretics. We can poke fun at UKIP’s online xenophobes because we know the worst they’ll do is break they’re own keyboard in a furious tirade. But when criticising Islam, we have a mental handbrake moment. You all know you do it, that half a second thought that you don’t give when commenting on any other group. You hate yourself for it, but you convince yourself it’s because you’re tolerant, not that you’re scared. Definitely not that you’re scared.
Calling people who refuse to criticise certain Muslims ‘racists’ seems counter intuitive. But the reason we don’t is the same reason we have a hard time criticising intolerance in any minority culture; the lazy racism of low expectations. For us, religion is a quaint superstition. Believers wear silly clothes, pray to sky fairies and blindly follow magic books. In short, it’s something less advanced cultures do. However being the tolerant champions of diversity that we are, we keep quiet. White Brits however, have now ‘grown out’ of religion. Religion, remember, is for other cultures to cling too. These cultures will of course ‘catch up’ one day and grow out of it too, but for now we let them crack on. And if their interpretation of their faith means they should be sexist or homophobic, well that’s ok… they don’t know any better. Bless ’em.
By saying one group shouldn’t be held to the same standards of tolerance as the majority is essentially saying that we don’t think they’re capable of it.
It’s not ok to opt out of tolerance or acceptance because your beliefs demand it. I wouldn’t accept racism or anti-antisemitism from a member of the KKK just because his ‘group’ demands it. He’s an individual, with a free will and consciousness. He alone is responsible for his words and deeds.
The good news is that the steps needed to take on the hate mongers are eminently doable. First, stop giving tax payers money to bigots, and start funding progressive groups like British Muslims for Secular Democracy, or gay Muslims who have come out and formed groups like Imaan.The most crucial part however is in the school system. Too many schools (of ALL faiths) are deeply reluctant to explain that homosexuality is a natural and harmless phenomenon that occurs in every human society. Tough. I’ll scarifice a few libertarian points to say it should be a legal requirement. We live shoulder to shoulder with people from all backgrounds and life styles, and it’s deeply damaging to us all to allow children to be brought up with hate, fear and contempt of ‘others’ being the norm. Every school in Britain will have teenagers who are confused about their sexuality, or are outright gay. Are we really going to leave them terrified, isolated and eventually self hating? We’d demand action if they were white middle class Christian teenagers. Why not the same for others?