Press statement: Times article on gay Muslim terrorists sensationalist and damaging

The content of The Times piece today (12 May 2015) gives Imaan great cause for concern. The article quoted only anecdotal evidence to suggest that Muslim men struggling with their sexuality are turning to extremism. The “experts” quoted by the article are all unnamed, which is deeply problematic especially when there are several renowned social scientists working on Islam and sexuality in Britain who could have provided more rigorous and nuanced rejoinders.

The article in question also presents a very limited view of sexuality and conflates homosexual feelings with gay identity. Furthermore, the article is inaccurate in stating that “homosexual feelings” are forbidden in Islam, when mainstream Islamic jurisprudence actually forbids same-sex acts rather than emotions. Again, there are also several prominent Islamic scholars and activists who challenge these versions of Islamic law but the article makes no mention of this diversity.

Finally, we are also concerned that the narrative surrounding Muslims is one that equates us with extremists and this piece contributes to this crude stereotyping. Imaan works with LGBT Muslims in the UK to counter homophobia, transphobia and Islamophobia within society. We believe this story is sensationalist and damaging to the work that we do.

Letter to The Times: Stop using gay Muslims as pawns in ideological battles

We are writing in response to your article on 12 May 2015 titled “Shunned gay Muslim men ‘are being driven into arms of Isis’”. This is a very flawed and problematic piece, which is poorly researched and jumps to dangerous conclusions.

The article quotes only anecdotal evidence to suggest that Muslim men struggling with their sexuality are turning to extremism. The “experts” mentioned in the article are all unnamed. This gives the article a lack of credence. There are several renowned social scientists working on the subject of Islam and sexuality in Britain today. These include names such as Andrew Yip, Sarah-Jane Page, Asifa Siraj and Sophie Gilliat-Ray. They could have provided you with more rigorous and nuanced rejoinders and they would probably not have chosen to remain anonymous either.

Furthermore, your article then states that MI5 “are not clear that sexuality has a role to play in radicalisation”. This contradicts the title of your article and weakens the argument.

It is irresponsible to mention the Birmingham story of dead cats left at schools especially as Mrs. Hewitt Clarkson, the head of Anderton Park School, herself says that she is unsure who is behind the incidents and cannot say if animal corpses had been left on purpose. Consequently, it is a matter of lazy reporting to then relate the slim pickings of this story to another.

The article also opines that regarding the small number of activists within the Muslim community “many are being forced to remain anonymous”. Simple research would have informed your writer that there are many who are not anonymous. A quick glance at the Rainbow List 2014 alone mentions names like Huma Qazi, Mobeen Azhar and Asif Quaraishi. Maybe this is something that doesn’t suit the article’s pointed agenda.

The list of activists and scholars who challenge homophobia and Islamophobia does not end there either. Mehdi Hasan (The Huffington Post), Inayat Bunglawala (Muslims4UK), Kecia Ali (Associate Professor of Religion at Boston University in the US) and Amina Wadud (Islamic scholar and co-founder of the group Sisters In Islam) are all fighters for equal rights and tolerance, including the right to be gay and Muslim.

Imaan has worked with Ziauddin Sardar (Muslim Institute), Fiyaz Mughal (Faith Matters and Tell MAMA) and Dilwar Hussain (New Horizons in British Islam) on matters related to religion and sexuality. The aforementioned names are names that are not anonymous.

The Times article is inaccurate in stating that “homosexual feelings” are forbidden in Islam, when mainstream Islamic jurisprudence forbids same-sex acts rather than emotions.

Finally, we are concerned that the narrative surrounding Muslims is one that equates us with extremists and this piece contributes to this crude stereotyping. Imaan works with LGBT Muslims in the UK to counter homophobia, transphobia and Islamophobia within society.

We believe this story is sensationalist and damaging to the work that we do. Please stop using gay Muslims, in poorly researched articles, as pawns in ideological battles.

12 May 2015
Imaan – LGBTQI Muslim Support

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