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

Advertisements

Imaan General Election 2013

IMAAN GENERAL ELECTION 2013

Imaan is pleased to announce the commencement of its 2013 general board
of trustees’ election. For the next term, eligible members of Imaan will
elect the board of trustees to represent the respective positions
beginning in January 2014.

The election process will proceed as follows:

Nomination period
– At this stage all nominees must complete and return the nomination
forms to the independent returning officer. There are two forms
available for nomination.

– “Nomination form 2013.doc” is to be
completed by those candidates who wish to stand for the currently
existing positions on Imaan’s board of trustees.

– “New position
form 2013.doc” is to be completed by those who wish to propose a new
position/role that does not currently exist on Imaan’s board of
trustees. Please note that any new position that is proposed will need
to be approved at the following AGM after which another election process
will be undergone for it.

All completed forms must be given to the independent returning officer.

Voting period
– At this stage all eligible candidates that have applied to stand for a
position on the board of trustees will be announced. The membership
will then begin to put in their votes for their respective candidates.
All votes must be given to the independent returning officer only.
The voting period will be open for duration of four weeks from commencing.

Results
– At this stage, once the independent returning officer has tallied all
votes, the successful candidates for the respective positions will be
announced. At the next Annual General Meeting, the newly elected board
members will be declared in.

Independent Returning Officer
All forms, votes, and queries regarding elections must be directed to the independent returning officer. Imaan takes no responsibility for lost or mislaid nomination forms and the deadline will be strictly enforced.

Details of the independent returning officer:
Name: Michelle Defontaine
Affiliated to: Positive East
Email address: returningofficer@imaan.org.uk

Current positions on the Board of Trustees:
– Chairperson
– Secretary
– Treasurer
– Women’s Officer
– Welfare Officer
– Two positions for Member’s Representative

Key Dates:
Nomination period starts – 9th of October 2013
Nomination period ends – 30th of October 2013
Voting period starts – 8th of November 2013
Voting period ends – 7th of December 2013
Results Announced – 19th of December 2013
New board declared in at AGM – 18th of January 2014

Please
find details for the election and the roles and responsibilities for
the current positions in “Election Procedure.doc” and the constitution
“Constitution 2013.pdf”.

For any further information regarding
the elections, please only contact the independent returning officer:
returningofficer@imaan.org.uk

If you would like to make a difference, then InshaAllah we would love to see you get involved!

Please be advised to read Imaan’s constitution before nominating or voting!!

Constitution 2013

Election procedure

Nomination form 2013

New position form 2013

Imaan joins other LGBT groups calling for the cancellation of an LGBT Interfaith delegation to Israel

A number of LGBTQ activist organizations from across the world have called upon three French religious organizations to cancel an upcoming interfaith delegation to Israel because it violates the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions. Asserting itself as a “vanguard of a dialogue among spiritualities for reciprocity and solidarity with local LGBT movements,” Beit HaverimDavid and Jonathan, and HM2F are French LGBT groups of Jews, Christians and Muslims respectively whose tour next week is partly sponsored by the City of Paris.

Arab / Palestinian LGBTQ groups have expressed concerns about the wisdom of such a visit, against a backdrop of claims that the French organisations have not discussed or collaborated effectively with local organisations.

Writing at Pinkwatching Israel, the local activists explain:

The organizations claim that the trip is “non-political,” but a brief look at their program clearly shows the political dimensions of the trip. Meeting with an Israeli MK [Member of the Knesset], an official from the municipality of Tel Aviv, and French Cultural Attaché in Israel to discuss “cultural relations between Israel and France” are political by nature. Violations of BDS guidelines constitute a conscious political choice. Beit Haverim, David and Jonathan, and HM2F are clearly willing to engage only in certain forms of politics which they deem safe, while ignoring questions of their responsibility, as religious tourists, to refrain from legitimizing occupation and apartheid.

This denial is so powerful that none of the material produced by the organizations for the trip mentions the word “occupation” even once. The only West Bank city on their itinerary is Bethlehem, currently surround by the apartheid wall which segregates 15,000 dunums of agricultural land. Ironically, the wall around Bethlehem serves to isolate and annex the very same religious areas that the organizations plan to visit. Around Rachel’s Tomb and the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque, hundreds of Palestinians are isolated between two walls, further strengthening Israeli control of historic, religious, and deeply significant places and strangling the city economically.

In particular, activists questioned the solidarity of HM2F (Homosexuels musulmans de France) with Muslim LGBT people in Palestine.

According to the program, they claim to be in touch with “Muslim LGBT” organization Al-Qaws, when in fact, HM2F only contacted them for a meeting on the 1st of November. This lack of concern is evident not only in their misidentification of alQaws as a Muslim group, but also in their decision to bypass any prior consultation with the Palestinian queer groups they claim to be in solidarity with. In particular, HM2F’s participation comes as a disappointing surprise to the organization’s partners as their involvement directly risks the safety of activists and groups located in Arab societies. HM2F is currently a member of several coalitions along with different Arab and Muslim queer groups, and is planning to join several anticipated coalitions along the same lines. By leading this initiative, HM2F is unfortunately neglecting calls for solidarity and further burning its bridges with these groups, several of whom have criticized them for similar actions in the past. 

Major Palestinian organizations that work on LGBTQ and sexuality issues, and many others, have shared and endorsed the statement.

Imaan shares the concerns of our brothers and sisters and calls upon the organisers of the proposed tour to explain their position more clearly. However, our belief is that a queer group considering an LGBT interfaith tour in Israel is quite troubling. Interfaith LGBT outreach is important and extremely rewarding for LGBT people of faith, but we draw a line at what appears to be a fairly uncritical event inside Israel and inclusive of elements of the Israeli body-politic: a regime that maintains a facade of socially progressive policy as one of the ways in which it seeks to present itself as a normal and benign nation-state. A “tour” of the sort described would add undeserved credence to Israel’s assertion of “normal” statehood and would be a press-bonanza. We do not believe that LGBT groups, let alone those representing Muslims should be seen, even, to be applauding a state for its largely empty platitudes towards queers, when that same state can’t respect the most basic of human rights – such as the right to life – of its citizens and neighbours.

We hope that these three groups will reconsider their plans and enter a constructive dialogue with Palestinian groups working on the ground, about the best way to achieve valuable local interactions that first and foremost respect and maintain solidarity with the Palestinian people

EDL / UAF presence in London, 3 September: Imaan recommends that people not attend any demonstrations

Imaan supported calls from the local communities of Tower Hamlets to ban the 3 September march in the area by the racist and fascist EDL (English Defence League) We signed petitions and took public positions on this with local and national politicians and community-leaders.

Last week, the home secretary agreed to ban all marches in Tower Hamlets and five surrouding boroughs.  The ban was recently expanded to include the City of London.  Tower Hamlets mayor, Lutfur Rahman, rightly declared this a victory for the local community and urged everyone that had planned to march against the EDL to now demobilise and stay away from Tower Hamlets to allow the police to deal with any unlawful EDL presence. We support Mayor Rahman’s appeal.

The EDL intends to hold a static protest, marshalled into the pens and cages they deserve and controlled by the police, where they cannot affect local people and where their hate cannot be heard.

UAF, SWP and others are not willing to hear the wishes of the local communities and still, apparently, intend a major demonstration that risks flouting the law and certainly the ban that local people fought so hard to win.

Tower Hamlets Labour councillors, MP and the London Assembly member issued the following statement today:

Labour calls for calm                                                                                        

After leading the campaign to ban the EDL marching through Tower Hamlets, the East End’s Labour politicians have now called for counter demonstrations to be called off

The Home Secretary banned the EDL from marching in Tower Hamlets after a successful local campaign, led by Labour, including delivering a 25,000 strong petition to the Metropolitan Police and Cllr Joshua Peck, Rushanara Ali and Jim Fitzpatrick MP’s and John Biggs AM writing to her to personally to ask for an intervention.

The EDL have vowed to come to Tower Hamlets on Saturday regardless and hold a static demonstration.  Campaign group Unite Against Fascism (UAF) have indicated they will gather to oppose the EDL’s visit.

Additional police will be drafted in to help deal with any potential incidents.

Joshua Peck, Labour Group Leader said:

‘It is important that residents stay at home and let the police deal with any visit by the EDL and they should be reassured that extra officers will be in place to help this weekend pass without incident. I would ask that anyone planning to hold or attend a counter demonstration reconsiders – the safest thing for everyone is to remain calm and let the police do their job’

John Biggs AM said:

‘I know how strongly many people feel about this event. It is important that we react with dignity and restraint and trust the police to tightly manage the demonstration. I have confidence that they are able and prepared to do so. What will destabilise this will be any outbreak of disorder.’

Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow said:

‘I urge people to remain calm and level-headed. I don’t want the EDL in my constituency in any form, but the best answer is to turn our backs on these people and let the police deal with them.’

Imaan continues to support the local communities of Tower Hamlets and East London and we urge our friends, members and supporters to avoid any demonstrations on Saturday 3rd September in the interest of the safety and security of local people, who have consistently made their wishes clear and who deserve our respect and care.

3 September EDL March and counter-demonstration likely to be banned.

As many of you will have heard, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner made a formal application today to the Home Secretary, for the EDL March in Tower Hamlets to be banned.

Imaan considers it very likely that the application will be granted.

This will prohibit the march – and any marches whatever – on the 3rd and for a period of 30 days from the 3rd. It will probably apply to Tower Hamlets and the surrounding boroughs.

If the application is granted, there will be no EDL and no counter-march on 3 September.  We will confirm the position as soon we know it, but we advise members to plan on an assumption that nothing will be happening.

If granted, the application will also affect the planned East London Pride march on 24 September.  The event will have to be changed to a Pride Festival without a March (likely venue: Oxford House / Weaver’s Fields) or delayed to a date outside of any ban-period.

Again, we will keep everyone advised about both events.

Join Imaan and others in calling for a ban of the EDL March – Tower Hamlets – 3 September 2011

One Community: No Place for Hate

Join Tower Hamlets Council’s campaign to ban the English Defence League’s proposed march in the borough on Saturday, September 3. By sending in this online petition you are supporting this campaign calling for a ban of the EDL march in September.

Letter: Call on Home Secretary to ban EDL march

We the undersigned call on Theresa May, Home Secretary to ban the English Defence League’s proposed march in Tower Hamlets on September 3. The EDL has demonstrated – or threatens to do so – in our cities. As council, business, trade union and community leaders we know only too well how destructive these demonstrations can be.

They aim to bring a message of hatred to our communities, and on September 3 the EDL plan to target one of the largest mosques in the country. The recent disturbances have shown the need for communities to work together, not against each other. Last month’s tragedy in Norway illustrated the devastating effect this kind of hatred can have on communities if left unchecked.

The EDL must not be able to bring their messages of hate and division to places where diversity is a strength not a weakness. There must be no place for hatred in our communities. Now that the EDL’s march in Telford has been banned the Home Secretary must ban the march in Tower Hamlets.

We oppose anyone who would wish to incite hatred against others because of their religious belief, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. The Home Secretary must act, and act now, to ensure that the EDL is not able to bring its tour of hate to the streets of East London on September 3.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman, Tower Hamlets Council

The letter to the Home Secretary is supported by:

  • Charlie Briggs, Leader, Burnley Council
  • Peter John, Leader, Southwark Council
  • Mehboob Khan, Leader, Kirklees Council
  • Sir Richard Leese, Leader, Manchester Council
  • Gordon Matheson, Leader, Glasgow Council
  • Mohammed Pervez, Leader, Stoke-on-Trent Council
  • Peter Rankin, Labour, Preston Council
  • Chris Roberts, Leader, Greenwich Council
  • Hazel Simmons, Leader, Luton Council
  • Len McCluskey, Unite General Secretary
  • Billy Hay es, General Secretary
  • Christine Blower, General Secretary, NUT
  • Kamaljeet Jandu, National Equalities Officer, GMB
  • Rabbi Mark Goldsmith, Chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK
  • Ben Rich, CEO of Reform Judaism
  • Rabbi Danny Rich, CEO of Liberal Judaism
  • Senior Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg,
  • The Assembly of Masorti Synagogues and New North London Synagogue
  • Right Reverend Adrian Newman, Anglican Bishop of Stepney
  • Father Pascal Ryan, Episcopal Vicar, East and Central Areas of the Roman
  • Catholic Diocese of Westminster
  • Muhammad Abdul Bari, Chair of the London Muslim Centre
  • Dr Faisal Hanjra, Assistant Secretary General, Muslim Council Britain
  • Maulana Shamsul Hoque, Chair, Council of Mosque
  • Neil Jameson, Lead Organiser, London Citizens
  • Rev Paul Regan, Trustee, CITIZENS UK
  • The Trustees of Imaan: LGBT Muslim Support Group
  • Jack Gilbert and Rebecca Shaw, co-chairs of Rainbow Hamlets
  • Thierry Schaffauser, Secretary, SERTUC LGBT Committee

Press Release – EDL masquerading as Gay Pride

Latest News – 15 March 2011

Press Release        

New, hard evidence emerges, proving EDL and other right wing, anti-Muslim allegiances amongst the organisers
of East End Gay Pride, 2 April 2011


Imaan, Europe’s largest support group for LGBTQI Muslims calls for removal of the organisers and for the event to be delivered by Pride London and local communities.

We have been following with careful interest the unfolding issues centred on the appearance, in the East End of London, of posters or stickers carrying de-contextualised quotes from the Qur’an with text and a logo calling for a “Gay Free Zone”.



http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-12526820

We stand united with Muslim organisations, including the East London Mosque and
the Association of British Muslims and with secular LGBT and non-LGBT community activists who have unanimously and unequivocally condemned the actions of whomever placed these stickers in our communities for the purpose of seeding fear and division.

Imaan understands better than most, the problems of homophobia within Muslim communities and has been working inside our communities since 1998 to address homophobia and its causes. We condemn unreservedly any and all acts of homophobia committed by Muslims or by any other sector of our society.

We join the call for a fully inclusive and community-led demonstration of unity in
the face of these homophobic crimes. An event along the lines of a fully community-inclusive local Gay Pride event would be one such welcome response.

As the leading organisation working for the rights and support of LGBT Muslims, we have worked alongside local LGBT and interfaith organisations to try to engage with the organisers of what has become known as “East End Gay Pride”, to try to open dialogue with a view to securing a fully inclusive show of unity.



http://www.eastendgaypride.com/Home.html

The organisers have not been willing to address community concerns during the course of several meetings and have declared themselves unconcerned with the views of local organisations who have worked tirelessly for community engagement and unity over many years.

A “Pride” event is nothing if not political: a supreme demonstration of communities coming together to celebrate their diversity and often in the face of negativity from the fringes of those communities. In that regard a “Pride” event must always confront prejudice and show those who hold prejudices that they are at the edges of society, standing increasingly alone. That is why the full participation of the rest of any community is essential. That is why the motivation behind a Pride event is its most essential attribute.

There has been concern that the organisers of this event have associations and sympathies with right wing anti-Muslim extremists, the EDL. That concern is laid out perfectly clearly at:


 http://lattelabour.blogspot.com/2011/03/east-end-gay-pride-update.html

We have not regarded this as “proof” but rather as grounds for serious concern. We have asked the organisers to explain these details and to condemn, explicitly, the EDL and other right wing extremists and islamophobic philosophies. They have failed to do so.

We have now acquired evidence that Raymond Berry, the principal organiser of the event, faced a call for disciplinary measures (revocation of his membership) by officials of the RMT (Rail and Maritime Trades Union) because he was a public and vocal, leading member of the EDL (English Defence League) and promoted the EDL objectives and extremist politics.

In correspondence, in September 2010, with union officials, Mr. Berry claimed – in his own words – the following:

  • That he was a founder member of the English Defence League, but had decided to cease his involvement following disagreements over changes in the EDL leadership.
  • That in spite of this, he continued to hold firm beliefs with regard to Sharia law and the Islamification of Britain.
  • That he remained an active member “of such organisations as” S.I.O.E. (Stop the Islamification of Europe) and N.S.B. (No Sharia in Britain)
  • That he was working, with other disaffected members of the EDL to start new groups with similar objectives.

In October 2010, Mr Berry continued his correspondence with union officials making new assertions, some contradictory to his position in September:

  • That he would not voluntarily cancel his RMT membership on the grounds of his EDL membership
  • That he saw no reason why he should not hold membership of the RMT and of the EDL, in spite of his disagreement with some aspects of RMT politics – i.e. that he found the RMT to be more controversial than the EDL.

So we now understand that as of October 2010, Mr. Berry – a founder of the EDL – remained connected with the EDL and unrepentant. Indeed, he desires to start other groups with similar right-wing, anti-Muslim objectives as well as retaining active associations with existing right-wing, anti-Muslim groups (such as S.I.O.E.)

In light of all the evidence of Mr. Berry’s political involvements, the apparent associations of some of the other organisers and their collective contempt for our communities we can do nothing but conclude that their calling for “East End Gay Pride” is motivated primarily by their political desires to build groups and alliances founded on their anti-Muslim and anti-Islam bigotry and that East End Gay Pride is – in his terms – just a furtherance of Mr. Berry’s stated aims to create anti-Muslim political movements.

Imaan continues to believe that a truly inclusive community-led Pride March would be one of the best responses to these homophobic crimes. We call, as a minimum response, for Mr. Berry and the other organisers of the 2 April event to stand aside from East End Gay Pride and to remove themselves from any further publicity before and after the event, thereby freeing the LGBT and other communities from the taint of Mr. Berry’s political views and associations.

We call on the board of Pride London to take over the organisation of East End Gay Pride and to deliver a successful, politically safe and community-engaged event on 2 April or another appropriate date, using the tried and tested Gay Pride principals of community cohesion and celebration of our diversity.

If this cannot be achieved, if the integrity of the event cannot be salvaged, we call for all right-minded people to boycott the event; to show Mr. Berry that there is no place within LGBT Society for his brand of prejudice and fear-mongering – however much he might try to dress it in the outward appearance of an authentic community campaign such as Pride.

Tawseef Khan, Chairperson of Imaan said “There is no place in Islam for homophobic acts or crimes, as there is no place within our LGBT communities for intolerance of and prejudice against other groups – including against Muslims as a whole. In uniting as a community against these homophobic attacks, we must be vigilant against those who would seek to co-opt or manipulate our actions for other, less honest and constructive purposes. 
The evidence of the political motivations of Raymond Berry, and his colleagues, cast a dark shadow on East End Gay Pride that can only be resolved by their removal from the event and for Pride to be restored to our communities, where it belongs.”


NOTES FOR EDITORS:

Imaan has been given email exchanges between Raymond Berry and RMT officials, in which Mr. Berry makes the statements we have referred to. The source of the emails is firmly on the record and will stand by the correspondence, and its publication, if Mr. Berry should seek to deny the claims.

The emails forms a part of a dossier of evidence of right wing and fascistic associations amongst the organisers, which has been painstakingly collected by Imaan and other concerned community groups and will be part of  a complete community publication expected to be ready for release on Thursday March 17.

Stop the Islamisation of Europe is a group, which has as its byline “Racism is the lowest form of stupidity! Islamophobia is the height of common sense!

And a lead article at its website – 

http://sioeengland.wordpress.com/
– titled “The Trinity of Evil: Diversity, Political Correctness, Multiculturalism.

Imaan has not, yet, been able to identify positively a group called “No Sharia in Britain”


Further details on Imaan can be found at www.imaan.org.uk

All press enquiries should be directed by email to Tawseef Khan: tawseef@imaan.org.uk or by
calling 020 3393 5188 and leaving voicemail. We regret it is not possible to offer instant telephone contact in view of the unfunded and unsupported status of Imaan. 
Email and voicemail will be monitored and answered as quickly as possible.


Imaan has supported LGBTQI Muslim people, their families and friends, to explore issues of sexual orientation within Islam since 1998. It provides a safe space and support network to share individual experiences and institutional resources.

Imaan is the largest network for Muslim LGBTQI people in Europe.

Imaan promotes Islamic values of peace, social justice and tolerance in its work to build a world that is free from prejudice and discrimination against Muslims and LGBTQI people.

Imaan is an independent organisation run by volunteers and without external funding. In addition to international conferences, Imaan holds monthly meetings, provides a free, dedicated counseling service, represents members at asylum tribunal cases and speaks at external conferences.