I am here to talk to Yusuf Islam, the Muslim singer and humanitarian formerly
known as Sixties icon Cat Stevens, about his charity concert for child refugees at
Westminster’s Central Hall tonight.
But the mass shooting at Florida gay club Pulse by an alleged Islamic State
terrorist has overtaken us. “This guy is demented, a distortion, and it is
detestable and horrendous, but it does not reflect Islam,” says Yusuf, 67, who
looks like a benign if nattily dressed cleric.
“Yes, some people will try and associate this incident with Islam as a whole —
Donald Trump, probably — and that’s criminal.
You wouldn’t blame the whole of Britain for those football hooligans who have
gone to Marseille.”
He sounds slightly exasperated, once again compelled to defend the faith he
embraced in 1977 after almost drowing off Malibu.
But with Orlando gunman Omar Mateen’s father stating that homosexuals should
be “punished by God”, and fears of an attack at London’s own Pride celebrations,
I wonder if Yusuf will express solidarity with the gay community when he gets
on stage tonight.
“I don’t think I need to,” he says. “That’s the problem with tagging these things
with ‘Islam’. The most important thing Islam preserves is the privacy of one’s
It’s up to you how you behave behind closed doors or in the privacy of your own
bedroom. We are here for a humanitarian cause and we don’t want to dis-focus
from the issue, which is the lone refugee.”
Of the estimated five million people displaced by the murder spree of IS, the war
in Syria and unrest in Iraq and Afghanistan, one million have sought refuge in
Europe, and 95,000 of those are children travelling alone.
It is these children, who may have experienced nothing but conflict, and who
may never know a stable home or school life, that Yusuf wants to help.
So through his charity Small Kindness he has hooked up with Save the Children
and Penny Appeal to highlight their plight. He has recorded a new song, He Was
Alone, created the campaign hashtag #YouAreNotAlone, and arranged the gig.
The disparate likes of Ricky Gervais, Steve McQueen, Naomi Campbell, Emma
Thompson, several Kardashians, New Order, Queen and Miley Cyrus’s Happy
Hippie Foundation have all pledged support.
The idea “came out of just watching the news on a daily basis: seeing the tragedy
unfolding, refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean, trying to get to safer
lands”, says Yusuf (I’ll call him that to avoid confusion).
http://www.standard.co.uk/showbiz/celebrity-news/yusuf- islam-some- will-
associate-orlando- with-islam- thats-criminal- a3271121.html
The Toronto Star – June 30, 2011
Toronto’s gay community will celebrate Pride on downtown streets on July 3, 2011. At the same time, Muslims attending a major Islamic conference at the nearby Metro Toronto Convention Centre will hear from two anti-homosexual speakers.
Journey of Faith is the same annual event that drew criticism last year for inviting a televangelist, whose speech was later cancelled, who expressed solidarity with Osama bin Laden and disparaged homosexuals and other groups.
Bilal Philips, a charismatic Jamaican-Canadian religious scholar who embraced Islam in 1972 in Toronto, where he was raised, has advocated death as a punishment for males who “confess” to homosexual behaviour, or are seen performing homosexual acts by four reliable witnesses, in countries governed by Islamic law. The word of the Qur’an must be followed in Islamic countries, he said, and the Qur’an says gays must be killed.
The leader of the conference argued that controversial speakers are entitled to freedom of speech. Philips, 63, said he attended Jarvis Collegiate and Northview Heights high schools in Toronto. Now a resident of Qatar, he was expelled from Germany in April and denied entry to England in 2010.
Some British Asian gay Muslims are embracing a new identity, based as much on race and religion as on sexual orientation with a number trying to do it with the help of their local imams.
Unlike Britain’s wider gay community, the Asian gay scene is still largely underground. They may go to gay clubs or support groups, but most remain in the closet. But the fear of rejection, humiliation and in some cases physical harm from their own communities keeps many Muslim gays isolated.
Asif Qureshi, a key worker at The Naz Project, a London-based support group working with British Asian gay men said: “In my experience, the number of Asian gays coming out has almost tripled over the last three years.”
With the advent of civil partnerships it is easy to forget that significant sections of the gay community in the UK live in fear. There are approximately 125,000 gay Muslims in the UK and most live with feelings of shame and guilt. Although leading clerics assert homosexuality to be against the teaching of the Quran, there are tentative signs of the beginnings of an acceptance within the Muslim establishment, and the internet provides an important forum for gay Muslims to connect and support each other.
Most Muslims could never imagine that someone praying beside them at their local Mosque could possibly be gay. Islam teaches that homosexuality is evil, and as a result most gay men and lesbians will remain in the closet or choose not to follow their natural instincts. With around 1.25 million Muslims in the UK, it is estimated that the challenge of being homosexual in this community affects around 125,000 individuals every day.
In the context of this oppressive environment, gay Muslims seek alternative means of support in the community. An example is the website forum Al-Fatiha, a support group for gay Muslims, that currently conducts the first survey on Muslims who are “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, and questioning or exploring their gender identity and/or sexual orientation (LGBTIQQ)”, cp. http://www.al-fatiha.org. Another example is Imaan (Faith), a social support group for the same target group, at http://www.imaan.org.uk.
The city of Rotterdam has exonerated Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan in an investigation over alleged misogynistic and homophobic statements he made in tapes aimed at immigrants. The city said that it will still retain Ramadan as an advisor to build bridges between its immigrant communities.
Last month, a local newspaper called ‘Gay Krant’ geared towards the gay community, accused Ramadan of making comments denigrating women and homosexuals. Ramadan dismissed the accusations as slander. Rotterdam has since carried out its own investigation, saying that Gay Krant’s reporting was inaccurate, and Ramadan’s contract with the city as a liaison will be extended for another two years.
Controversy seems to follow Tariq Ramadan wherever he goes. In Rotterdam, where the Swiss philosopher and theologist has been asked to contribute to the multicultural dialogue, the gay community is up in arms over Ramadan’s statements about homosexuality and the role of women in society.
A split tongue, is how French journalist Caroline Fourest described Tariq Ramadan in her 2006 book Frère Tariq (brother Tariq). Fourest argues that Ramadan has a moderate discourse for Western consumption, and a radical one buried inside Arabic-spoken tapes that are widely distributed in immigrant communities throughout Europe. Ramadan’s defence of a “European Islam” (an Islam that adapts to the rules of European society) has made him enemies within orthodox Islam as well as in the West, where some have argued that Ramadan wants Europe to adapt to Islam rather than the other way around. It is the latter that has been dubbed Ramadan’s “double discourse”.
Whenever Ramadan (48) moves to a new country – and he has moved a lot: from Switzerland to France to the US to Britain to the Netherlands – quotes from his tapes surface and are argued as proof of his “Jeckyl and Hyde” identity. The latest accusation comes from Gay Krant, a newspaper for the gay community in the Netherlands.
Ramadan was recently hired by the city of Rotterdam to “help lift the multicultural dialogue to a higher level”. He is also a guest lecturer at Rotterdam’s Erasmus university.