Playing the homophobia card is costlier than playing the Islamophobia card. Or at least, the costs are more evenly spread across the political spectrum. Suppose Williams had said something hurtful to gay people instead of to Muslims. Suppose he had said gay men give him the creeps because he fears they’ll make sexual advances. NPR might well have fired him, but would Fox News have chosen that moment to give him a $2-million pat on the back?
As Islamophobia grows, it alienates Muslims, raising the risk of homegrown terrorism — and homegrown terrorism heightens the Islamophobia, which alienates more Muslims, and so on: a vicious circle that could carry America into the abyss. So it’s worth taking a look at why homophobia is fading; maybe the underlying dynamic is transplantable to the realm of inter-ethnic prejudice.
Theories differ as to what it takes for people to build bonds across social divides, and some theories offer more hope than others. One of the less encouraging theories grows out of the fact that both homophobia and Islamophobia draw particular strength from fundamentalist Christians.
23 October 2010
The Conservative party chair, Baroness Warsi, has been banned by David Cameron from attending a major Islamic conference today, igniting a bitter internal row over how the government tackles Islamist extremism.
Warsi, Britains first female Muslim cabinet minister, was told by the prime minister to cancel her appearance at the Global Peace and Unity Event, which is being billed as the largest multicultural gathering in Europe.
The London-based conference is aimed at improving community relations, yet critics have pointed out that a number of speakers who are due to appear have justified suicide attacks and promoted al-Qaida, homophobia and terrorism. An influential voice among the international Muslim community, Warsi believes that confronting extremists at public events is a more effective way to tackle fundamentalism than a refusal to engage with them.
Two hundred imams gathered for the second annual RMF (Rassemblement des musulmans de France) colloquium June 5th and 6th. Presiding over the conference, Anouar Kbibech noted that, “Imams must get to know each other better and that we raise the difficulties they encounter on the ground,” including questions related to ritual slaughtering, the burqa and niqab, the organization of funerals and homophobia.
CFCM president and vice-president of the RMF, Mohammed Moussaoui noted that these subjects were also difficult to address when only approximately one-third of French imams speak French with ease, and few among the second generation of French Muslims speak Arabic. Another issue is that only approximately 20% of them are employed full-time by their mosque or from their country of origin, making only minimum wage.
Vincent Geissler explains here in an opinion video posted on Oumma.com that he believes that instead of considering the problem of homophobia in France more broadly, French media have more easily pointed the problem on French banlieusard (suburb-living) Muslims.
The North-American Imam Abdullah Hakim Quick has been invited to give a speech at a conference initiated by Sweden’s Young Muslims (SUM). Abdullah Hakim Quick is, in earlier speeches, to have described Jews as “filthy” and to advocate the execution of homosexuals. According to SUM’s homepage he says this is misunderstanding created by Western Islamophobes.
Sören Juvas, chairperson of the Swedish Gay Right group RFSL says that SUM’s invitation “shows a complete lack of responsibility. I was previously under the impression that this organization respected principles of equal rights for everybody but now it seems they couldn’t care less about the values they claim to stand for.” RFSL are hoping for SUM to withdraw their invitation.
Mohammad Kharraki, spokesperson of SUM, says they promote multitude and reject extremism in any form. Even so they will not withdraw Quicks invitation as “it would mean too many changes in the program.” Kharraki says the Imam is not invited to lecture on homosexuality, but to talk about “Muslim identity and about what goals one is to set for oneself as a young Muslim.”
The conference is to be held Easter weekend.
A French gay soccer team says its members were victims of homophobia when a team of Muslim players refused to play a match against them.
The Paris Foot Gay team (PFG) claims it received an e-mail from the Creteil Bebel club canceling a match. “Because of the principles of our team, which is a team of devout Muslims, we can’t play against you,” the e-mail said, according to Paris Foot Gay. Paris Foot Gay said in a statement that it asked the amateur league to sanction Creteil Bebel. Zahir Belgarbi, identified as a spokesman for Creteil Bebel apologized if “anyone felt upset or hurt.”
A harassed gay minority in a conservative suburb in otherwise tolerant Amsterdam has found a guardian angel in the local Muslim mayor. Ahmed Marcouch, 41, is on a self-appointed mission to end homophobia in Slotervaart, just a stones’ throw from the capital but light-years away from its anything-goes mentality. To make his point, Mayor Marcouch recently invited Amsterdam’s annual Gay Pride parade to pass through his constituency when it takes place in August. “It is necessary to confront this issue, to say that homosexuals are normal people like all of us and that we require them to be respected,” Marcouch told AFP.Slotervaart’s population is mainly of immigrant origin, many of the Muslim faith, like Moroccan-born Marcouch himself who came to the Netherlands in 1979 at age 10. The suburb has recently been in the news for homophobic incidents, with gays being called names, spat on and generally bothered. The community grew particularly restless over gay men using Slotervaart’s De Oeverlanden public park as a place to meet and have sex, a practice known as “cruising”. After gay lobbyists made complaints over incidents of homophobic violence, the local council erected signs in the park indicating the spots where gay sex is known to take place, in a bid to avoid any unfortunate encounters. “For cultural or religious reasons, some people reject homosexuals and compare them to animals,” said Marcouch, who has been Slotervaart’s mayor since 2006 and was a former spokesman for Amsterdam’s mosques. “They don’t see homosexuals as humans. These people can be orthodox Christians, Muslims or immigrants,” he said. On Marcouch’s initiative, the city council recently adopted an action plan for 2009 to 2011 that allows for the opening of a gay cultural centre. It will also permit gay associations to give briefings at schools and will take measures to teach mothers in immigrant households about gay rights in the Netherlands. The mayor has asked municipal police to be extra vigilant about homophobic aggression, and has even organised debates on the topic in mosques to press home his message. More than 55 percent of the 45,000 inhabitants of Slotervaart are of immigrant origin and 22.4 percent are younger than 17 — two groups that Marcouch says are the least tolerant towards homosexuals. Gays themselves make up about 7.5 percent of the population of Amsterdam. “I always say: your freedom to be an orthodox Muslim is the same as that of a homosexual to be homosexual,” said Marcouch, himself heterosexual. “Freedom is guaranteed in the constitution” of the Netherlands. Alix Rijckaert reports.
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.
Ahmed Marcouch, chairman of the heavily immigrant Amsterdam neighborhood of Slotervaart, is taking it upon himself to fight persistent homophobia in the locality, including presenting a memorandum with measures to make the neighborhood more gay-friendly.
Name-calling, being spit on, and harassment are common experiences for gay persons passing street corners – and a number of Muslim youth are believed to be responsible for the attacks, in an apparent clash between the public acceptability of homosexuality in Amsterdam and rejection of homosexuality in Islamic practice.
Marcouch, a Muslim himself who was born in Morocco, is hoping to heal such clashes and put an end to such attacks. He has made an appearance at “Pink Eid al-Fitr” – a gay celebration of the Muslim holiday marking the end of the Ramadan, and debated religious leaders by arguing that Islam and homosexuality can co-exist. “Taking things one step further, we’re going to take the confrontational approach and it will be painful at times,” says Marcouch, who plans to assist the organization of a gay pride parade to start in Slotervaart this year.