This has been on my mind for the last few days.
A few days ago the Guardian reported that it had obtained a leaked report on the new revisions of extremist classifications in the counter terrorist strategy as part of the Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) agenda. Now the prevent agenda is in itself something that I have various issues and reservations about, however there was one thing that leapt out at me in this document (known in whitehall as Contest 2).
The Guardian reports
According to a draft of the strategy, Contest 2 as it is known in Whitehall, people would be considered as extremists if:
• They advocate a caliphate, a pan-Islamic state encompassing many countries.
• They promote Sharia law.
• They believe in jihad, or armed resistance, anywhere in the world. This would include armed resistance by Palestinians against the Israeli military.
• They argue that Islam bans homosexuality and that it is a sin against Allah.
• They fail to condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Now I want to draw your attention to the section on homosexuality. As a queer activist I want my government to protect my rights as an LGBT person, I want to be protected from hate crime and hate speech, I want children to grow up with the societal understanding that it is okay to be LGBT. I applaud any moves the government makes to do this. However, and there’s always a but, I have some reservations with it’s inclusion in a counter terrorist strategy aimed at UK uslim communities….
Homophobia is still prevalent in the UK, and yes it is prevalent in BME and faith communities. Here’s the crucial bit; it is prevalent in almost ALL faith communities. I am a cynical person however it seems odd to me that if a muslim denounces my rights as a queer person they are labelled extremist but if a Christian wants to discriminate against me in certain aspects of my life they are legally protected (arguably encouraged by notable legal clauses in the likes of good and services legislation) to do so.
All forms of extremism be they far right or be they religous needs to be tackled and fought. By including the opposition to homosexuality as an ‘extremist’ notion contrary to the values of a british society, the govt has indeed expressed a commitment to LGBT rights. The crucial balance is that these rights are not used to argue against a particular minority in this case those of muslim faith. The UK govt need a much stronger line on all of those who argue that any religion bans homosexuality and that it is a sin against Allah/ God etc. We don’t need to single out one religion we need to single out ALL bigots.
Do not take this as an apologist for homophobia committed in the name of islam, outbursts like those in the past of Iqbal Sacranie should be treatly harsh but so too should those of Cardinal Cormac Murphy, Northern Irish religious politicians like Iris Robinson, Ian Paisley and his Free Presbyterian Crew who sit in UK parliament, and the Pope who declared before Christmas that LGBT people pose a bigger threat to global security than Climate change. Hiding behind any religion to pedal hate is wrong, and should be challenged.
Within the UK homophobia needs to be tackled head on and to do that sometimes you need to engage. You need to speak to communities, educate young people so that tomorrows generations can live more freely. If a particular community hold especially strong views on LGBT rights they need to be addressed, not reinforced. If the government creates poplar positions with muslims vs UK culture, its not helpful, reinforcing stereotypes and making dialogu and flexibility more difficult. Address issues through education in state and religious schools (such as citizenship lessons, which are slowly being introduced into Madrassas across the UK- I accept LGBT issues are a long way off the agenda but its a start). Engage by breaking down barriers, supporting BME/ Faith LGBT groups help work within their own communities. Engage by providing stricter guidance and compliances for schools to address discrimination through duties such as the promotion of community cohesion, citizenship, PSE. Make local government provisions stronger through the likes of the Equality Framework and Single Equalities Bill so that equality for all 6 strands must become embedded in the work of authorities in their local communities.
Engage by treating all religious bigotry the same, don’t use identity politics as a means to play one minority off against another. Think of all of those young people caught in the middle.
This government is slowly making its mind up where it stands on LGBT issues with the news that it has banned the Westboro Crew from ‘protesting’ in the UK but it needs to stop fearing the wrath of the CoE and RC Church and ensure that no religion has grounds for propagating hate.