East London Mosque respond to inflammatory placard held by ex-Muslims at Gay Pride

CEMB activists with Islamphobic placards at the Gay Pride march in London [Source: Twitter].

The East London Mosque have issued a statement in response to an inflammatory placard held by an activist belonging to the Council of ex-Muslims at the Gay Prdie march attacking the institution.

The following statement was issued yesterday on the ELM website:

“Less than a month ago, a far-right terrorist drove a van into a crowd of Muslims outside a mosque in north London. One man lost his life, and several more were injured. The driver had travelled across the country to target that particular mosque, acting on years of Islamophobic misinformation and smears that are ever-present in the mainstream media which have created a hostile climate for Muslims. Worshippers from Finsbury Park were specifically and deliberately targeted.

At East London Mosque, we fear the same may happen to us. Since the Finsbury Park mosque attack, we have had white powder sent to the mosque, resulting in a frantic evacuation, a noticeable increase in hate mail, harassment by Britain First and increased social media abuse. Extra protection is being installed outside the mosque to prevent attacks by vehicles. The mosque is a regular target of the far right violent Britain First group. Much of this has been based on years of misinformation put about by our critics, few of whom have visited the mosque, or sought to understand our long-held views against all forms of bigotry; be it anti-Semitism, homophobia or misogyny. We have also seen acid attacks on the rise across East London, spreading more fear as they have targeted members of the Muslim community.

East London Mosque

It is in this context and with these concerns about the hostile climate against Muslims that we have raised issues about the slogans of the Council of Ex-Muslims for Britain (CEMB) on the Pride march in London this June. While we found some of their messages, such as “Allah is Gay,” “F*** Islam(ophobic Muslims),” and “Islamophobia is an Oxymoron,” deeply offensive, we recognise that in a country where free speech is theoretically sacrosanct, these messages are not something we can do much about.

However, we found one placard not just offensive – but patently false and dangerous.

“East London Mosque incites murder of LGBT.”

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When Maryam Namazie, the provocative leader of the anti-Muslim CEMB, tweeted that “East London Mosque wants us to apologise for condemning their incitement to violence against us? I don’t think so,” the response from Peter Tatchell, LGBT activist of some fifty years was deeply concerning.

He said, “East London Mosque has refused all dialogue with LGBT community. It refuses to meet LGBT Muslims. I have asked them 11 times since 2015.”

There was no condemnation of the quite obviously factually inaccurate claim that East London Mosque wanted LGBT people to be killed, nor condemnation of CEMB’s anti-Muslim bigotry. While Namazie has a relatively small social media footprint, Tatchell has over 70,000 followers. For Tatchell to tacitly endorse the lie that our mosque incites murder of LGBT people is surprising and disturbing. Embarrassingly for Mr Tatchell, even his claim that “East London Mosque has refused all dialogue with LGBT community,” is highly inaccurate. For the record, Peter Tatchell met with the Mosque in 2012.

We have a long history of engaging and partnering with diverse groups. For example, we have engaged and worked together with LGBT and other groups to tackle racism, discrimination and hatred of all forms. This work includes organising anti-fascist demonstrations, meetings and working in local tension monitoring groups with groups such as Rainbow Coalition Against Racism, LGBT+ against Islamophobia, and Rainbow Hamlets the local LGBT group for Tower Hamlets. We also champion the Tower Hamlets No Place for Hate campaign.

Maryam Namazie

At a public event in November 2016, organised by the People’s PPE, our spokesperson, Salman Farsi, closed the event by denouncing all forms of bigotry, including specifically homophobia. There were over a thousand people in attendance.

A statement condemning homophobia was made by one our spokespersons at an anti-fascist demonstration in September 2011. When homophobic stickers went up around Tower Hamlets, claiming association with Islam, we publicly condemned them, removed them from our vicinity and reported them to the police.

It can only feed a hostile climate of Islamophobia both in general and specifically against our organisation to suggest this mosque wants to kill anyone whether because they are LGBT or for any other reason. Associating with and endorsing a placard saying that our Mosque wants to kill people is an act of incitement.

In the current context of heightened Islamophobia, we find this reckless behaviour unacceptable. Everything possible must be done to challenge Islamophobia, and individuals should question whether their actions, however unintentional, could contribute towards it. We appreciate that the organisers of the Pride March have already begun reviewing the actions of CEMB, who created the placard in question. Islamophobia is very real and has very severe consequences, and we will defend vigorously any attempts to depreciate in the public eye the danger our community, which is one of the UK’s largest Muslim communities, finds itself in”.

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