Educator Yusuf Patel asks what is the point of electing Muslim MPs who advance causes, such as a ban on gay conversion therapy, which will detrimentally impact our children.
We often hear about the vital need to have Muslim MPs in Parliament fighting our corner.
On some issues where there’s little risk or there’s wider support from “white people,” they will seemingly be brave and show courage but on other issues that draw the ire of certain groups they will be noticeably silent.
Worse still are those occasions where they will support initiatives that will be deeply harmful to the Muslim community.
The government has pledged to ban conversion therapy. Over 250 Muslim leaders signed an open letter expressing dismay about the consequences for Muslim young people because of these vague plans.
And what has been the response of Muslim MPs?
Yasmin Qureshi MP responded in an article on her website unequivocally backing the proposals. She said: “I believe that LGBT conversion therapies should have been banned a long time ago.”
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Ironically, she tried to justify her stance by claiming there’s a “broad consensus” amongst faith leaders in the UK. To evidence her claims, she linked to a BBC article that included a quote from Sheikh Ramzy, an Islamic scholar in Oxford, who argued that Muslim scholars need to be allowed to help young Muslims struggling with sexual desires that go against their religious beliefs.
But she made no effort to at least comment on how this poorly-framed legislation should not interfere in the rights of faith communities to have consensual, supportive conversations with young Muslims.
The coup de grace comes at the end of the article. Yasmin makes clear: “I can assure you that my Opposition Colleagues and I will continue to support a ban on conversion therapy for all LGBT people and the removal of ‘consent’ loopholes.”
The consent loopholes, as she negatively puts it, are the ones that would allow an imam to have consensual, caring, faith-inspired conversations with young Muslims struggling with their health. This is the very thing that will save imams from choosing between breaking the law by providing support or turning a young person who is struggling to align their desires with their faith.
These comments are motivated by the “affirmative model,” which seeks to concretise a behaviour as an identity. So when a young Muslim goes to a counsellor to express dismay about their same-sex feelings, the approach should always be to affirm their “identity” and celebrate their inclusion into the LGBTQ+ community. There is no room for exploring these feelings, even if that is what the young Muslim wants.
And Yasmin is not alone in selling out the Muslim community but asking for your support come election time.
Muslim LGBTQ supporters
Afzal Khan MP wrote an article on his webpage in 2021, which he updated in the blessed month of Ramadan.
He said: “I was deeply disappointed by the Government’s recent u-turn to not ban conversion therapy. Then, they u-turned once again to say a ban on conversion therapy would happen, however it would exclude transgender individuals. This is unacceptable and a ban on conversion therapy must apply to the entire LGBT+ community.”
I don’t think Mr Khan would be able to even define what conversion therapy is, or explain how common the various manifestations are of how these proposals will encroach on the Muslim community’s ability to practice its faith. He has unfortunately jumped on the populist bandwagon which will draw plaudits from the LGBT lobby and his own parliamentary colleagues under the misapprehension that the Muslim community will be fine with this.
Another MP worthy of inclusion is Zarah Sultana. She brazenly says on Twitter: “I support a trans-inclusive ban! #BANCONVERSIONTHERAPY”
That she is a vocal supporter of Stonewall is also a cause for concern. Stonewall does not only seek good treatment of LGBTQ people but also acceptance of their choices to the extent that they want it imposed on children in schools. They have absolutely no problem when schools coerce Muslim children to take part in Pride marches.
And Apsana Begum MP – although she hasn’t spoken publicly in recent months in support of a ban – did Sign an Early Day Motion in 2020 supporting the banning of gay conversion therapy.
She is also a supporter of Bi-visility day which celebrates “bisexuality” and Trans day which celebrates the contribution of transgender and non-binary people.
Don’t rock the boat!
Many other Muslim MPs may not stand out as visibly as these ones, but they will never advance the case of the Muslim community around these issues because they are so in thrall to popular sentiment and don’t want to rock the boat.
Whenever we are told to vote for Muslim representation in Parliament, is this what is meant? What is the point in electing Muslim MPs who advance the causes of others and work against the legitimate interests of our community?
The ironic thing is there are many non-Muslim MPs who will stand firm on a principle they believe in, even if it draws criticism. Yet we are so bereft of MPs with backbones that they can’t be counted on when it matters. When it came to gay marriage, the majority of Muslim MPs voted for it, when it came to statutory RSE we didn’t find representation from Muslim MPs.
So it is time that we held them to account for their brazen support of laws which will detrimentally impact our children, or else we’ll suffer in the long run.
Yusuf Patel is the founder of SREIslamic, which provides advice, support and training to parents concerned with how Sex and Relationship Education (SRE/RHE/RSHE) is taught in schools, particularly at the primary level.