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Muslim leaders have lodged a formal complaint with the organisers of London’s Pride festival after placards allegedly bearing Islamophobic messages were spotted at the event.
A secularist group of former Muslims were seen carrying a series of controversial signs during the march through the capital last weekend.
Banners bearing slogans such as “Allah is gay”, “F*** Islamic homophobia” and “East London Mosque incites murder of LGBTs” were carried at the event by members of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), who were a participating group listed on Pride’s website.
But leaders from the Muslim community wrote to the event’s organisers to raise concerns the messages incited hatred.
East London Mosque spokesman Salman Farsi told the Standard: “We’ve raised a complaint with the co-chairs of the event that the group was inciting hatred against Muslims, and in particular [in relation] to our good name, based on absolutely groundless reasons.
“Our track record for challenging homophobia in East London is quite well known,” he added, citing campaigns to condemn “gay-hate” stickers that sprung up around Tower Hamlets several years ago and the mosque’s public condemnations of attacks on LGBT people.
“For us to see such a mainstream event that is supposed to celebrate tolerance and love used as a hate platform was really quite shocking.
“One of the signs said ‘Islamophobia is an oxymoron’.
“Our religion doesn’t promote hatred or homophobia. Yes, there might be theological topics dealing with homosexuality in Islam, but that’s clearly very separate from promoting hatred and homophobia,” said Mr Farsi.
He added that the mosque had asked for an apology from Pride and a probe into what had happened.
Lucy Masoud, a firefighter and LGBT secretary for the Fire Brigades Union, stood next to CEMB activists at Pride and told the Standard she was also disturbed by the slogans.
“The group describes itself as a safe space for gay people and former Muslims. Obviously I support that. What I don’t support is people holding up signs saying ‘F*** Islam’ at Pride,” she said, adding that she was speaking as an individual rather than on behalf of the FBU.
She published a blog on the FBU website on Wednesday in which she condemned the banners as Islamophobic, but it was taken down as the union had yet to agree a common stance on the matter.
About 20 CEMB activists marched on Saturday with placards bearing a range of messages from “We’re here, we’re kaffir, get used to it” to “Allah is gay”. Several wore body paint across their chests depicting eyes crying rainbow-coloured tears.
Maryam Namazie, spokeswoman for CEMB, said the group was protesting the treatment of LGBT people in states under hardline Islamic leadership, such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Iran – where homosexuality is a capital offence.
Ms Namazie told the Standard it was “apt” to name the East London Mosque on the placards.
“At Pride, we were highlighting the 13 states under Islamic rule that kill gay men – 14 if we include Daesh-held territories.”
Ms Namazie said that the signs did not say “F*** Islam” but “F*** Islamic homophobia”, adding: “In my view Islam, like all religions, is homophobic. Why is it not possible to say this without fear of reprisal or accusations of Islamophobia?”
She said: “Pride is full of ‘God is gay’ and ‘Jesus had two fathers’ placards as well as those mocking the church and priests and pope, yet hold a sign saying ‘Allah is gay’ – as we did – and the police converge to attempt to remove them for causing offence.”
A debate on an online forum attracted hundreds of comments after a man wrote that his Muslim friend – who went along to Pride to show support – was left feeling insulted by the “Allah is gay” sign.
However, some people came to the defence of CEMB, saying the group was exercising freedom of speech.
“No ideas should be immune from criticism or satire here in the UK,” wrote one.
A Pride London spokesman told the Standard: “If anyone taking part in our parade makes someone feel ostracised, discriminated against or humiliated, then they are undermining and breaking the very principles on which we exist. Our code of conduct is very clear on this matter.
“All volunteers, staff and parade groups agree that Pride celebrates diversity and will not tolerate any discrimination of any kind.
“While our parade has always been a home to protest, which often means conflicting points of view, Pride must always be a movement of acceptance, diversity and unity. We will not tolerate Islamophobia.”
Pride has also written to East London Mosque to say it has referred the complaint to its community advisory board, which assesses every parade entry after each year’s march, and “decide on whether CEMB will be allowed to march again in the years ahead.”
London News & Search