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Thursday, February 16, 2006

United Against Fascism now united with fascists

Dear Unite Against Fascism,

Sir Iqbal Sacaranie and the UAF conference

We welcome and support the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) conference on 18 February. The rise of the BNP must be resisted and all communities under attack from the far right should be defended.

We are very disturbed to learn that Sir Iqbal Sacranie, leader of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), is scheduled to speak at the UAF conference at the TUC headquarters in London.

We stand in solidarity with the Muslim community, against anti-Muslim prejudice and discrimination.

However we are concerned that Sir Iqbal and the MCB are inciting prejudice and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

As well as actively campaigning to maintain discriminatory anti-gay laws, like Section 28, in January this year, on BBC radio, Sir Iqbal publicly denounced lesbians and gay men, saying they were immoral, harmful and spread disease.

Resorting to inflammatory language barely distinguishable from the homophobic tirades of the neo-Nazi BNP, the MCB website demonises same-sex relationships as “offensive”, “immoral” and “repugnant”.
The UAF would not invite as a conference speaker someone who said that black people are immoral, harmful and spread disease, or who vilified Jewish people as offensive, immoral and repugnant. Why, then, are you giving a platform to a homophobe who says these things about gays and lesbians?

By hosting Sir Iqbal, the UAF is siding with a homophobe against gay Muslims – and the wider gay community. Your invitation to Sir Iqbal is also a sad betrayal of liberal, non-homophobic Muslims.

You would never host a bigoted Jewish or Christian leader. And if you did, we would call, with equal vigour, for them to be disinvited.

We want a broad alliance against the BNP. We support an alliance with the Muslim community. But we do not believe it appropriate for an anti-fascist movement to build alliances with homophobic hate-mongerers like Sir Iqbal and the MCB. We urge an alliance with liberal and left Muslims.
We urge you to withdraw your invitation to Sir Iqbal and the MCB, and instead invite a progressive Muslim speaker, such as Ziauddin Sardar , Sheikh Dr Muhammad Yusuf or Munira Mirza.

Sir Iqbal's views are not an isolated aberration. They are widely shared within the MCB. Another prominent MCB leader, Dr Abdul Majid Katme, was quoted by Muslim writer Anissa Helie as telling a UK conference: “Lesbianism is spreading like fire in society. We must vaccinate our children against this curse.”

The MCB is not a liberal, progressive organisation. It represents only conservative, reactionary opinion. It is not a suitable partner organisation for the movement against fascism.

On every gay human rights issue, the MCB has actively campaigned in favour of discrimination. It opposed an equal age of consent, legal rights for same-sex couples and the outlawing of homophobic discrimination in the workplace. The MCB also backed the retention of Section 28 and a ban on gay couples fostering or adopting children.

The MCB works together with right-wing Christian fundamentalist groups to promote discrimination against lesbians and gay men.

Sir Iqbal has for many years led the MCB's homophobic attacks on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities.

He put his name to an MCB news release condemning the repeal of Section 28 as “giving legitimacy to so-called ‘gay families' and ‘gay marriage' through the back door,” and paving the way for councils to “spend public money on homosexual youth groups, homosexual youth workers, and homosexual festivals.”

One of the reasons the MCB refuses to participate in Holocaust Memorial Day is because it objects to the ceremony including a commemoration of what it dismisses as “the so-called gay genocide.” The MCB appears to regard the murder of gay people in Nazi death camps as unworthy of remembrance.

This year's Festival of Muslim Cultures is being funded by the Home Office and the British Council. Its aim is to showcase the diversity and richness of Muslim communities. The MCB has succeeded in demanding that the festival excludes lesbian and gay Muslims.

Sir Iqbal's homophobic views, and the MCB's opposition to LGBT equality, echo the bigotry and discrimination of the BNP.

Unite Against Fascism would not collude with racists or anti-Semites. It should not collude with homophobes either.

Yours in solidarity!

Imam Mahmoud Ayaz Araon Saeed (Muslim Affairs spokesperson of OutRage!) Adnan Ali (founder of the UK gay Muslim group, Al-Fatiha) Ali Hili (Iraqi gay Muslim refugee) Ramzi Isalam (Algerian gay Muslim refugee) Peter Tatchell (campaign coordinator, OutRage)

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