Monday, February 28, 2011
In general, whether using manipulated polls or anecdotes, there has been a concerted effort to depict Muslims as overwhelmingly homophobic. Yet whenever there have been initiatives to help combat homophobia among Muslims, or when Muslim groups and mosques denounce homophobia, the same reactionaries who claim to care about the issue can barely contain their sneers. For what it's worth, I consider such tactics similar to those deployed by the Right (and, as it happens, the FBI) to divide black and Jewish groups in the United States by putting it about that black people are antisemitic - in an attempt to break up an historic coalition between oppressed groups. I raise all this because the burden of a recent attack article on British Muslims by Johann Hari involves the suggestion that Muslims just don't accept gays, and are in fact engaging in an escalating wave of violence against them. He writes:
The most detailed opinion survey of British Muslims was carried out by Gallup, who correctly predicted the result of the last general election. In their extensive polling, they found literally no British Muslims who would say homosexuality is "morally acceptable." Every one of the Muslims they polled objected to it. Even more worryingly, younger Muslims had more stridently anti-gay views than older Muslims. These attitudes have consequences - and they are worst of all for gay Muslims, who have to live a sham half-life of lies, or be shunned by their families.
No, Muslims are not the only homophobes among us. But the gap between them and the rest is startling. It's zero percent of British Muslims vs. 58 percent of other Brits who say we are "acceptable."
Hari isn't stupid. He knows perfectly well that this isn't a credible figure, that no one actually believes it. It is quite obviously a statistical freak. The results of previous polls, the existence of British Muslims who are gay, and the existence of British Muslims who are vocally supportive of gay rights, simply make it impossible that 0% of Muslims consider gays to be acceptable. If even the reactionary anti-Muslim wind-ups find at least 30% of Muslims who accept gays, then we can assume that this poll is an outlier. But this really doesn't need to be demonstrated - it's just common sense. Just as it's a common sense inference that almost 100% of Islamophobes in Britain are white.
Hari went on to claim:
"East London has seen the highest increase in homophobic attacks anywhere in Britain. Everybody knows why, and nobody wants to say it. It is because East London has the highest Muslim population in Britain, and we have allowed a fanatically intolerant attitude towards gay people to incubate there, in the name of 'tolerance'".
Ava Vidal was pissed off with this, and wrote to explain that Met crime figures actually showed a reduction in anti-gay attacks in those areas with the highest Muslim populations. Hari snorted that she was "extremely unintelligent". But Vidal was just underlining a point that had already been made to Hari by Patrick Lilley of UK Black Pride, and which he had ignored. The exploitation of homophobia to demonise East End Muslims is becoming urgent as Islamophobes with the support of EDL members try to organise what they're calling an 'East End Gay Pride' event, though the organisers apparently have nothing whatever to do with the East End. This actually raises the possibility that EDL members, who didn't dare march in the East End previously, will now be able to get in there under the pretext of opposing homophobia. It would seem rather important, therefore, not to make injudicious, disproportionate, inflammatory or just bigoted comments scapegoating British Muslims for the very real homophobia that exists in Britain. Unfortunately, Hari - who does know better, so it must be a self-serving, calculated provocation - has acted in such a way as to set back the ongoing efforts to overcome divisions between Muslim and gay groups with this disingenuous diatribe.
And yes, this is 2011, and we're still having these ridiculous arguments, even after a spate of anti-gay beatings and killings that have had nothing to do with Muslims.