WORDS: Gary Kelly
The year is 2019, when I was a kid back in the 80’s I dreamed of the future, we were supposed to have flying cars and hover boards, instead people appear to be so obsessed with digging up the past we are having a National conversation AGAIN, not on homosexuality but on bigotry.
I’m not having that this is a discussion on the validity of LGBTQ people, I say again, this is about bigotry, to borrow a slogan: “They’re here, they’re queer, get over it!”. This isn’t about that, in the UK we have well established the fact that people are people first, their sexual orientation is just part of who they are, it does not define them. The content of their character defines them, the same as anyone else.
No, what this is is a conversation about a bigotry revival like some 1980’s tribute act. Once again it’s religion that is the root cause of it, but here is the thing, Mary Whitehouse is dead, it is in the case of Parkfield school in Birmingham predominantly Muslim parents who are leading the charge.
For those that don’t know
What is happening at Parkfield School is rather dark
There is a clear tension being let loose between the Muslim religion (and other Christian groups who have piled on) and the existence of the LGBT community. Sadly, it cannot just be said that this is the work of extremists given that 600 children have been taken out of Parkfield School. And now a total of 5 schools across Birmingham have joined the protest. The furore has developed due to the inception of the No Outsiders programme, which is not just about exploring the existence of LGBTQ people. No Outsiders is about promoting tolerance for all people in school, and in wider society.
No Outsiders has a focus on educating pupils on all aspects of the Equality Act. Focusing on diversity with an attempt to eliminate discrimination and prejudice. The programme is age appropriate and features lessons on disability, gender, race, sexuality and somewhat ironically religious differences. Using characters in books such as ‘Odd-Dog’, the programme is benign and age appropriate. A reflection of where we are as a society in 2019.
This isn’t about imposing on freedom of religion. It is entirely possible to say, “This isn’t what we believe in our religion but it’s the law and we have to follow that. But our interpretation of our religion is that an LGBTQ lifestyle is wrong”, (I cant quite believe I’m typing that out in 2019). This is a very interesting opportunity for people on the left, especially people whose politics are intersectional to reflect:
Which side of this debate do you fall on? Are you prepared to say publically? If not, why not?
In the interests of not getting spelks in my arse this is my view:
Othering LGBTQ people in 2019, in Britain, is not only morally wrong, it’s unlawful. Some of the rhetoric by community leaders, it could be said falls under the category of hate speech:
Amir Ahmed, a lead campaigner for the parents in Birmingham In an interview with the BBC said "Morally, we do not accept homosexuality as a valid sexual relationship to have."
I respect people’s rights to practice their religion but not when it creeps into this level of homophobia when a person is on the side of a flatbed truck in one viral video, leading a large crowd of people (including children) in chants of “Shame, Shame, Shame”. After saying things such as “The No Outsiders programme is telling people it’s okay to be Muslim and gay”.
Saying things like this, I found jaw droppingly intolerant. This isn’t some fringe ‘hate preacher’ sadly. What we are seeing is a mass protest on a daily basis, where the commitment has been made to first spread the protests across Birmingham and then across Britain.
Why do people think learning about gay relationships in school will turn their kids gay? I learned about football but I am yet to score the winner for Newcastle United in the FA Cup final. It is not a choice to be gay!
To speak to LGBTQ people seeing all this, you have my sympathy and I hope very much you don’t feel your lifestyle and who you are is invalid. To Muslim members of the LGBTQ community, I can’t begin to imagine how are you feeling. Just know you are loved, and accepted.
To members of the wider Muslim community, I ask that you find love in your hearts and feel empowered to stand up in the spirit of tolerance and understanding. I know from the messages I have received that there are many of you who are afraid to speak out, who are against this.
Please do speak out, we need your voices. Your brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community need you. Society needs you. We can heal this, together.
Given the feelings in the air around Brexit, my concern is that if this intolerance from inside the Muslim community does indeed spread nationwide, it could see some pretty awful and destructive scenes.
This kind of intolerance is like pouring petrol on a fire which feels like all it would take is a spark to set it off. Frightening times indeed.
It is an open goal for some bad actors on the far-right to further polarise society to suit their hateful agenda. To co-opt a response to this manifestation of intolerance, under the guise of tolerance and characterise themselves as standing up against ‘the Muslims’. Making people who follow Islam as all one thing. That is where hate spreads.
We all need to come together, to take a stand against intolerance, including our Muslim brothers and sisters who do not agree with intolerance in any form. We need to work together to dampen this down. As once the lid is fully off, it’s not going back on very easily. I’m very interested in hearing from people who are directly effected by this as well as from a wider perspective. From a philosophical perspective we have a real case of the law meets religion here not seen to this degree since Section 28 vs Christianity back in the 1980’s.
Let us have this right, this isn’t just about Islam, the social history of this country shows Christianity has traditionally been the spearhead of this kind of puritanical behaviour. In this case, in 2019, Islam appears to be the vanguard of religious intolerance towards homosexuality.
In an ICM study for Channel 4 within the British Muslim community, when asked whether homosexuality should be legal in the U.K., 52% said they disagreed. This compares with 5% of the population at large.
When asked: ‘Is it acceptable for a homosexual to become a teacher?’ 47% said they did not agree it was acceptable compared to 14% of the wider populous.
Trevor Phillips, the former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, was quoted as saying that the findings were “extremely worrying” as there is suggestion on many issues Muslims were “nation within a nation”.
So what do we do?
We need to have a rational and reasonable conversation directly in our wider community with people who are willing to explore the similarities between people rather than the differences. It seems to me that there needs to be a No Outsiders programme focussed on adults. The children seem fine.
The left needs to get it’s act together, well aspects of it at least, stop being squeamish and call out intolerance wherever we find it. Including in the Muslim community. Inaction is ceding ground to far right bad actors who seek to further divide, to not find common ground and unity with the Muslim community. To further isolate our Muslim brothers and sisters by characterising them as just one voice. None of that is good.
Traditionally the response by the left to this kind of thing has been pitiful. It has to stop now, lest it gets out of hand and serves as a spark to a raging wildfire that none of us can control because we were to tied up in ‘which group is the most oppressed’ to actually try to put the fire out before it burned us all.
Let us approach each other with love in our hearts and kindness as our compass at all times. No matter what, if we do that I guarantee you we will find more that we have in common than we do not. Let us all find common ground and fly off into the sunset on hover boards, holding hands, together. It is 2019 after all.