GEORGE BROADHEAD, Secretary of the UK LGBT charity the Pink Triangle Trust – publisher of The Pink Humanist – describes as ‘baseless nonsense’ an accusation that Islamophobia was generated by the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, who participated in London Pride in July 2017

LONDON Pride this year gave members of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain a marvellous opportunity to raise their profile, and to condemn hardline Islamism for impeding human rights, and LGBT rights in particular. However, within hours of the march, pressure was put on the organisers of Pride to ban CEMB members from taking part in future parades. Most of that pressure came from the East London Mosque.

The organisers then promised to consider banning the group, a move that infuriated the PTT’s George Broadhead who said in a statement that “this decision is appalling. The accusation from the East London Mosque that the CEMB was inciting hatred against Muslims at this year’s London Pride event is baseless nonsense.

“East London Mosque seems to have made a brazen attempt to deflect criticism of its bad record on LGBT rights.

“It has a history of inviting ultra homophobic speakers to its meetings. Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has revealed that he has asked the mosque to meet LGBT Muslims 11 times since 2015 – and all his invitations had been rejected.  Pride in London seems to be ignoring the widespread Islamic hostility to LGBT+ relationships and rights, notably the barbaric treatment of LGBT+ people in Islamic theocracies like Saudi Arabia in which Sharia Law dictates that they are publicly beheaded, stoned or flogged.

“The Islamic penalty for apostasy (abandoning the religion) is death, and this of course applies to members of the CEMB, and a recent survey has indicated that more than half of British Muslims (52 percent) think homosexuality should be illegal and nearly half (47 percent) think it is inappropriate for gay people to teach in schools.

“The PTT maintains that the CEMB has every right to draw attention to hostility from Islam and urges Pride in London organisers not to place religion beyond criticism. This would be a highly regressive step and contrary to its presumed aim to counter homophobia from any source.”

Mohammed Shafiq

Later, in August, Mohammed Shafiq, Chief Executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, described the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain as a “rampant Islamophobic organisation” that has made its mission “to demonise Islam and the religious beliefs of Muslims.”

According to this report, in a televised debate on Russia Today, Shafiq commented on the presence of CEMB members at the London Pride rally on July 8 who carried signs bearing slogans like “We’re here. We’re kaffir. Get used to it”, “Celebrating apostasy” and “Make LGBT rights universal”.

They also displayed a list of Muslim states that punish homosexuality with the death penalty – including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Pakistan.

Shafiq added: “Let’s just say, is there a council of ex-Christians? Is there a Council of ex-Jews? A Council of ex-Hindus? A Council of ex-Sikhs?”

As a matter of fact, Mr Shafiq, there are organisations for people other than Muslims who have ditched religion. ExChristian.Net is one. Then there’s Recovering From Religion, and The New Humanist’s Apostasy Project which features accounts of people of all faiths who now consider themselves non-believers. The Clergy Project has a pretty extensive list of organisations for apostates.

Shafiq said he was puzzled that people who opted to cut ties with Islam continued to meddle is Muslim affairs.

“Let’s accept that they’ve got a right to leave Islam – then why are they constantly obsessed about Islam? They need to get a life. Move on. Enjoy their life and their ‘new freedom’ as they tell us,” said Shafiq.

The CEMB participation in Pride  was met with outrage from devout worshippers and British Muslim organisations – the East London Mosque in particular – but the group rejected criticism of their actions, saying: “We don’t need your permission to march for LGBT rights or the rights of apostates.”

Despite being met with heavy criticism, the group’s spokesman Jimmy Bangash confirmed that members of the Council of ex-Muslims would continue to loudly protest the persecution of minorities within Islam and any other faith groups.

He added: “If religion is legislating against people, like gays, we will challenge that. And we will challenge that boldly. We will challenge that in meaningful ways, holding signs that provoke thought.”

Human rights activist Peter Tatchell backed Mr Bangash’s sentiments, arguing that the group’s participation in the LGBT protest was justified.

“Hatred against people is always wrong, whether they’d be Muslim or anyone else. But criticising bigoted intolerant ideas is entirely right and proper.”

Tatchell said the group was merely “targeting Islamist homophobia, [not] Muslim people or even Islam, in general.”

He added: “The Council of ex-Muslims has never criticised or condemned Muslim people. It has only condemned and criticised Islamist extremists, who advocate hatred and violence against LGBT people.”

Shafiq’s questions and comments were batted down by Bangash, who describes himself as “a British Pakistani, who grew up as a gay individual in a Muslim family.”

He added: “Asking us to leave the religion and then be silent about our kin across the world, who are being victimised by the Muslim states, is an absurd request.”

According to him, the group has no intentions of spreading Islamophobia in the British society:

“This is my community. I have no interest in galvanising hate against Muslims because I’ll be subjected to that same hate.”

The CEMB’s Maryam Namazie explained in an op-ed for the Freethinker that “the very reason CEMB was at Pride was to combat hate and to highlight the 13 states under Islamic rule that kill gay men (14 if we include Daesh-held territories). We included placards on the East London mosque to bring attention to the fact that there are mosques here in Britain that promote the death penalty for homosexuality and apostasy.

“As ex-Muslims, we are at risk from hate preachers that speak at some mosques and universities; our  gay members are at an increased risk.

“The East London Mosque has a long history of hosting hate preachers who incite against blasphemers, apostates and homosexuals so we felt naming and shaming them was very apt.

“In our experience, whenever incitement to hate and violence has been exposed, it is explained away as mere ‘theology’. We beg to differ.”

She alleged that the mosque “is part and parcel of the Islamist movement. The East London Mosque (and its affiliate, the London Muslim Centre) share the ideology of the Jamaat-e-Islami – the Salafis of South Asia so their promotion of an Islamist worldview that imposes the death penalty for homosexuality, apostasy and blasphemy is business as usual.

“Self-appointed ‘Muslim leaders’ say our placards were ‘Islamophobic’.  But in our point of view, Islam, like all religions, is homophobic. Why is it not possible to say this without accusations of Islamophobia?”