Consider this: an openly gay man works as a teacher in a state school in an area with a large Muslim population — say, Tower Hamlets in London's East End. Most of his pupils are Muslims. Some of the parents of these children decide that they're not keen on having their kids taught by a gay man. There is a stand-off. Should he stay or should he go? The Guardian's leader-writers scratch their heads. Whom should they support in such a "sensitive" situation?
The scenario is my invention. It is, as far as I know, still hypothetical, but it has the ring of feasibility. It throws into sharp relief the dilemma which has petrified the Left and its fellow-travellers within the social, educational and cultural establishment. When two parts of your worldview collide, when your traditional support for gay rights conflicts with your staunch and uncritical support of ethnic minority cultures, what do you do? Relativism has tied your hands. You conjure the possible intellectual somersaults you could perform to justify your reasoning. And then you stay silent.
The growth of Islam in Europe has consequences for gay men. But you wouldn't know it from a cursory perusal of the issues which preoccupy at any one time what is known as the "gay community". Civil partnerships, gay adoption or problems with Christian bed-and-breakfast owners and the allegedly latent homophobia of the Conservatives are all up there on the list. But, with a few honorable exceptions, such as the consistently principled activist Peter Tatchell, few voices are raised about the possible future problems for gay men in a rapidly changing demographic landscape.
There was relatively little protest from the complacent mainstream metropolitan gay community when, as Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone invited to the capital the Islamic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a fundamentalist who supports the right of Islamic states to execute gays. The death penalty indeed exists in six Islamic nations, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Sudan. Pakistan and northern Nigeria have sharia, under which gay men can be put to death. The al-Fatiha Foundation, an international organisation that aims to support Muslim gays and lesbians, estimates that 4,000 homosexuals have been executed in Iran since the 1979 revolution. Egypt, while having no laws against homosexuality, has instead punished gays under public morality laws. In other Islamic countries, homosexuality is punishable with fines or prison.
Gender and faith: The EastEnders Muslim character Syed Masood (Marc Elliott) wrestles with his sexuality and his religion after falling in love with Christian Clarke, played by John Partridge
This is all a long way away, of course. In the UK, we might be shocked by fire-breathing imams telling their flocks that gays should be shunned, thrown from mountains or otherwise murdered, as was seen in two recent Channel 4 Dispatches programmes, but there is little follow-through or outrage. The feeling seems to be that if they are ignored, then these nasty men will go away, and that in any case they are not representative.
That may well be true. But this ignores the widespread intolerance of homosexuality throughout the Muslim communities, which in Britain are growing up to ten times the rate of the rest. This community can only increase in power and predominance, especially when faced with a weak, vacillating establishment which will do anything to avoid making a scene, let along stand up for Western liberal values.
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