The presence of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) on London Pride has caused a politically awful backlash by the left and others. Counterfire commented “Islamophobic placards have no place at Pride”. Socialist Worker state, “a small group of around ten racists also joined the parade with placards attacking Muslims.” This was followed by an official complaint against them by the East London Mosque.
Counterfire compared some of the placards carried by the CEMB as “something the EDL or a Nazi would carry... so how were they even allowed on the parade?” What did the placards say? “Fuck Islamic Homophobia”, “Allah is Gay”, “Protest Bigotry Defend Blasphemy”, “Throw ISIS off the Roof” and “East London mosque incites murder of LGBT” among others.
Maryam Namazie the groups spokesperson has defended their stance: “We were Muslims once; our loved ones are Muslims... And fascists and bigots cannot tell any of us apart anyway. We all look the same to them. But as a minority within a minority facing serious threats to our lives, shunning, ostracisation, discrimination (and that’s only in Britain), is it fair to ask us to remain silent because of other forms of persecution or bigotry?
“Why can we not confront racism and homophobia, bigotry and hatred against apostates, women, blasphemers… To do that, we have to be able to criticise the far-Right (including our far-Right — the Islamists) and religion and regressive beliefs.”
The East London mosque say that the placards incited hatred against Muslims and that the mosque has played a role in combatting homophobia in the Muslim community. CEMB counter that some mosques and universities and their student unions are happy to invite preachers that call for the death penalty for homosexuality and apostasy.
While we might not endorse all the slogans or the way that the “Fuck Islam” part of “Fuck Islamic Homophobia” was in a different colour, we stand fully behind CEMB in their right to be on Pride and to use the slogans they did. The East London Mosque has invited speakers sympathetic, or affiliated, to Jamaat-e-Islami, the Bangladeshi Salafist group that has no qualms with calling for the death of LGBT Muslims.
CEMB say in their statement that they consider all religions to be homophobic and as ex-Muslims their target is understandably the faith of their background. Offence is no good reason to restrict free speech, but when those who are offended choose to back themselves with threats, it becomes more important that groups like CEMB are able to make themselves heard.
Pride have confirmed that the complaint has been referred to their community advisory board adding that; “While our parade has always been a home to protest, which often means conflicting points of view, Pride must always be a movement of acceptance, diversity and unity. We will not tolerate Islamophobia.”
CEMB respond with; “There were for sure some Muslims who were offended by our presence and others who supported us, as there were some Christians who were offended by placards poking fun at Christianity and others who found them funny.”
“Criticism of Islam or Islamism is not anti-Muslim bigotry just as criticism of Christianity or the DUP is not anti-Christian bigotry.
“CEMB plans to be at Pride next year and every year and hopes the community advisory board sides with dissenters and those fighting for LGBT rights and not those inciting hatred against Muslim and ex-Muslim LGBT.”