Thursday, April 27, 2006

MCB: Homosexuality is sinful (official)

After having drawn attention on this blog to an alleged concerted campaign by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and gay rights groups to eradicate homophobia amongst the Muslim community the MCB has issued a press statement denying that there is any substance to the story published by Marc Shoffman on pinknews.co.uk,  stating categorically that "the practice of homosexuality is sinful in Islam" and that "homosexual relationships are sinful and clearly go against Islamic teachings".

The MCB clarification goes on to say that "The article written by Marc Shoffman contained various inaccuracies that have misrepresented the MCB. Chief amongst them is the reference to a 5-year plan endorsed by the MCB. Abdul Aziz has confirmed to the MCB that no such plan exists and that the reference to one was entirely fictional."

Since no correction appeared on the pinknews site and the above MCB release indicates that Abdul Aziz is a real person who is in contact with them, the retraction by the MCB raises questions of its own and I asked Shenaz Yusuf, media officer with the MCB to clarify the actual position of Abdul Aziz who according to the MCB statement was incorrectly described as a "policy advisor" but has made statements on their behalf in the capacity of "consultant adviser" before. I also asked her what action the MCB intended to take against Marc Shoffman or Abdul Aziz to ensure that the misrepresentation of the MCB does not continue. After all, when informing me of the MCB press release she had written: "I'm very surprised that you should have suspected that the MCB would be involved in any such endeavour and irked that you did not seek to ascertain the veracity of the alleged 'campaign' by speaking to a member of the MCB."

Sadly, the reply to those simple questions proved less than satisfactory. About Abdul Aziz it said: "Abdul Aziz is not a Policy Advisor to the MCB. He is not a member of
the Central Working Committee nor does he hold any official position whatsoever within the organisation. The MCB sometimes asks him to attend meetings on our behalf if necessary."
So hang on, whilst he has no position with the MCB, the MCB does sometimes ask him to attend meetings on their behalf. So this does make him a kind of consultant. And when he does attend meetings on behalf of the MCB, presumably he speaks in their name? Did the MCB send him to meet with Marc Shoffman?

As for my other question, I was now asked to apologise for not checking with the MCB about a story which they themselves could not be bothered to ask for a retraction. The pinknews article stood unchallenged for over two weeks, and only after I made reference to it in my blog was a statement denying its truths issued by the MCB. And now I was told: "We cannot correct every misrepresentation in the media. We simply issue statements clarifying our position in the hope that people with good intentions will take note…Since it was Abdul Aziz whose comments were misrepresented as MCB policy, the matter of retraction is his to pursue." This was followed by: "I would ask that since you appear to have taken the published
account on Pink News as gospel truth, without verification of the claims contained therein from the MCB itself; something that would have entailed a mere phone call, that you apologise to the organisation for not seeking its own comments before maligning it in this way."

Who said the MCB was arrogant? After all, if somebody makes a statement or gives an interview on behalf of an organisation like the MCB and says what he shouldn't have, it is for the organisation to rein him in, not for me or the public to wonder whether he might have just fallen from grace. And if the organisation is misrepresented in public, it is for the organisation to seek a retraction, rather than put the onus on the reader.

To make doubly sure I asked whether Abdul Aziz had been sent by the MCB to meet Marc Shoffman or whether they were at least aware of him having this meeting. I also asked whether they had requested and received any apologies from either of them. I was told that they had received an apology from Abdul Aziz who "was greatly apologetic for not stepping in and correcting the errors sooner but then given his having suffered a mugging on the day the news appeared, it would have been unkind to have expected swift action. We have requested that he also pursue the matter of correction with Marc Shoffman." Nothing about the first question, but if I read this reply correctly it tells me that for Abdul Aziz to pursue this matter with Marc Shoffman on behalf of the MCB he must be in touch or know where to find him.

Not wanting to be chastised again for lack of communication with the MCB's media office, I reiterated the question about whether Abdu Aziz attended a meeting with Marc Shoffman on behalf of the MCB or with their knowledge, and finally got this: "There was no meeting with Marc Shoffman. Abdul Aziz was referred a telephone enquiry to apprise Marc of the work of the MCB's legal affairs committee on anti-discrimination issues surrounding the enforcement of the EU directive on equality in the workplace. He was once asked to step in and attend a meeting on this when the MCB official could not be present."

So in plain English Abdul Aziz did talk to Marc Shoffman upon the request of the MCB (albeit on the telephone) but also once attended a meeting on their behalf to cover for an MCB official. In other words, he acted on behalf of the MCB. He may have messed up by doing so, maybe with best intentions. Maybe he was keen that the MCB should not fall foul of anti-discrimination rules, which include discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, seeing that funding these days is hard to obtain without subscribing to these. Maybe those discussions weren't meant to go public. But why I should I take the blame for it all? Or need we now check every statement given by somebody on MCB business with somebody else from the MCB, just in case they can't agree amongst themselves or differ in what they say behind closed doors and what they state to the public?

3 Comments:

At 27 April 2006 at 17:04, Blogger Peter Tatchell said...

Dear Mustaquim and readers,

Here is a copy of OutRage!'s response to the MCB's rejection of dialogue with gay groups.

Please note the link to the minutes of the DTI meeting where Mr Aziz was recorded as making comments supportive of gay-Muslim dialogue. You can read for yourself what the DTI minutes say:

http://www.edf.org.uk/publications/MinsJan06Mtg.doc

Solidarity! Peter

Muslim Council rejects gay dialogue

Action against homophobia axed

MCB reverts to hardline anti-gay stance

London – 27 April 2006

The Muslim Council of Britain has rejected talks with gay organisations and rebuffed proposals to tackle homophobia within the Muslim community.

Inayat Bunglawala, media spokesperson for the MCB, has disowned the MCB’s advisor on equality issues, Muhammed Aziz.

Mr Aziz had endorsed dialogue with gay groups and indicated the MCB’s commitment to tackle prejudice and discrimination against gay people.

Mr Aziz made this commitment during round table equality talks that included gay lobby group Stonewall. The talks were sponsored by the Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF) of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Mr Aziz is named on the forum’s membership list as an MCB advisor and is described as representing the MCB at the forum.

See the EDF minutes:

http://www.edf.org.uk/publications/MinsJan06Mtg.doc

The DTI talks resulted in outline agreement on a five-year plan for dialogue between Muslim and gay groups and for joint action against homophobia within the Muslim community and against Islamophobia within the gay community.

Everyone thought an amicable agreement had been reached until Mr Bunglawala denounced the talks with the claim: "There are no talks with any gay groups anywhere."

Mr Bunglawala told the Islam TV Channel that the MCB rejected dialogue with gay representatives. Opposing any Muslim and gay cooperation on equality issues, he reiterated the MCB’s hardline homophobic condemnation of same-sex relationships as “sinful” and “not acceptable.”

He also said: “We do not believe that it (same-sex love) is in any way equal with marriage between man and wife. We do not accept the idea of gay adoption; we believe it is completely wrong.”

Mr Bunglawala is apparently so anti-gay that he refused to speak to journalists from the online Pink News service.

“We are deeply saddened that the Muslim Council of Britain has slammed the door on dialogue with the gay community and has rejected proposals to tackle homophobia,” said gay Muslim Aaron Saeed, who is the Muslim Affairs spokesperson of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights group OutRage!

“OutRage! and Stonewall are willing to work with the MCB to combat homophobia and Islamophobia. Sadly, the MCB is unwilling to reciprocate our offer of cooperation and solidarity.

“We applaud Mr Aziz’s efforts to promote constructive engagement between the gay and Muslim communities. It is a great pity his commendable, generous outreach has been dashed by Mr Bunglawala and the rest of the MCB leadership,” said Mr Saeed.

OutRage! spokesperson Peter Tatchell confirms that he has written to MCB leader Sir Iqbal Sacranie “many times” in the last few years, urging “mutual understanding, tolerance and respect.”

“All our efforts to promote an exchange of ideas and a common agenda for equality have been ignored by the MCB,” said Mr Tatchell.

“It was a big setback when Sir Iqbal Sacranie earlier this year denounced gay people as harmful, immoral, unacceptable and diseased,”

“Official news releases on the MCB’s website attack gay equality and demonise same-sex relationships as ‘offensive’, ‘immoral’ and ‘repugnant’. Some of the MCB’s tirades against lesbians and gays echo the homophobic hate language of the BNP.

“The MCB opposed all the gay equality reforms of the last decade. On every issue, it supported legal discrimination.

“The MCB opposed an equal age of consent, same-sex civil partnerships and the outlawing of homophobic discrimination in the workplace. It also backed the retention of Section 28 and a ban on gay couples fostering or adopting children,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!

“One reason the MCB refuses to participate in Holocaust Memorial Day is because it objects to the ceremony including a commemoration of what it dismisses as ‘the so-called gay genocide.’ The MCB regards the murder of gay people in Nazi death camps as unworthy of remembrance.

“This year's Festival of Muslim Cultures is being funded by the Home Office and the British Council. Its aim is to showcase the “diversity and plurality” of Muslim communities. But the festival has banned gay Muslim events from its programme, allegedly at the insistence of the MCB,” said Mr Tatchell.

Further information: Brett Lock, OutRage!, 0770 843 5917

 
At 27 April 2006 at 17:29, Blogger Peter Tatchell said...

PS: Mr Aziz's first name is Muhammed, not Abdul, as the MCB claims.

 
At 3 May 2006 at 03:26, Anonymous Rasheed Eldin said...

First of all in response to Tatchell: presumably his name is Muhammad Abdul Aziz. You don't have to make this into another controversy!

I wrote about this over at my blog. See the following posts:
http://gaymuslims.wordpress.com/2006/04/12/mcb-to-fight-homophobia/
http://gaymuslims.wordpress.com/2006/04/24/mcb-not-to-fight-homophobia/

I did e-mail the MCB several times, but didn't receive even the simplest reply. That was me as a sympathetic person. So it seems pretty unfair for them to be annoyed at you not checking every detail with them.

 

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