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?