The East London Mosque, that legendary home of tolerance and moderation, has condemned a series of posters which have appeared in its local area, Tower Hamlets, containing a Koranic invocation and declaring the borough a “gay-free zone.” Dilowar Khan, the mosque’s director, was quoted in a council press release saying: “We stand together with our fellow citizens against all forms of hatred, including homophobia. We are committed to building strong and cohesive communities in Tower Hamlets, and our strength is that we will not let incidents of hate divide us.”
As so often, however, the East London Mosque speaks with forked tongue. Yesterday, it was due to demonstrate its deep commitment to “standing together against homophobia” by hosting a gala dinner with one Uthman Lateef, a homophobic preacher who has stated: “We don’t accept homosexuality… we hate it because Allah hates it.”
Mr Lateef is one of at least half a dozen homophobic preachers hosted or promoted by the East London Mosque, three of whom have been officially invited to deliver the Friday sermon. In 2007, as my Dispatches programme on the East London Mosque disclosed, a “Spot The Fag” contest was staged at the mosque. In recent years, there has been a sharp rise in homophobic hate crimes in Tower Hamlets – something which simply cannot be unconnected to the fact that hatred of gay people is allowed to be openly and regularly expressed inside one of the area’s most prominent institutions.
The technique of saying one thing designed to appeal to white liberals, while in fact doing the exact opposite, has been brought to a fine pitch by Islamists generally, and the East London Mosque in particular. The mosque’s idea of “standing against hatred” involves hosting literally dozens of hate, extremist and terrorist preachers on its premises – most famously, the al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. It now claims to have banished hate preachers from its building – but, as this blog has documented, continues to welcome them almost every month.
Why does the East London Mosque tell such obvious lies? Simply, because lies work. There is a part of liberal white society which would rather ignore or deny the problem of extremism, hatred and bigotry in some parts of some Muslim communities. The lies give them a form of permission to do so.
In that same council press release, the chairs of the Rainbow Hamlets LGBT Community Forum, a local gay group, condemned the anti-gay posters but added: “We also condemn those who use these incidents to create a moral panic and stoke up racist or Islamophobic sentiment. At present the people responsible cannot be accurately determined, but it is clear that whoever is responsible, they do not represent any of the local communities.”
This statement contains at least one palpable untruth, one questionable assumption, and one dubious elision. As any gay man in Tower Hamlets will tell you, and numerous victims of homophobic hate crime in the area have told me, “the people responsible” can be perfectly “accurately determined:” the hostility towards gay people in the borough comes largely from young Bangladeshis.
It seems rather unlikely that posters quoting the Koran were put up by evangelical Christians, yuppies, brogue-wearing trendies or members of the white working class, the other main parts of the Tower Hamlets community. And given the anti-gay activities allowed inside the area’s largest Muslim institution, and the expression of sentiments there almost exactly identical to those on the posters, it’s also hard to know how the LGBT Forum can be quite so confident that the posters are entirely unrepresentative of any of the local communities.
The rise of homophobic hatred in Tower Hamlets, even as the rest of London becomes more tolerant, cannot be solved unless its cause is honestly recognised. It is caused, not by Islam as such (there has, after all, been a huge Muslim community in the borough for more than forty years), but by something much more recent: the growth in the area of radical political Islam – Islamism – under the influence of groups like the East London Mosque and its controlling body, the Islamic Forum of Europe.
Islamism, in the words of one of the IFE cadres secretly filmed during our Dispatches programme, holds that Islam is far more than a religion, but also a prescription for how the whole of society must be. Attacks on gay people and others whose behaviour transgresses the Islamists’ idea of social norms are, therefore, a logical consequence of this. It is neither “racist” nor “Islamophobic” to oppose it.