East London Mosque under pressure over hate preachers

I’ve written in some detail in today’s paper about the campaign of abuse, threats and violence being mounted by Muslim extremists in Tower Hamlets to “Islamise” this multicultural area. There were plenty of other examples I left out – the pharmacy assistant threatened for not wearing a veil, the Labour councillor targeted in an 18-month hate campaign for her “Western” dress, and so on.

Now some of the people worst affected – the local gay community – are increasingly taking a stand. Last week, a group of gay activists wrote a brave and important open letter drawing attention to the problems and the role in them of the fundamentalist East London Mosque, the area’s largest Muslim institution.

Though the mosque regularly claims to be opposed to hate, its actual actions expose this as a lie. Over the last few years, in the activists’ words, the East London Mosque has “hosted numerous hate preachers who have promoted the most vicious homophobia imaginable.”

This February, in the very same week it put its name to another press release condemning a sticker campaign declaring Tower Hamlets a “gay-free zone,” the mosque was preparing to host a gala dinner with Uthman Lateef, yet another homophobic preacher. The Facebook page of Mohammed Hasnath, the only person convicted of putting up the gay-free zone stickers, lists as one of his “likes” another homophobic preacher, Khalid Yasin, who describes Jews as “filth” and says gays should be executed. Yasin has spoken at least four times at the mosque since 2007.

As the gay activists put it: “While it is doubtful that many gaybashers are regular mosque attendees, the East London Mosque’s preachers have created an atmosphere in which hate is socially acceptable.” They call on the mosque to ban the preachers of hate from its premises.

The response of the mosque’s supporters is, quite extraordinarily, to blame the victims. According to Bob Pitt, of the “Islamophobia Watch” website, it is they who are the “bigots” for daring to “stitch up” the East London Mosque. (Bob’s passion for truth was also evident the other week, when he attacked me for an incorrect news-in-brief item about the mosque in the Telegraph which I did not write.)

On the same “Islamophobia Watch” website, Terry Stewart, of a group called Out East, repeats the bigot slur and claims that “the highest rates [of homophobic crime] are not in Tower Hamlets or communities with a high density of Muslim people.” Mr Stewart cites the unlikely borough of Kingston-on-Thames as an anti-gay hotbed, pointing out its 83% year-on-year increase in homophobic crimes.

Sadly for Mr Stewart, the “83 per cent rise” in Kingston turns out to be an increase from, ahem, 6 homophobic hate crimes a year to 11. Percentage changes always look dramatic when they are on tiny bases. The absolute number of gay hate crimes in Kingston last year was about an eighth of the number in Tower Hamlets.

It is true that four of the 32 London boroughs – Lambeth, Islington, Camden and Westminster – have higher absolute numbers of offences than Tower Hamlets. But those boroughs are where the vast majority of “gay London” is located – bars, clubs and gay neighbourhoods such as Vauxhall and Soho. They are among the epicentres of gay Europe. Their gay populations are swollen by tens of thousands of non-resident gay visitors every day. Therefore, contrary to Mr Stewart’s assertion, their “rates” of gay crime are substantially lower than that of Tower Hamlets, which has relatively few gay venues and few non-resident gay visitors.

Terry Stewart has form for making misleading claims in the service of his Islamist chums. As late as 10 March, he was still pushing an obviously preposterous line that the “gay-free zone” stickers quoting the Koran were a false-flag operation by the far right – even though the police had by then told many local gay activists that CCTV evidence existed of a young Asian man putting up the stickers. Was Mr Stewart among those activists that the police had told, I wonder?

Out East is, of course, a self-appointed grouplet which represents nobody – unlike the signatories of the letter, who include a number of well-respected people in the community. But even so, its behaviour is an illustration of the astonishing contortions the hard left can drive people into. How many other supposed gay activists do you know who spend their time attacking other gay people and defending proven homophobes?

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