Being lied about by liars is an occupational hazard of my job – but even by its own Olympian standards of untruthfulness, the East London Mosque’s latest justification for hosting its latest extremist and homophobic bigot is a classic.
Less than a month ago, after a row over its repeated hosting of homophobic preachers, the mosque promised: “Any speaker who is believed to have said something homophobic will not be allowed to use our premises.” Alas, precisely eight days after issuing this ringing pledge, it was announced that the East London Mosque would host a public meeting – not just on its premises, but chaired by its own director – with one Yusuf Patel, a man who most certainly has “said something homophobic.”
In fact, Patel has said lots of homophobic things. Here he is, for instance (at an earlier meeting at the, ahem, East London Mosque) saying that homosexuality is “not an acceptable lifestyle” and a “sin against Allah.” In Islamic theology sinners against Allah tend to come to sticky ends, I understand. One of the principal purposes of Patel’s SREIslamic group, which co-organised last week’s meeting, is to campaign for “the unacceptability of homosexuality.” I think all this just might be covered by the mosque’s promise, don’t you?
Instead of facing up to its own dishonesty and bad faith, the mosque has taken refuge in yet further lies and irrelevancies. The first red herring is to claim that because someone from a Christian anti-abortionist group was speaking alongside Patel, and the subject of the meeting was sex education in schools, that somehow excuses the almost immediate breach of the mosque’s clear pledge. It doesn’t, of course. Indeed, using other organisations and issues as cover to draw people in is one of the oldest plays in the extremist book. The mosque’s argument is akin to claiming that it would be all right for, say, a Christian cathedral to host a meeting with Nick Griffin, chaired by the dean, so long as he promised to confine his remarks to education policy.
The second irrelevance is to claim that Patel is no longer a member of the extremist group Hizb ut Tahrir.
And now for the lies: it is untrue to claim, as the mosque does in its statement, that “the actual parental campaign at the centre of the story was not even talking about homosexuality at all.” SREIslamic most certainly does talk about the unacceptability of homosexuality, both in the first sentence of its statement of values and in its more recent literature (they took all this offline last week, but we’ve got paper copies.) It is untrue for the mosque to claim that “those hate preachers who circumvented our bookings policy in the past are now barred.” As I have reported before, several hate preachers have appeared at the mosque since this supposed “bar” came into effect.
It is untrue to claim, as the mosque and its echoes in the blogosphere often do, including in its latest statement, that the Daily Telegraph has corrected any story I wrote about it: the correction was to a news-in-brief item (six months ago!) written by someone else. And if that 50-word piece, in all the tens of thousands of words we’ve written about the East London Mosque, is the only fault they’ve been able to find, I think we’re doing pretty well.
Over the last eighteen months I have repeatedly accused the East London Mosque of, among other things, hosting extremists and of lying about them – clearly libellous charges, if wrong. This is a mosque which sues at the drop of a hat (at least once, I might add, on the basis of a claim we can now prove to be a lie.) Yet in all that time the mosque has made no attempt to sue us, because our charges are not wrong and they know they would lose.
Finally, in its latest statement, the mosque employs the time-honoured gambit of misrepresenting me in order to deny a number of things that I never actually said. I have never, for instance, claimed that the purpose of the SREIslamic meeting was to “make an out and out call to attack gays.” I drew attention to the meeting because it is in clear breach of the mosque’s promise to bar from its premises anyone who has said anything homophobic. Nor, of course, have I ever portrayed the East End as a place “at war” where “moderate Muslims are quaking in fear,” an absurd misrepresentation.
All these are intellectual tricks that would not fool a reasonably alert ten-year-old – and indeed only one slightly dim blogger, Sunny Hundal, seems to have been fooled by them. The mosque’s PR contortions impress diminishingly few, outside the ranks of the usual useful idiots. They simply expose the weakness of its case. It is now time – actually it is long past time – for the East London Mosque to decide whether it actually wants to join tolerant, 21st-century multicultural London, or just carry on pretending that it has done so.
Contrary to what was stated in an earlier version of this blog, Yusuf Patel has asked us to point out that he did not leave Hizb ut Tahrir because it was not strong enough on the issue of sexual “deviance”.