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Consider this: an openly gay man works as a teacher in a state school in an area with a large Muslim population — say, Tower Hamlets in London's East End. Most of his pupils are Muslims. Some of the parents of these children decide that they're not keen on having their kids taught by a gay man. There is a stand-off. Should he stay or should he go? The Guardian's leader-writers scratch their heads. Whom should they support in such a "sensitive" situation?

The scenario is my invention. It is, as far as I know, still hypothetical, but it has the ring of feasibility. It throws into sharp relief the dilemma which has petrified the Left and its fellow-travellers within the social, educational and cultural establishment. When two parts of your worldview collide, when your traditional support for gay rights conflicts with your staunch and uncritical support of ethnic minority cultures, what do you do? Relativism has tied your hands. You conjure the possible intellectual somersaults you could perform to justify your reasoning. And then you stay silent.

The growth of Islam in Europe has consequences for gay men. But you wouldn't know it from a cursory perusal of the issues which preoccupy at any one time what is known as the "gay community". Civil partnerships, gay adoption or problems with Christian bed-and-breakfast owners and the allegedly latent homophobia of the Conservatives are all up there on the list. But, with a few honorable exceptions, such as the consistently principled activist Peter Tatchell, few voices are raised about the possible future problems for gay men in a rapidly changing demographic landscape. 

There was relatively little protest from the complacent mainstream metropolitan gay community when, as Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone invited to the capital the Islamic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a fundamentalist who supports the right of Islamic states to execute gays. The death penalty indeed exists in six Islamic nations, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Sudan. Pakistan and northern Nigeria have sharia, under which gay men can be put to death. The al-Fatiha Foundation, an international organisation that aims to support Muslim gays and lesbians, estimates that 4,000 homosexuals have been executed in Iran since the 1979 revolution. Egypt, while having no laws against homosexuality, has instead punished gays under public morality laws. In other Islamic countries, homosexuality is punishable with fines or prison.  

Gender and faith: The EastEnders Muslim character Syed Masood (Marc Elliott) wrestles with his sexuality and his religion after falling in love with Christian Clarke, played by John Partridge 

This is all a long way away, of course. In the UK, we might be shocked by fire-breathing imams telling their flocks that gays should be shunned, thrown from mountains or otherwise murdered, as was seen in two recent Channel 4 Dispatches programmes, but there is little follow-through or outrage. The feeling seems to be that if they are ignored, then these nasty men will go away, and that in any case they are not representative. 

That may well be true. But this ignores the widespread intolerance of homosexuality throughout the Muslim communities, which in Britain are growing up to ten times the rate of the rest. This community can only increase in power and predominance, especially when faced with a weak, vacillating establishment which will do anything to avoid making a scene, let along stand up for Western liberal values. 

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November 1st, 2010
11:11 PM
Justin - That's horrific. I hope that people have changed. If not, then I hope that the teachers now would have the guts to stand up and do something about it. Anonymous - I completely agree with your statement: "lso if there's 10 people at a bustop the fact that 7 of them don't want to kill you is irrelevant if they're not going to do anything to stop the 3 that do. " Cultural relativism is all well and good in theory but liberal people have to start realising that being uncritical of minority cultures is going to see human rights being attacked in a way these liberal people claim to abhor. I consider myself liberal but we can't just pretend that all cultures are okay just because they are also repressed.

June 6th, 2010
11:06 AM
That's nothing. Back in 1996 I was working at a secondary school in Oldham that was predominantly composed of Bangladeshi students. The students discovered that a physics teacher was Jewish and so they mounted a campaign to systematically wreck his lessons until he resigned. It went on for several weeks and before long every member of staff knew about it but no-one did anything. The 'left-wingers' on the staff backed the kids because they were 'black' and he was 'white' . Before long he did resign. The kids made it clear they would do the same to any other Jewish teacher, and that they loved Hitler and the Nazis BECAUSE they slaughtered the Jews. Perhaps they have changed now.

May 17th, 2010
7:05 PM
Lefty, So basically, you oppose everything and everyone because you want everyone to adhere to your way of thinking which in itself is totalitarian which means you oppose yourself? What a shitty day your birthday must be. Muslims aren't the problem, you are.

May 15th, 2010
10:05 PM
No dilemma at all. Lefties support the person being persecuted and marginalised. We oppose muslim communities oppressing and discriminating against gays just as much as we oppose anyone else oppressing and discriminating against gays. Or as much as we oppose a majority culture oppressing and discriminating against a minority one. There's no conflict at all. If muslims choose to oppress gays, then we oppose them. If christians choose to oppress muslims, then we oppose them. If some hypothetical group started oppressing christians, we'd oppose them. It's not rocket science.

May 13th, 2010
8:05 PM
Dr Munford. I applaud you for your hard work but nevertheless feel you're pissing in the wind with that one, and there is one hell of a storm coming. To challenge homophobia in Muslims is to challenge the Quran. To challenge the Quran is to challenge the word of God...good luck with that.

Dr John Munford
May 12th, 2010
9:05 PM
I'm a gay psychologist who ran a training project for 16-18 year olds in Brick Lane (80% of whom were Bengali Muslims) in Brick Lane from 2001-05. Peter is dead right about the pusillanimous response to Islamist homophobia from the Left Liberal establishment and its roots in cultural relativism. But I'm more optimistic about the likely efficacy of challenging homophobia amongst Muslim kids born here, having worked with them and done so successfully myself. It's a mistake to reduce people to their stated religious identification or ethnicity - that's precisely the problem with identity politics and multi-culturalism.

May 11th, 2010
7:05 PM
Jordan, Perhaps you have misunderstood or not read the above article? There is NOTHING typical about that Muslim family - I repeat NOTHING. Take a walk in a muslim area, see how many women walk along without wearing the hijab, burkha, nicab or any other vile sign of oppression. The man would be in serious danger of becoming a victim to an honour killing (which are on the rise in this country)and would WITHOUT DOUBT be disowned immediately by that loving family and the community that follows the religion of "peace". If the BBC truly wanted to be brave, they should show a typical muslim family and a typical muslim response which I assure you would be frighteningly different to that rose tinted tosh they put out.

May 10th, 2010
5:05 AM
I love the current Eastenders story line about the gay Muslim. It's very brave of them to show how a typical British Muslim family might react to the coming out of a gay son - with disgust and shame.

Frank Lee
May 6th, 2010
2:05 AM
As an American, I ask that Britons and other Europeans address this problem now rather than expect America to welcome you when your own culture becomes unlivable, owing to your cowardice. And, no, we are not all in this together: your condescension and general rudeness to Americans has alienated us fully. If you must, emmigrate to Australia or Canada, but do not expect to come to America: we do not want your defeatist multicultural nonsense here--we've got enough of our own to contend with.

alex preston
May 5th, 2010
8:05 AM
Why don't you write about lesbians and gay men? Why just gay men?

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