Gay campaigners welcome mosque’s pledge

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Gay rights campaigners have welcomed what they say is the first significant promise from the East London Mosque to stop hosting homophobic speakers.

Earlier this week, a letter signed by 12 activists, including writers Julie Bindel and Paul Burston, said it was clear that there was a religious campaign in east London to intimidate gay people.

The letter, which cited numerous examples of homophobic speakers invited to the mosque, called on local Muslim leaders to pledge to ban them.

In response, East London Mosque spokesman Salman Farsi told the Guardian that homophobic speakers were not permitted.

“Any speaker who is believed to have said something homophobic will not be allowed to use our premises, whether that is us organising an event or someone else. As for the condemnation of homophobia, our director has gone on the record on this,” he said.

He added that the £100 fine was a “slap on the wrist” and said the mosque was doing “as much as we possibly can”.

Activists who signed the first letter welcomed the comments but demanded the mosque should declare the new policy on its website.

A statement said: “We, the undersigned, welcome the East London Mosque’s statement that they will no longer allow their premises to be used by homophobic speakers and take them at their word.

“Eliminating a platform for hate in such an influential institution as the East London Mosque is a strong, positive action and will have a very positive effect on both the local gay and Muslim communities.

“We request that the East London Mosque make this policy known on its website – and to the Muslim, Asian and East London media – so that the entire community can see their commitment to stopping homophobia and to improving community relations.”

The demand for more action from the mosque came after a local man was fined just £100 for distributing anti-gay stickers in the area.

Homophobic hate crime has risen in Tower Hamlets over the last year, from 61 offences to 87. In 2008, gay man Oliver Hemsley was paralysed in a homophobic attack on Hackney Road, close to gay nightspots George & Dragon and The Joiners Inn.