Peter Tatchell plans to reach out to Muslims on LGBT rights

Peter Tatchell is launching a new campaign to convince everyday Muslims to embrace LGBT rights, and improve links between the LGBT and Muslim communities.

The veteran human rights campaigner will hold a street stall outside Whitechapel tube station in East London this Wednesday, in a bid to reach out to the local Muslim community.

Parts of East London have historically had issues with homophobia – with stickers previously put up declaring it a ‘gay free zone’ in 2011. Last year, then-Communities Secretary Eric Pickles warned about the problems with extremism, anti-Semitism and homophobia going unchallenged in the East London borough of Tower Hamlets.

Mr Tatchell told PinkNews: “Our initiative has been prompted by requests from East London LGBT Muslims who have suffered abuse and harassment, often from fellow Muslims. They’ve asked us to come to East London to challenge homophobic prejudice.”

“The aim of this campaign is to reach out, create dialogue and bring the Muslim and LGBT communities together, to oppose the prejudice, discrimination and hate crime that both communities experience.

“We want to support and empower LGBT Muslims, to give them a voice and visibility – and to tackle anti-LGBT prejudice in the Muslim community and anti-Muslim prejudice in the LGBT community”.

“We support LGBT Muslims. Like everyone else, they have a right to respect and acceptance.”

A number of LGBT Muslim volunteers will be joining Mr Tatchell for the parade.

Ejal Khan, a gay Muslim, social activist and a participant in the campaign, said: “It is imperative that our LGBT Muslim voices are heard and we engage with the mainstream Muslim community

“I’ve spoken in some mosques on LGBT issues but many mosques still don’t acknowledge and support their LGBT worshippers. That needs to change”.

Also joining Tatchell and Khan will be Sohail Ahmed, a gay Muslim from a devout Muslim family.

He said: “As a gay Muslim myself, I always feared that Muslims and non-Muslims alike would view me negatively for being both Muslim and gay.”

“I thought that mentioning I’m gay would make me and my religion look bad and that everyone would judge me as being a ‘fake Muslim’. I felt so alone and thought that no one would understand me. I never told anyone.”

“This campaign has the opportunity to change lives and even save some. I wish I had come across something like this during my darkest moments as a young gay Muslim.

“No one deserves to be alone and unsupported, especially not LGBT Muslims, who often go through extreme difficulties because of their sexuality, faith and ethnicity.”

The group was distribute leaflets from the LGBT Muslim organisation Imaan, the Naz and Matt Foundation and Asian LGBT groups.

This event will start outside Whitechapel, London this Wednesday, from 12pm until 2pm.