Ex-Muslim group hit back after Pride ‘Allah is gay’ sign row: ‘They are trying to silence us’

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The Council of Ex-Muslims of Great Britain (CEMB) has hit back after the controversy concerning their placards at the Pride in London parade earlier this month.

Members of the secularist group held signs reading “Allah is gay” and “F**k Islamic Homophobia”, prompting an official complaint from the East London Mosque claiming that the group “was inciting hatred against Muslims”.

Prior to the march, the CEMB rejected claims of Islamophobia, their co-founder Maryam Namazie saying: “We need to stand up to racism and bigotry and at the same time we should be able to criticise religion and the religious right… people should be allowed to criticise without threat or intimidation.”

CEMB at Pride

Following last week’s complaint from the East London Mosque, Namazie took issue with the suggestion that the signs and protest were in any way “anti-Muslim” – the group also published a full press release outlining its response in full.

“Why are signs critical of Islam (a belief) and Islamism (a far-right political movement) ‘anti-Muslim’?” she told Pink News.

“Muslims are people, with as many different opinions as anyone else. They are not a homogeneous group but individuals.

“Some will agree with us, others won’t. In fact, several Muslims visiting from Bangladesh joined us.

“The incredible support we received from minorities in the crowd cheering us on is a reflection of that. Not everyone was offended. And offence can never be a reason to censor and silence dissent.”

She added that ex-Muslims, including LGBT ex-Muslims, should have the right to speak beyond the confines of Islam and away from the control of “regressive” so-called leaders, including the East London Mosque.

“The East London mosque’s accusation that we are inciting hatred against Muslims for criticising their incitement to violence against apostates and LGBT would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic and if so many didn’t buy into it,” she said.

“The East London mosque has a history of inciting hate and violence against apostates and LGBT. It has clear links to the Islamist movement which executes apostates and gay men.

“Moreover, it has no ‘track record for challenging homophobia’. If so, where is its support for Muslim and ex-Muslim LGBT or LGBT persecuted outside of Britain in countries under Sharia?”

Namazie argued that the Mosque has refused dialogue with the LGBT community.

She noted that Peter Tatchell claimed to have asked to meet with the Mosque 11 times since 2015 but been knocked back each time.

Muslim LGBT

Namazie added of the Mosque: “There is ample evidence that they are inciting violence against apostates and LGBT. Their complaint is an attempt to censor and silence us.

“The fact that they feel able to do so, and that their complaint is taken seriously by Pride speaks volumes about the climate we live in where bullies and homophobes are rewarded and victims blamed.”

The group rejected claims that its posters reading F**k Islamic Homophobia, with the words F**k Islam standing out in red, were problematic.

“We never said ‘F**k Muslim Islamophobia’ but referred to a belief – Islam. There is a distinction between criticising a belief and attacking people,” she said.

“Initially the centre of complaints was our ‘Allah is Gay’ placards. Now it is focused on our ‘F**k Islamic homophobia’ signs. When that is addressed, it will be something else.

“The real problem for them is that we are ex-Muslims. We are not allowed to speak or show ourselves or challenge views that degrade and denigrate us.”

Namazie also said that a secularist group like CEMB would be happy to work with Muslim LGBT groups such as Imaan, who have a presence at Pride, to improve the lives and rights of Muslim LGBT people.

“Secularism is just a framework that ensures the separation of religion from the state in order to defend the rights of believers and non-believers,” she said.

“This is not possible, for example, in a theocracy. We will work with Muslim, non-Muslim groups that want to defend the rights of LGBT but also the rights of other minorities within minorities.

“We will stand unequivocally with Muslim LGBT groups for basic human rights and against racism. The question is, when will they stand with ex-Muslims, the Kafirs, the unbelievers?”

Following the controversy, Pride in London issued a statement to the Evening Standard, saying: “If anyone taking part in our parade makes someone feel ostracised, discriminated against or humiliated, then they are undermining and breaking the very principles on which we exist. Our code of conduct is very clear on this matter.

“All volunteers, staff and parade groups agree that Pride celebrates diversity and will not tolerate any discrimination of any kind.

“While our parade has always been a home to protest, which often means conflicting points of view, Pride must always be a movement of acceptance, diversity and unity. We will not tolerate Islamophobia.”