Thursday, October 20, 2005

Cruisin’ for a bruisin’

I guess I was. I should have known better. What was I doing sitting at my desk at 6:59 this morning?  When the ambush came I should have seen it coming, but it was all a blur, and then it was over.

It started the evening before – at about six – as I was halfway out the door. My mobile rang. It was a producer from LBC radio’s Nick Ferarri Breakfast show. Had I read Peter Tatchell’s article in the Evening Standard in defence of “cruising”?

No I hadn’t.

What were my views? Would I be prepared to defend Tatchell’s article? (Peter was out of town, so couldn’t go on himself.)

I said that I wouldn’t be the best person to do so because I had no strong feelings on the matter. I had never been cruising nor was I likely to. It seemed a bit unseemly, in my opinion, but on the other hand I believe that anything that goes on between consenting adults and causes no harm is fine by me – so I had no reason or desire to denounce cruising either, adding that no matter how wishy-washy my views on this subject were, I most emphatically held that people should be able to conduct their affairs in safety!

I then suggested a few people who might be better than I would. Alas, he’d tried most of them and they were either unreachable or unavailable. As I helpfully do in these circumstances, I ended with a “Well, if you absolutely can’t find anyone else, I guess you can call me back” and listed related issues that I did feel confident to talk about concerning gay-bashing.

An hour and a bit later, The LBC producer phones again. He’s had no luck, so would I mind doing it.

Okay then, but as I said, I don’t really have any strong feelings on the subject.

We spend 15 minutes doing a “briefing” on what I’m willing and able to talk about. I reiterate that I have neither knowledge or experience of cruising. I tell him that I’m happy to point out that it is not an exclusively gay activity, though it is almost always characterised as such – as if only gay men have outdoor sex. For example, so-called “dogging”. I point out that heterosexuals tend to give their outdoor sex areas romantic names like “lover’s lane”. They also have sex with strangers, as the “swinging” phenomenon proves. Gay men are simply scapegoated and a release valve for straight society’s own ‘shame’.

I mention that gays don’t need to go cruising to get bashed. David Morley, for example, a victim of a fatal gay-bashing a year ago was simply on his way home from a dance club. According to reports in The Guardian and The Independent, the figures are bleak. There are hundreds of gay-bashings every year and a fatal one roughly every two months.
I point out that one of the reasons a lot of gay-bashing might take place near cruising areas is that those who cruise are seen as soft-targets. Some are closeted – or even married – and others fear the associated stigma so these crimes are significantly under-reported, giving the attackers more confidence. Also there is the obvious factor of the dark and being out of sight. I add that many authority figures – like fundamentalist preachers and bah-humbug politicians – indulge in hate-filled denunciations of gays, as do hysterical tabloids, and this sends a signal to certain elements in society that gay-bashing is not frowned upon, or even tacitly approved of.

I tell him about how measures to tackle homophobic bullying in the schoolyard are not adequate, that the playground is the incubator for homophobia and gay-bashing and that the fact that the suspects in both the Jody Dobrowski and David Morley murders were teenagers bears this out.

And for a good 15 minutes we discuss issues that I’d be happy to talk about. “I’ve noted all this and I’ll brief Nick” he tells me at the end of our conversation.

So, I wake up just before 7 am and tune in via the web.

Then the phone rings and a minute or two later, we’re on air.

“A bit irresponsible of Peter Tatchell, isn’t it Brett?”

Oy vey! Here we go. I try to explain that there’s no point in encouraging a hysterical reaction of the scale of Jaws. Yes, every year a few people are attacked by sharks, but that doesn’t mean people should stop swimming and that Peter is probably right when he says that 99% of the time, cruising is a happy experience. I then point out that David Morley was murdered by gay-bashers nowhere near a cruising area.

“But surely the wise advice would be to say ‘don’t go cruising’ until the police find whoever is responsible, but Peter Tatchell has said that 99% of the time its sexy, pleasurable and exciting, so go out on do it. That’s irresponsible, Brett.”

Gee, what can I say. I’ve been ambushed. What can I do but soldier on, trying to make a case for something I explicitly said I didn’t want to do. But ho hum, it comes with the territory, I suppose.

While I’m angry that I was ambushed after making it explicitly clear that I was only going on because they were stuck for someone to talk about the issues and went through the charade of a “briefing”, I am most angry with myself. Nick Ferarri, I suppose, was only doing his job in having some controversial pot boiler on the stove for breakfast. I know the theory: Decide what you want to say and say it no matter what the questions. Of course that’s easier to remember after some coffee and toast. So, the lesson is, it is irresponsible to lurk around radio talkshow hosts before breakfast!

Nevertheless, the show sparked off an orgy of homophobia. Someone suggested inventing a “poofter-scooper” to clean up the parks. On the scatological theme, another person phoned in to say that what she objected to most was the piles of human shit (she meant this literally, if its any consolation) left behind by cruisers. Apparently, and she explained this very delicately, one has to evacuate one’s bowels before anal sex and men do it in her park.

Now I couldn’t believe this. This is not something I’d ever heard before so I signed on to OutEverywhere (a gay community discussion list) and asked if anyone had ever heard of this. Most said it was preposterous – surely anyone who went out cruising would go “prepared” and have made all the necessary arrangement before leaving the house, and before dabbing on some aftershave. Only one person said they’d heard of this, but that it very uncommon. Most of the crap in the park is left by people walking their dogs – and, no, not in the euphemistic sense.

So another urban legend is born. The steaming heaps in the park are the fault of the gays. More reason to bash gay people on the radio, and, sadly, more reason for some twisted minds to beat the shit out of gay people in the streets. Thanks luv.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

No God’s, No Masters

An opportunity to get to know the Secular, Anti-Capitalist & Feminist Resistance in Iraq & Iran is on offer at the Anarchist Book Fair in a workshop at 5 PM on 22 October. The workshop will feature talks by Azar Majedi of the Organisation for Women's Liberation-Iran (OWLI), The Iranian Secular Society, (ISS) and Priya Reddy from Solidarity with the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (SOWFI), and others.

Topics for discussion will include why it is critical for activists to oppose the religious Right both in the West and in Iraq and seeking to establish relationships of mutual aid with secular resistance movements in the Middle East.

The flyer for the event is avaialable at IndyMedia. It states:

Support the brave women and men of Iraq who oppose both the terroristic U.S/UK led occupation of their country as well as the terror of theocratic fundamentalist Political Islamic groups. We do not often hear from secular activists in the Middle East who dare to demand a secular, pro-worker, pro-woman society.

London Anarchist Book Fair The Resource Centre, 356 Holloway Road, London (Room 4, 1st Flr.)
Saturday October 22, 2005, 5-6 PM

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Bono cavorts with faecal matter? You’re shitting me!

There’s a story going round.

Rock group U2 will, according to some reports, be playing a $1000 a ticket fund-raising concert for Republican Senator Rick ‘santorum’ Santorum. The word ‘santorum’ has entered popular parlance as the term for – wait for it – "the frothy mix of lube and faecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex". The honour of having a sex-related definition linked to his name was inspired by gay columnist Dan Savage after the senator declared that homosexuality belonged to the same group of sexual deviancies as paedophilia and bestiality. He further stated that, in his view, there was no constitutional protection for privacy when sex acts were involved. But you can read all the details on Wikipedia.

Senator Santorum is an extreme homophobe and right-winger who consistently votes against civil rights reforms. He has an appalling voting record on a range of issues, not just limited to gay and civil rights. Surely Bono would at least take issue with his stance on welfare and poverty? For example, Santorum voted to put a cap on foreign aid at only $12.7 billion, making poverty his story, I guess.

So why is Bono doing it?

Well, here’s a theory: Bono is a staunch Catholic who once described the late Pope as "an Italian who knew the right person to get into heaven". (Of course, JPII was Polish, but never mind…) In a tribute to the Pope, Bono hung a set of rosary beads given to him by “the holy father” on his mike stand. And so is Santorum.

Here’s another (well, let’s change ‘theory’ to ‘fact’): According to the BBC, he’s not. Neither Bono nor U2 have anything to do with it. According to the BBC, they’re being used by politicians who book private boxes at stadium shows and then swap places in their boxes in exchange for donations to their campaign.

"U2 concerts are categorically not fundraisers for any politician," said a band spokesman.

The band issued a statement on their official website saying:

'Throughout the U2 tour, politicians from both sides have been organizing fundraisers at the venues or around specific shows. Neither DATA or Bono are involved in these and they cannot be controlled. The U2 concerts are categorically not fundraisers for any politician - they are rock concerts for U2 fans.'

This is good news. I’ve just bought Rattle & Hum on DVD and I’ve hated to have to bin it. I still miss my old vinyl Tea for the Tillerman, but one has to do what one has to do.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Train in vain

I’ll never really understand what drives the authoritarian personality – you know the one that enforces ridiculous rules instead of trying to understand why people are breaking them and finding a solution.

I must say, I have a lot of sympathy for Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in her confrontation with jack-booted train conductors. I had a similar encounter a few months ago on a direct train between London and Oxford where I was heading for a speaking engagement. I had a standard class ticket (paid for by my hosts) but the train was absurdly overcrowded. Of course there were no seats and even the standing room was so claustrophobic that even Gulag guards on a train to Siberia would have balked at the travelling conditions on Human Rights grounds. However, 1st Class was half empty.

I don’t understand something. I thought the point of trains was that the length (and hence number of seats) could be modified to meet the demand. Most commuter-trains are hopelessly overcrowded making commuting – the first and last public experiences of the day – an unspeakably unpleasant daily exercise. No wonder people arrive at work drained and irritable and arrive home in the evening furious and antisocial. The impact on our society cannot be underestimated.

Another thing I don’t understand is why commuter trains have first-class sections at all. Usually there is no difference besides the little tissue paper on the headrest – which can barely justify the price! Why “class” anyway? Why can’t there simply be reserved and unreserved tickets. The former would guarantee one a seat and the other would be down to luck. This system would allow conductors at their discretion to open up unused “first-class” seating when the train was clearly oversubscribed. But this system would be practical and would require common-sense decisions – so has no hope in hell of being implemented.

Anyhow – to cut a long story short – a group of us, myself, two elderly women, a younger woman and two middle-aged men in business suits – quite rightly – thought the situation ridiculous. It was an hour and a quarter commute and, quite frankly, it was a major health and safety risk to be standing under those conditions. So, we sat down in an unused part of the first-class section. Let’s face it – even when aeroplanes are overbooked, people get bumped up to business class, so why ever not on a rattly commuter train? It’s not as if we were harming (or alarming) anyone or claiming anything we hadn’t paid for. As I pointed out to the conductor, we had paid for a seat on the train, which they were unable to provide, but took our money nonetheless! In the end we insisted we would not move unless we were provided with the seats in standard-class (perhaps that should be ‘standing’ class) that we had paid for. To facilitate this, the conductor spent the next half hour bumping up other people to first-class in order to clear 6 seats in standard-class so that we could spend the last 10 minutes of our journey in steerage. Petty, to say the least.

But it wasn’t reading of Yasmin’s confrontation that sparked this train of thought. No, it was switching on to BBC1 earlier to find some programme on (The War The Door) which, contrary to expectations, was not about any serious political threat, but about the canonisation of petty officials charging around London to unleash mundane ‘justice’ on otherwise law-abiding citizens.

Digression: Have you seen these signs up at stations warning of severe penalties for any verbal or physical abuse of railway personnel? Has it ever occurred to the authorities that these might be minimised if they didn’t expect these officials to enforce silly rules that fly in the face of common sense so much that they enrage further an already furious commuter community? For example: I witnessed an exchange at the barriers a few days ago where the official was refusing to allow a man (who was already late, thanks to delays that seem to leapfrog over other delays and timetabular catastrophes) to exit. The man explained that he’d clearly been issued with the wrong ticket by the ticket office even though it was quite evidently the same price as the ticket he’d asked for and was in good faith attempting to use. The barrier guard was having none of it. Voices were raised arms were waved and as a consequence, the police were summoned… an utterly unnecessary escalation of a pointless dispute.

Another case, which I have discussed with people waiting in line at my local station, is that there is now a fine for buying one’s ticket upon arrival at London Bridge (even though there is a ticket office inside of the barriers ostensibly for this purpose) instead of at one’s small local station where there are often ticket-office malfunctions and arbitrary window closures, leading to queues snaking out onto the pavement outside. In the past, rather than miss one’s train, one could board and then pay for the ticket on arrival. No longer. Now there is a ₤10 fine on top of the ticket price for doing this. One is expected to miss the train, be late for work or miss appointments instead. What makes this doubly irksome is that this is a punishment for honesty. Those genuinely wishing to evade paying for a ticket aren’t affected (they take their chances), it is only those who of their own free will report at the ticket office to pay for the journey who are caught thus and fined. So honesty is penalised. No wonder people lose their tempers and fisticuffs with platform führers erupt.

End of digression. So, this ‘The War At The Door’ programme… The programme seems to concern dumping. One segment sees a council official trying to track down the “owner” of a used carpet and a few floorboards left on a pavement, probably by the carpet fitters. A fine will be issued if the “owner” is traced. Pantomime ensues as the council official braves barking dogs, bothers neighbours, attempts to communicate with a non-English speaking potential witness and eventually establishes that the probable owners are in Zurich – a dead end. Why does this man have a job? Surely the money invested in his department could be better spent on a white-van man who could simply whip around and collect this sort of non-threatening refuse which almost everyone has from time to time. Wouldn’t that be a more profitable expenditure of our council tax? You know, on a service that actually serves us rather than persecutes us?

A second insert dealt with a sting operation to apprehend and prosecute (₤4000 penalty) fly tippers who (gasp!) have dropped inappropriate items next to bins intended for recycled materials. The ‘sting’ involved two council officials, with several more in unmarked cars waiting nearby and four police officers. Their fist victim? A man who dumps a broken TV and a small wooden stool. Their second, a man who spends ten minutes shredding cardboard and dropping it into the appropriate bin (disappointed sighs) but then victory!! As a last act, he leaves a single verboten black garbage bag behind. Jubilation! Another arrest! Then a third, for an armful of builder’s rubble.

Now, fly-tipping can be a serious problem and degrade an area. But this was in an area designated for garbage of one sort. So these people were making an effort to dispose of it in a semi-appropriate place. There were already a row of large skips for cardboard, glass, etc, so how hard could it be for the council to add another one for non-recyclable rubble? Not hard at all! But it is apparently easier to do Starsky & Hutch-style stakeouts involving half-a-dozen council officials and several police officers to catch Mr Jones who needs to get rid of that broken chair and thinks “I know, I’ll take it down to where all those bins are”. The scoundrel!

Isn’t that the point? These people aren’t indiscriminately dumping. They’re taking the junk to where – perhaps misguidedly – they believe it can conveniently be collected. Instead of multiple signs threatening them with penalties, why aren’t there educational signs explaining where this type of rubble can legally – and conveniently - be disposed of? If there is a place, tell people! If there isn’t a place, why not? Why is the council wasting our taxes and police time instead of making a plan? People have broken chairs and old carpets. They need to get rid of them. Tell them where to take them or how to have them collected! But it’s easier to rush around like The Sweeny isn’t it?

To really underline this failure of common sense, in the third insert, an intrepid council sleuth in Glasgow has to track down some lout hurling nappies of the poo-variety around an estate. Just when she thinks the trail’s gone cold (no pun intended) the culprit – some spotty teenager (face mercifully blurred by the camera) comes in and confesses. Does he get a tongue-lashing, a lecture, a strong rebuke? Is he asked to show he’s truly sorry by going around cleaning up his mess? Is he asked to do community service to cover the cost of the damage? Is he even asked for his name and address? Hell no! He’s given a wishy-washy “thanks for owning up” talk and sent on his way. The insert ends with the council officer tippy-toeing through the mud in unsuitable shoes picking up the smelly nappies herself.

And the lesson is? People who take stuff to the bins land up in court, but teenagers who hurl shit-filled nappies around their estate can play x-box while a woman from the council cleans up after then. And the “nanny state” takes on yet another meaning.

When people say they want justice, usually they don’t mean this in some huge philosophical sense that can only be notated in Latin. They simply mean that they want authority to be reasonable, measured and conducted with common sense. We pay for it. Why can’t we have it?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Hamas is not a liberation movement

Hamas is not a liberation movement. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been told that they are and that women’s rights and gay rights are not priorities in the struggle to end the Israeli occupation.

I can accept they’re not priorities, but what these apologists for oppression of another sort fail to acknowledge is that these are priorities for Hamas. They are priority enough for the group to have a stated policy on these issues. And this is what worries me.

If it were simply a case that these issues were ignored and we really had no clue what Hamas’s vision of a post-liberation Palestine was, all good and well. But we do know – and it isn’t a pretty picture.

The idea that they should be supported now and then a new struggle for women and gay (and other) human rights should be begun “after liberation” is bollocks. After liberation, those who dare to criticise the new free Palestinian government’s policies will be accused by the same apologist for undermining the government and for wanting to prolong imperialist intervention.

This is of course what they’ve accused campaigners highlighting human rights abuses in Jamaica and Zimbabwe of doing.

The African National Congress (ANC) has been one of the few genuine liberation movements who have acted in a statesmanlike ‘government-in-waiting’ manner and whose political programme included comprehensive provisions not only for racial, but religious, gender, disability and sexuality-based non-discrimination and protection. Indeed, in 1955 –almost 40 years before liberation – the ANC adopted the far-reaching Freedom Charter as the basis of their political programme – and post-liberation vision.

A year earlier, the ANC-supported Federation of South African Women published the Women’s Charter which stated: “We women do not form a society separate from the men. There is only one society, and it is made up of both women and men. As women we share the problems and anxieties of our men, and join hands with them to remove social evils and obstacles to progress.

This formed the basis for an open and equal society. But what do we have from Hamas?

Not very much, according to a report in The Independent. Mahmoud Zahar, the Hamas leader in Gaza told The Independent that if Hamas were to win control of the Palestinian Authority in coming elections, it would ban men and women from dancing together and deny specific rights to gay people. He also predicted that under Hamas any Palestinian State would be a strictly Islamic one.

The Times report has slightly more amplification on this, again from Dr Zahar. On the issue of gay rights he said:

“Are these the laws for which the Palestinian street is waiting? For us to give rights to homosexuals and to lesbians, a minority of perverts and the mentally and morally sick?”

Well, presumably at least gay Palestinians might be waiting for these rights!

His views on fraternisation of the sexes are even more peculiar:

“A man holds a woman by the hand and dances with her in front of everyone. Does that serve the national interest?”

Recently Hamas gunman stopped a rap band playing in Gaza, while an Hamas dominated council banned a dance festival. Dr Zahar defended these actions. Still he denies that Hamas wants a “puritanical regime”.

So, as long as you don’t call it that it doesn’t matter if in reality that’s exactly what it is. It is time people ask those who claim to be working towards ‘liberation’ what sort of liberation they mean – and liberation for whom?

Straight men? For the majority, that’s no liberation at all.

Guardian takes off my head

“Your picture’s in The Guardian,” my boyfriend called to say while I was in Tesco yesterday. “Oh cool!” I said. “Don’t get too excited,” he replied, “only I would recognise you – they’ve cropped off your head.” Thanks guys!

Ah yes, I think that photo was taken at a demonstration outside Westminster Abbey at the consecration of two new bishops when there should have been three – openly gay (but celibate – not that it should matter) canon Jeffrey John was meant to have been consecrated as the Bishop of Reading – but was axed at the last minute because, well, you know, he’s gay.

Anyway, The Guardian were more interested in my placard “Defend Gays – Fight Christian Bigots!” than my mug. Though I was wearing a nice tie.

Nevertheless, it was a very encouraging story about the installation (I think that is the right word) of Dr John Sentamu as the new Archbishop of York. African clergy are usually associated with the most stridently homophobic wing of the Anglican communion, but Dr Sentamu appears more outspoken on gay and women’s issues than Rowan Williams himself.

According to The Guardian story, Dr Sentamu delivered this very sensible advice to The Church:

"Some of our disagreements are not Christian really ... It seems to suggest that all the great evils of the world are being perpetrated by gay and lesbian people, which I cannot believe to be the case. What is wrong in the world is that people are sinful and alienate themselves from God and you do not have to be gay to do that. To suggest that to be gay equals evil, I find that quite unbelievable.

"Is somebody saying a gay and lesbian can't live in Christ? What matters in the end to me is to do what my mother said to me as a little child: John, never point a finger at anybody because when you do three other fingers are pointing back at you. All of us are sinners, all of us have baggage. Why should my baggage as a heterosexual be more acceptable than the baggage of a gay person?"

While it is African bishops like Akinola of Nigeria who are the most outspokenly antigay, it is also African clergy, like Dr Sentamu, Njongonkulu Ndungane, Archbishop of Cape Town, and his predecessor, the great Desmond Tutu who are the most outspoken in favour of embracing gay Christians. So why are the British-born Bishops so wishy-washy?

As a non-Christian I’m not really interested in the frayed fabric of the Anglican Communion. I’m only interested in the socio-political influence the Church has, and to my mind having church leaders who speak their minds – whether friend or foe – is better than the soppy equivocations characterized by the Williams regime.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Respect candidate would execute gays

I have never had any doubt watching George Galloway’s histrionics and Lindsay German’s equivocations that the Respect Party would make an alliance with Scarabaeidae Deltochilum gibbosum if they felt that its ball of shit would add anything to theirs.

When Ms German notoriously warned that gay rights shouldn’t be a shibboleth in forging alliances with reactionary religious groups many said that she was just being practical… I mean, a little homophobia is surely tolerable in the interest of a greater cause. Isn’t it?

Well how much is a little and how much is too much?

Enter Dr Mohammed Naseem.

According to the Electoral Commission, with whom all registered political parties are obliged to share financial statements, the single largest donor to the Respect Party’s election war-chest was Dr Naseem. He paid £ 15 457.00 towards Respect’s Election drive, a whopping 29% of their total budget of ₤ 53 486.67 and more than 50% more than the next largest single donor – three times what George Galloway contributed.

You can check these facts and figures here. Just select “Respect” from the drop-down.

He was also the Respect candidate for Birmingham Perry Barr and a member of the party’s executive committee and an active campaigner. He is also the chair of the Birmingham Central Mosque.

But this is all bland compared to his other day job: on the executive of the Islamic Party of Britain and their Home Affairs spokesperson. As such, laws about homosexuality fall under his ambit.

So what is the IPB’s position on homosexuality?

Well, it is neatly explained here. But here’s the executive summary:

Of course, they sport the usual right-wing religious fundamentalist hallmarks, the linking of homosexuality to paedophilia and saying both are “a danger to society” and revealing a great big gay conspiracy. This is so stock-standard that it’s hardly worth mentioning. Is this what Lindsay German means by shibboleths?

But now things really get serious.

They would ban gay organisations, or to put it in their words, they would “safeguard public decency by preventing any public advocacy for homosexuality”. Any violation of this law would fall under “public incitement”, which leads us to their next point – how to deal with public displays of homosexuality or “lewdness witnessed by several people” as they quaintly put it. The penalty for that is death!

So, far from having a chuckle on Oprah, George Michael would have been stoned to death in Piccadilly Circus – or perhaps Dr Naseem had something more creative in mind – I shan’t try to second-guess what method of execution he’d advocate.

How – or rather why - does Respect take money from this man and field him as a candidate? The home affairs policy of the other party he represents as the home affairs spokesperson is that gays should be executed!

Why are we not hearing the tell-tale clunking sounds of falling shibboleths?

Why? Because none are falling, and even if they were you wouldn’t hear them amidst the nitter-natter of equivocation. I can hear it now: oh he doesn’t think all gays should be killed, and it’s only under certain conditions, yada-yada-yada…

Respect claim on their website (though I’ve never seen it in their printed material) that they support LGBT rights. So how does this square with having as a donor, and executive member and as a candidate a man that would kill us?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Even when you’re right, you’re wrong

The producers of Panorama have been ‘listed’ on the Islamophobia-watch website run by Mr Bob Pitt and Mr Eddie Truman. The pair of them delight in listing anyone who says anything critical about Islam – whether they are Muslim, ex-Muslim, a women’s or gay rights activist, a secularists, a political dissidents from the Middle East, an exile from the Islamic Republic of Iran, or a refugees from the GIA – you name it: say anything vaguely critical of Islamic fundamentalist or political Islamism, and according to Pitt and Truman you’re an “Islamophobe”.

So this was no surprise. What they didn’t respond to however was the Panorama team’s perfectly reasonable reply to the objections cited by the Muslim Council of Britain to the programme ‘A Question of Leadership’ – which I covered after it aired in August.

Not satisfied, the good ol’ Pitt standby of “smear by association” kicked in. According to Bob, the Panorama team must be wrong because, (gasp) a journalist writing for the Telegraph agreed with them. Of course, Pitt-logic dictates that if a centre-right newspaper comes to the same conclusion as you do, then you must be a neo-Nazi sleeper agent.

Of course, the MCB have a fresh set of grievances against Panorama. I suspect these won’t get any further since the first batch was rubbish, so why would the backup plan be any better?

Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve pointed out the absurdities of Islamophobia-watch (and I’m sure it won’t be the last).

There is no point in defending yourself or providing evidence. It will all be ignored, Panorama. For Islamophobia-watch, even when you’re right, you’re wrong.

UPDATE: Hahahahaha! Now this article has been ‘listed’ on Islamophobia-watch. Notice how once again Pitt tries to smear by association: Panorama’s John Ware must be wrong and must be an Islamophobe because some guy called Anthony Browne supports him, and of course because I also thought Panorama’s response was reasonable… so I must be an Islamophobe for thinking it was reasonable and then they must also be Islamophobic because only an Islamophobe would support them, and oh gawd why bother…

For a reasonable discussion about Islamophobia (not Pitt’s fantasy version where ideas are defended instead of people) see this article by Paul Anderson and this one by Phil Edwards.

Celebs back Iran protest against executions

Little Britain star Matt Lucas, actor Simon Callow and singer Boy George are supporting the axm and OutRage! 'Homophobia Kills' protest against the recent homophobic executions in Iran. Actor Jeremy Sheffield, comedian Scott Cappurro and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell will attend the protest outside the Iranian Embassy in London:

1pm tomorrow, Tuesday 4 October 2005:
Embassy of Iran, 16 Prince's Gate, London SW7 1PT

Getting there:
The Iranian Embassy is near the Royal Albert Hall, by the junction of Kensington Road and Exhibition Road. Nearest underground stations are South Kensington and Gloucester Road.Tuesday’s protest is being organised by gay magazine axm, and by queer rights group OutRage! Thousands of axm readers have signed the axm 'Homophobia Kills' petition, which will be handed over to the Iranian Ambassador.

Endorsing the protest, Matt Lucas said:
'Recently in Iran two teenagers were executed for being gay. This is­ just one example of the constant persecution of gay and lesbian people by the Iranian government. I support efforts to put pressure on the Iranian government to stop this persecution. While gay visibility has grown in Britain in recent years we cannot forget the plight of those in more hostile parts of the world who live with the daily risk of jail, torture and execution for no other reason than their sexuality.'

Simon Callow states:
'I'm sorry, I can't make it to the Embassy on the 4th: I'm filming all day. But I unreservedly condemn this savage and barbaric treatment of homosexual men in Iran. It is inconceivable that we should have diplomatic relations with a country which betrays its citizens in this way.'

Two gay teenagers were publicly executed in Iran on 19 July 2005 for the 'crime' of homosexuality. The youths were hanged in Edalat (Justice) Square in the city of Mashhad, in North East Iran. They were sentenced to death by Court No. 19. Iran enforces Islamic Sharia law, which dictates the death penalty for gay sex. One youth was aged 18 and the other was a minor under the age of 18. They admitted to having gay sex (probably under torture) but claimed in their defence that most young boys had sex with each other and that they were not aware that homosexuality was punishable by death. Prior to their execution, the teenagers were held in prison for 14 months and severely beaten with 228 lashes. Their length of detention suggests that they committed the so-called offences more than a year earlier, when they were possibly around the age of 16.

“Although the Iranian government claims the youths were executed for the rape of a 13 year old boy, underground gay groups inside Iran tell us that the two teenagers were lovers,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.

“They point out that the Iranian government routinely makes up allegations of sexual abuse, drug-taking and spying to discredit the people it executes and to discourage public protests”.

The executions in July and ongoing revelations of continued anti-gay atrocities in Iran have shocked and mobilised axm readers who are travelling from as far afield as Scotland, Cornwall and Yorkshire to attend the protest onTuesday.

According to axm magazine editor Matthew Miles:
'The shocking images of the executed Iranian teenagers have galvanised our print and online readers, with thousands of people signing our petition in a ten day period. As LGBT people in the West finally gain most of the rights we deserve, it seems we are proving that there is such a thing as a global gay community by focusing on the struggle for equality in more hostile parts of the world. Protest is only a step but, as organisations such as Amnesty International and OutRage! have proved, it can and does bring change and that's why, along with OutRage!, axm magazine will be protesting against the Iranian Government from 1pm on Tuesday 4 October.'

Sign the petition against Iran online, or by post.
Post: Iran Petition, axm magazine, 2 Charlotte Road, London EC2A 3DH