Tuesday, December 20, 2005

New GALHA magazine launches

Sexuality, Politics, Humanism, Atheism, Liberalism and Freethought.

The Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) is proud to announce the launch of its new magazine - Gay Humanist Quarterly.

Editor, Brett Lock, says: “We hope to bring you quality writing, incisive analysis, oodles of fun and an all-round good read. Our aim is to produce a magazine taking a view of the world from a queer, free-thinking, humanist perspective, championing secularism, reason, and human rights.”

In the launch issue:

  • Lee Stacy, the new chair of the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association introduces himself, the new magazine and outlines the year ahead.
  • We ask the question “Are religious groups getting superpowers?” and note that across the UK, Europe and North America, religious groups are pushing for more power and influence in the running of the country - and getting it.
  • Brett Lock speaks to Wilf Mbanga, an exiled Zimbabwean newspaper editor who has vowed to keep publishing - from the UK.
  • Warren Allen Smith gives the low-down on what's up across the pond in the USA.
  • We take a critical look at Christian Voice, run by Stephen Green and his loopy mob.
  • Derek Lennard interviews Louis-Georges Tin, the founder of the International Day Against Homophobia.
  • Guest columnist David T investigates the disturbing trend of racist groups using religion as a proxy for race.
  • We rummage around the web for what might be in the atheist’s Winterval stocking and also discover the hilarious ‘Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’.
  • Houzan Mahmoud writes about how free speech is increasingly under threat from religious pressure.
  • Andrew Copson lets the government know what LGBT secularists expect from the Equality review.
  • Is Jesus really the reason for the season? We investigate that too.

The magazine is also packed with news, views and reviews of the latest books and films.

Lee Stacy, the new Chair of GALHA says: “Congratulations to the editors of this brand new magazine! And as chair of the well-established organization it’s representing, I’m honoured to be associated with it. This debut issue is stunning, and I look forward to future issues matching the wide-ranging, stimulating, and entertaining articles found here. I also applaud my fellow Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) committee members for laying the foundation for Gay Humanist Quarterly. “

Gay Humanist Quarterly is published quarterly. It is free to members of the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association, and available to non-members by subscription or from selected outlets. Copies cost £1.50 + P&P each or £7.50 (inc. P&P) for an annual UK subscription. International subscriptions are £12.50 (inc. P&P). Subscriptions and orders can be place online.

The magazine’s website is http://www.gayhumanist.com/

An electronic version of the debut issue is available for download from the website.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Why is a murder not a murder?

The verdict in the David Morley murder trial has left me puzzled. And I’m not alone in this. There has been quite a bit of confusion and anger in the gay community (and elsewhere, no doubt) as to why the perpetrators of this crime were not found guilty of murder, but rather the lesser crime of manslaughter.

I think it is appropriate that the CPS, The Metropolitan Police and other agencies involved take some time to clearly and patiently explain the outcome of this trial to the public.

This is what confuses me:

According to the BBC’s “jargon buster” (which is very useful to laypeople like myself) these are the relevant definitions::

Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another human being without the intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm. The legal definition used to describe this accidental act of murder is violence 'without malice aforethought'.

Murder is the unlawful killing of another human being with the intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm. The legal definition used to describe the act of murder is violence 'with malice aforethought'.

Now – according to reports in The Times (and even The Sun):

The four, all from Kennington, South London, were also convicted of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm and remanded in custody until sentencing.

Now this makes no sense to me. If you conspire to commit and act, and then you commit an act, how on earth was it successfully argued that they had no intention to commit the act – and thereby escape the murder charge?

Furthermore, can there be any doubt that a gang which had agreed an “attack” codeword and had video-capable mobile phones at the ready to film the attacks, and who were serial attackers acted with anything other than 'with malice aforethought'?

Was it that the defence was super-good – or that the prosecution was half-hearted? This may be an unfair assessment – for all I know the prosecution gave it all they’d got – but this is a lingering question that many are now pondering. We need an answer.

Another issue which throws up more questions than answers is why the police no longer consider this a homophobic attack. The judge is still out on that issue and will rule in January, but most media sources, including the BBC, are reporting that homophobia was not a motive. How can the media be so sure? What facts lead them to the conclusion that homophobia was not a contributing factor?

After reading dozens of media reports, the only thing I can find to suggest that homophobia was not a motive is that the accused said so. But surely their solicitor would have warned them of the extra penalties if this were judged a hate crime? Forgive me if I don’t find their say-so convincing. I think it was homophobic for a number of reasons. Let’s look at the facts.

The gang’s usual modus-operandi appears to have been this:

Happy slapping: they’d suddenly violently slap, punch or kick a random stranger and film their startled reaction.

Numbers: they typically attacked a lone person as a group of four – using their superior numbers as a weapon.

But the Morley attack was different in several aspects:

Firstly (and most obviously) the attack was ferocious and sustained – unlike the other assaults. Indeed, the frenzied nature of the attack bore all the hallmarks of a typical queer-bashing, rather than a mere “happy-slapping”.

Secondly, as a scrawny teenage gang of four, they elected to attack two adult men.

We know from David Morley’s friend, Alistair Whiteside, (who was the other person attacked) that the two of them were sitting on a park bench as he consoled Morley (who had been suffering depression as an aftermath of the Admiral Duncan bombing, Morley had been the barman on duty when the bomb went off).

Now, picture one man consoling another. This would suggest intimate body language, close proximity, touching, hugs… all the hallmarks of a gay couple on a bench. To homophobes, such a scenario is an invitation as clear as a surfboard silhouette to a great white shark.

The gang usually attacked lone individuals because they had a strategic advantage in numbers. Why did they, in case of David Morley and Alistair Whiteside, decide to give up this advantage and attack two people instead of one?

Another common factor in attacks on gay people is the ferocity of the violence. For example, the official motive for the murder of Jamaican gay rights activist Brian Williamson, was robbery. However, any criminologist will tell you that the violence used in the commission of a robbery is typically no greater than what is required to take possession of the goods. Williamson was hacked and stabbed repeatedly in a frenzied attack.

Similarly, unlike their usual modus-operandi of a quick slap, punch, kick or two (as happened in the other attacks that night) the gang attacked Morley and Whiteside with great savagery in a sustained attack, one of them even admitting to returning to aim another kick to Morley’s head.

Why was this not simply a “happy slap” like the other attacks? Was it the sight of two men appearing to be intimate that triggered the gang to go berserk and way beyond the normal scale and duration of their attacks?

The thrill and amusement they derived from violently attacking total strangers may have been their primary motivation, but – logically – this says nothing about their criteria for actually selecting their victims. Nor does it necessarily mean that they were always consistent.

For example, gay men are often targeted by muggers whose primary motivation is robbery. However, the selection of victims is underpinned by homophobia. They may believe that gay victims will get less sympathy, that gay men are weaker and unable to fight back, or that gay men are less likely to report being a victim of crime, or simply that gay men “deserve” it.

So, it is perfectly reasonable in this instance to ask the question: what prompted them to deviate from their regular pattern of behaviour – to attack two men together instead of a person on their own; to sustain the attack and escalate the violence so far beyond their routine attacks as to cause death?

One report quotes killer Darren “Neekie” Case as boasting: "David Morley, that dickhead, that's the one I killed.''

If Morley had truly been a random stranger and attacked for no reason other than random selection, why would Case personalise the attack and describe the victim as “a dickhead” – what could Morley have done to suggest to Case that he was a “dickhead”? Since Morley’s only engagement with Case was to receive fatal blows, the answer can only lie in Morley’s perceived identity.

I hope that in due course, the authorities connected to the trial will explain why it was not murder and why they no longer believe it was homophobic. People will want answers.


I picked up a newspaper on the train yesterday. For a brief second, I thought I’d hit pay dirt – a genuine British Empire newspaper from 1805. But I was disappointed to discover that it was just the Daily Mail from 2005. I know the Mail is conservative, but do they really need to still be banging on about events from 140 years ago?

How does this crap get published and who finds it funny?

Perhaps we can expect an editorial castigating the Labour government for not taking a firm enough stance on Napoleon soon.

Their “award winning” cartoonist Mac, seems to specialise in cartoons that like this and this, which are eerily similar to cartoons like this.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Mayor's office gives thumbs up to Catholic-bashing

Last week at a “forum” meeting of London’s LGBT groups at City Hall, one of Ken Livingstone’s advisors, Anni Marjoram, said in response to a report back on a Gay Rights march in Poland (which noted that the antigay protestors on the side of the road included priests and neo-Nazis in equal measure) that it was “not surprising… especially given the Pope’ s history”. She went on to blame “the Catholic lobby” for stalling equalities issues in the EU parliament.

Later in the same meeting, she lectured that criticism of Islam “at a time like this” is “racist”. Quite how criticism can be “racist” based on when it is said, rather than on what is said, was never explained.

Now I don’t disagree with her estimation of the Catholic Church. I think it is spot on. What concerns me is the hypocrisy. That she can openly infer that the Pope is a Nazi and blame Catholics for holding back progress on social issues in the EU in one breath, but then denounce any criticism of Islam on similar grounds as “racist” is just jaw-droppingly absurd.

Of course, as we all know by now, the chief beef that the Mayor’s office has with gay campaigners is their denunciation of Dr Yusuf Qaradawi as “reactionary” on women’s and gay rights. Of course, no one has yet called him a Nazi – that clearly is a slur reserved for the Mayor and his staff to fling about.

Another thing which stirred Ms Marjoram’s ire was the description by George Broadhead, secretary of the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association of Islam as “a barmy ideology”. At least Mr Broadhead is consistent and has said the same about the Catholics, and indeed Christianity in general.

I pointed out that in an interview with ‘Something Jewish’ magazine, the Mayor himself had made similar remarks. He had said that religion was “mumbo jumbo” which he had rejected in favour of “rational science”. He then went on to describe how some of his peers had been traumatised because they’d attended faith-schools where they were subjected to “brutality and beatings”.

Furthermore, he seemed to suggest that religion was a disease, when he said it was something he didn’t “suffer from”.

Again, as a strident secularist, I don’t disagree. But I don’t pick and choose which religions to criticise, nor do I choose to describe Mr Livingstone or Ms Marjoram as racists (or other types of bigots) for having a go at Catholics.

I can’t help wondering if Mr Livingstone would have been so upfront about his atheism – or would have chosen such a dismissive term about religion (“mumbo-jumbo”) if this had been an interview for a Muslim publication rather than a Jewish one. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe he would. But would he have to face the pursed lips of Ms Marjoram the next day?

The slow mainstreaming of Holocaust denial

The slow mainstreaming of Holocaust denial

It begins.

According to a report on the BBC, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the Nazi Holocaust of European Jewry is a "myth".


But this is very worrying.

Binary thinking is bad news. There are many who think that US foreign policy is immoral and stupid. Think no further than Oliver North as the personification of the US’s shameful shenanigans around the globe. In many cases it is just wrong, wrong, wrong. But – and this is news to certain self-styled Leftists – that does not mean that, in the current stand-off, Iran is right.

But, already you have a group of twits who troll Indymedia and rush in and denouncing any criticism of Iran’s human rights abuses as supporting “US Imperialsim”.

And of course, such is the burgeoning antisemitism, that is it now no longer unusual to find extended tracts of Holocause denial on Indymedia either, though mercifully “hidden” by the overworked moderators.

So what will happen when these two threads become intertwined? All that’s needed is a catalyst, and Ahmadinejad has now delivered one. He says:

"They have created a myth today that they call the massacre of Jews and they consider it a principle above God, religions and the prophets."

"If someone were to deny the existence of God... or prophets and religion, they would not bother him. However, if someone were to deny the myth of the Jews' massacre, all the Zionist mouthpieces and the governments subservient to the Zionists tear their larynxes and scream against the person as much as they can."

Ahmadinejad has given the green light to faux “anti Imperialists” to start mainstreaming Holocaust denial.

If criticising the Iranian regime for its persecution of gay people, women, political dissidents, trade-unionists, students and “apostates” puts one in league with US Imperialism, I can hardly bear to think what denouncing this latest outburst of antisemitic rubbish will make one.

Perhaps some of these people need to visit Auschwitz, as my boyfriend did earlier this year as a guest of the Holocaust Memorial Trust, to see the warehouses of human hair and confiscated shoes. It didn’t come from nowhere.

If we can rightly mock George “Dubya” Bush for his pig-ignorance, what form of rebuke remains for a cretin like Ahmadinejad?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sharia - don’t like it

So, according to the ridiculous Islmophobia-Watch blog, the gay human rights group OutRage! (of which regular readers know I’m a member) is in the same category as the BNP because, we oppose sharia law.

They have made the same charge against The Worker-Communist Party of Iran, who we can safely assume know a thing or two more about sharia law than Mr Bob Pitt of London, the proprietor of the blog.

Now, I think there is a great need for a blog monitoring Islamophobia. Sure, it is a flawed term since it can too easily conflate an antipathy towards Islam as a religion with discrimination against, and demonising of, religious people or communities – and indeed – be used as a proxy for racism (as it clearly is by the likes of the BNP). But, when it is used as a proxy for racism, and when it demonises people rather than ideas, it should be denounced. That is the real “Islamophobia” – good old-fashioned racism – not the bogus kind where women, gays, secularists and others complain of the oppressive forces of religion. Alas, Pitt and friends appear to wilfully ignore the difference and thereby collude with religious oppression.

Lesbian and gay people have a very good reason to fear and hate sharia law. It criminalises us and threatens us with very harsh punishments.

So, I asked Bob Pitt if he agreed with this estimation. He replied:

“As with adultery, I think it's not homosexuality as such that's an offence but the sexual act itself. And you need four independent witnesses for a conviction. The evidentiary requirements for offences meriting so-called hudud punishments are set so high that these punishments are in practice inapplicable.”

That’s a great comfort, Bob.

I could suggest that he’s “in a bloc” with the crackpot religious-right in America, the Catholic Church and ‘Christian Voice’ because he appears to differentiate between “homosexuality” and “the sexual act” – as if heterosexuality and the heterosexual “sex act” could be separated. Can you imagine if every heterosexual on the planet were forced under pain of death to be celibate? How would that work? It doesn’t even appear to work for those few (like Catholic clergy) who choose to give it a go. Why does Pitt appear to think that gays and lesbians can live under those conditions?

“Don’t worry, it’s okay to be gay or lesbian under sharia law – as long as you don’t have sex,” appears to be the subtext of his argument.

Furthermore, what a law says on paper and how it is actually practiced are quite different. An Iranian acquaintance of mine tells me that this “four witnesses” requirement is often waived if the accuser is the head of the household (a father, for example) or a Mullah. But I don’t even want to get into this because it is largely irrelevant. The law is there to suppress lesbian and gay people, and those who are discovered can be punished, often lashed or stoned, sometimes to death.

Surely Pitt and his Islamophobia-Watch crew know and understand this. How can they expect a gay human rights group NOT to oppose sharia law – a law which criminalises, menaces and – too often – kills our kind?

And if they understand this, why the snide and slanderous suggestion that we’re in league with the BNP or other right wing fascists?

Lesbian and gay people have a right to stand up to the forces and laws that oppress and threaten us. By seeking to oppose and challenge legal systems that persecute us, we are not in league with Nazis – in fact, quite the opposite.

Islamophobia-Watch’s childish slurs could quite easily be answered by asking a similar question. The BNP are viciously homophobic, but so are the sharia-promoting Islamic Party of Britain. Since Pitt and crew are so astonished that a gay human rights group would oppose sharia law, will they be launching “a joint campaign” with these groups sometime soon to counter gay equality?

Friday, December 09, 2005

The People's Politician

When George Galloway swept to power under, rather on a cloud in May this year, he dramatically vowed that he would represent “the people that New Labour has abandoned… [and] speak for those who have no one else to speak for them… the trade unions, the immigrants, the poor, the people who prefer peace to war”.

But, reports Private Eye, “his constituents may be wondering how his ambitious project is going”.

They cite some interesting statistics:

  • He has tabled only one written question since the election

  • He has spoken in the commons a mere four time

  • He has voted in only 18 out of 112 divisions – worse than any other MP without a good excuse – like they’re deathly ill or the Prime Minister.

  • He’s the most consistent absentee

No doubt he’ll claim that a parliament is not a democratic institution – or some other soundbite.

Private Eye reveals more: Even when the issue is something close to his heart, he’s more bluster and action. When it was alleged that the US was planning to bomb the al-Jazeera TV station, Galloway grandly announced that he would demand a confirmation or denial from our government. But he didn’t get round to it. Asking the hard questions was left to Labour MP, Peter Kilfoyle (remember Labour – they’re the one’s who abandoned the people with only George to speak for them). 38 other MPs were quick to co-sign both Kilfoyle’s early day motions on the issue – but not George Galloway.

Perhaps he was away…. speaking…but for whom?