Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Free speech v Socialst Action

When Denis Fernando of the so-called ‘Lesbian & Gay Coalition Against Racism’ opens his mouth to proclaim the “truth” about something, the listener can usually rely on what follows to be a tapestry of distortions and misrepresentations.

Mr Fernando, a member of  the secretive far-left ‘Socialist Action’ group – brilliantly exposed here – specialises in sowing discord and confusion, much like the green-eyed dwarf Tortuous Convolvulus in the Asterix comics. For sowing discord, Convolvulus was thrown to the lions – but the lions ended up eating each other! Which is, naturally, exactly what Convolvulus expected.

Green-eyed Denis has recently infiltrated the gay Muslim group Imaan. Even though he’s not a Muslim himself, he has been retained as their “political consultant”.  At last year’s Pride London parade he was seen to be cheerleading and orchestrating the Imaan contingent, giving many bystanders the impression that he is himself a Muslim, rather than the lapsed Catholic he really is.

The previously clean-shaven Mr Fernando has recently started sporting a beard. Perhaps this is just a fashion statement, but some wags have wondered if this isn’t another attempt to pass himself off as a Muslim and ingratiate himself with the most devout of the devout.

Denis last week succeeded in getting Imaan to sign up to his press release entitled “’Don't support the BNP’ - the truth about the Freedom of Expression rally”, which, if he suffered from a Pinocchio affliction would allow him to generate enough lumber to stock a regional branch of B&Q.

Of course, the non-Muslim Fernando is the only person quoted by name. The other bit in direct quotes is attributed to “an Imaan spokesperson”. This anonymity is not surprising, since Imaan’s last spokesperson to venture into the mass media did so only on condition that she could don a burqa and have her voice electronically altered. Actually, I don’t blame her. I know enough people who live with death threats to appreciate the position she was in. So sad, then, that Denis manipulates Imaan into defending the very people that force them to hide themselves in a mental ‘panic room’.

So, let’s give the LAGCAR press release a good fisking…

The headline suggests that the Freedom of Expression rally was in reality a BNP rally. The truth is that it was organised by a group of liberal bloggers who solicited support for a perfectly reasonable statement supporting the universal right to free expression. The BNP, including their thinly disguised front-group, ‘Civil Liberty’, were told in no uncertain terms right from the start that they were unwelcome and unwanted.

The organisers said in a statement:

“We have never at any time suggested that their [the BNP] freedom of expression should be denied but we do assert our right to refuse to allow our campaign to be associated with their racist outlook. They are perfectly at liberty to organise their own events. Furthermore, the fascist fringe of British politics, including the BNP, has a history of consistent association with political violence and we are campaigning against exactly that.”

Fascists don’t believe in freedom of expression, and thus were explicitly banned from the march. Indeed, the organisers described the BNP’s fake concern for free speech as “a Trojan horse”. They stated firmly on the free expression blog:

“The principle of freedom of expression is used, by some, as a trojan horse, as a proxy for racism and islamophobia. Not by me. Not by us. Not by this campaign.”

To those who complained that this was anti-free speech and a u-turn, the march organisers took the “good riddance” approach, snapping back:

“To those who are annoyed, I ask what part of this did you not understand:
This will be a march in favour of free expression, not a march against Muslims”

Does any of this sound even vaguely like promoting a BNP agenda?

Of course not! And so, on the day, the BNP were nowhere in sight.

Of course, LAGCAR/SA’s real objection was that the event would include criticism of the same right-wing Islamist reactionaries to which they have hitched their wagon. Just as they pressured Imaan to support the murderously homophobic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, now they’ve managed to use Imaan to attack gay groups who support free speech and push the bald-faced lie that this was a closet BNP rally.

But of course if you’re going to tell one porker, you may as well carry on. Fernando’s next claim is:

“Peter Tatchell is now speaking at a rally which is being built and supported by the BNP and the Libertarian Alliance.”

The truth is the BNP had nothing to do with this rally.

Tatchell’s speech roundly condemned the BNP’s homophobia and Islamophobia, expressing solidarity with the Muslim community. .

It is true that the Libertarian Alliance were invited to speak. Fernando’s objection to the Libertarian Alliance is this:

“[The Libertarian Alliance Director Sean Gabb] defended the right to free speech of an evangelical Christian in Sweden who had been convicted under that country's anti-hatred legislation after describing homosexuality as abnormal, a horrible cancerous tumour in the body of society.”

Excuse me? But didn’t LAGCAR defend Sir Iqbal Sacranie only a month back for saying essentially the same thing? Sure, they said they didn’t agree with him, but they were still willing to share a platform with him. They certainly didn’t support calls for Sir Iqbal’s  prosecution. So, it’s okay for Muslims to insult gays, but don’t dare suggest that Christians have the same right? What a hypocrite Fernando is.

Naturally, once you’ve opened the door to Lies, you may as well let his cousin Misrepresentation in too. For example, Fernando cites OutRage!’s call for the Unite Against Fascism conference to withdraw its invitation to Sacranie as an attack on Sacranie’s free speech. But this wilfully misses the point entirely. OutRage! never said that Sacranie should be shut up, banned, or silenced. In fact, we criticised the police investigation into his comments. Our point was that he was an inappropriate speaker for an anti-fascist conference, echoing, as he does, the BNP’s bigoted view of homosexuality. It seemed absurd – and still does – to ask LGBT activists to stand up to the BNP together with groups who share the BNP’s homophobic attitudes to gay people.

Another favoured trick of far-left sectarian propaganda is the twisted logic that if Group A supports a policy of Group B, then necessarily Group B supports Group A. Watch out for it, it is a favourite trick in their arsenal.

In Denis Fernando’s press release, they claim that because the twits in UKIP have signed a statement supporting free speech that necessarily everyone else who supports the statement must therefore support the UKIP agenda. How absurd is this! Should every person concerned with privacy abandon their opposition to ID cards simply because UKIP are opposed to them too? Is every group that is critical of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank colluding with the anti-Semitic David Duke – or, to bring it closer to home – the Jew-hating BNP?

The relevant thing, as some of the Muslim speakers at Saturday’s event suggested, is that free speech is the greatest ally of religious minorities and of women’s rights and gay rights. It is precisely free speech that has enabled misogyny and homophobia to be challenged.

The same ‘blasphemies’ that make irreligious cartoons ‘objectionable’, also make gay Muslims proclaiming their identity a ‘blasphemy’.

The gay community was the last target of a successful prosecution in the UK under the (Christian) blasphemy law. Do gay Muslims want to be the next victims if the law is extended instead of abolished? I doubt it.

As one of the few organised groups of gay Muslims, Imaan had better watch out. They will always be targets of opportunists and entryists with other agendas. The LGBT human rights groups OutRage! has first-hand experience of this. In Ian Lucas’s definitive history of the group from 1990 – 1996, a section is devoted to the trouble-making of LAGCAR (see p 126 onwards):

“Throughout the year, OutRage! meetings were being bogged down by report-backs, factionalism and accusations of ‘entryism’. In particular, LAGCAR(F) was seen as a disruptive element and intent on using OutRage! meetings for it’s own ends… They were putting forward very politically correct arguments but in a very disruptive and divisive way. The meetings were full of accusations, completely unfounded, malicious accusations of sexism and racism… to the point where people were driven away from the group.”

So, nothing ever seems to change. Over 10 years later, Denis Fernando and his Socialist Action entryists are still at it, sowing divisions, and diverting gay groups away from their  core objective of struggling against homophobia – and diverting gay Muslims away from defending themselves against the Islamists who threaten their very existence.