Friday, February 17, 2006

Moscow Gay Pride banned

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has announced that the city government will not allow a gay parade “in any form” and any attempt to hold a gay event will be “resolutely quashed”

The Mayor’s dictat follows statements by the Russian Chief Mufti threatening violence if the Pride parade went ahead.

Chief Mufti of Russia’s Central Spiritual Governance for Muslims Talgat Tajuddin said:

“Muslims’ protests can be even worse than these notorious rallies abroad over the scandalous cartoons,” Chief Mufti of Russia’s Central Spiritual Governance for Muslims Talgat Tajuddin said.

“The parade should not be allowed, and if they still come out into the streets, then they should be bashed,” he added.

Tajuddin declared: “Sexual minorities have no rights, because they have crossed the line. Alternative sexuality is a crime against God.”

He then called on Russian Orthodox members to join Muslims in formulating a violent response to Moscow Pride.

Not to be left out, Russian Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar said that if a gay pride was allowed to go ahead it "would be a blow for morality". He stopped short of calling for violence, but the Jewish community would not stand by silently. "Sexual perversions", he said, did not have a right to exist. Lazar said that gay pride marches were “a provocation” similar to cartoon depictions of Mohammed.

Moscow Pride organiser, meanwhile, has said that attempts to prevent the march will be challenged with court action, if necessary, all the way to the European Court ofhuman rights in Strasbourg.

Russian gay and lesbian activists announced in July that they would apply for a permit to hold pride celebrations in Moscow next May. If it is granted it would be the first pride parade ever held in the Russian capital. The projected date is May 27, 2006 — the anniversary of the abolition of Soviet laws against homosexuality in 1993.

Many well known gay rights campaigners from around the world will attend the first ever Gay Pride Parade in Russia, which coincides with the first International Day Against Homophobia conference. These include the British campaigners Michael Cashman MEP, Peter Tatchell of OutRage! and UK IDAHO co-ordinator Derek Lennard.

Also attending are the Deputy Mayor of Paris and several members of the European Council. Representatives from more than 30 countries will attend the Moscow International Gay Festival, which as well as Pride and the first IDAHO conference will include a series of talks by Mervin Holland, the grandson of Oscar Wilde, and a  day of “Russian and Scandinavian homoculture”.  

Derek Lennard, UK Correspondent for the International Day Against Homophobia said “The first Pride in Moscow is of enormous and enormous importance particularly to the LGBT communities in the Baltic and Eastern European Countries. All those who are able to take the freedom to organise Pride for granted will surely want show their support for the LGBT community in Moscow”

Peter Tatchell said: “These attempts by the Russian state and religious leaders to suppress the right to protest are a throwback to the bad old days of czarist and communist totalitarianism. No amount of threats and intimidation by the Mayor of Moscow, the Chief Mufti or the Chief Rabbi will halt the gay freedom struggle in Russia. The right to sexual self-determination and the right to protest are fundamental human rights that every democratic humanitarian nation must respect.”

The event is a week after the start of the Russian Presidency in the Council of Europe and just before the summit of G8 leaders in St Petersburg. President Putin has not commented on Pride or the threats of violence from religious leaders.

For further information:

The IDAHO-UK website is at: www.idaho-uk.orgThe international IDAHO website is www.idahomophobia.orgFor more information, email Derek Lennard at info@idaho-uk.orgFor info about Manchester events, email


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Free the bomber-jacket guy

It’s been reported that the Omar Khayam, the man who dressed as a suicide bomber look-alike at the “Cartoon” protest in London last Friday has been sent back to prison for violating his parole conditions. Khayam is a convicted drug dealer.

Now, I think his stunt was ill-considered (for the reasons I gave in my previous post) and the chairman of his local mosque is probably spot on the mark when he describes him as “a bit of an idiot”.

For all I know, he may have been making an ironic statement by depicting himself as the very worst stereotype that Muslims are portrayed as. There is nothing wrong with that in principle, but it was a strategic blunder, chiefly because the memory of real suicide bombers is still fresh in London’s memory – so the image isn’t one that resonates exclusively as a stereotype at this moment in time. The strong reaction was almost certainly guaranteed to overshadow the political point.

On the other hand, (again, for all I know) he may have simply wanted to appear threatening and provocative. But this is neither here nor there.

But he has now apologised. So that should be the end of the matter.

But it isn’t, because Khayam now faces the prospect of having to serve out the rest of his drugs conviction sentence.

I now find myself agreeing with Anjem Choudary, formerly UK chairman of the radical Islamist group al-Muhajiroun. He told The Guardian:

"If it is correct that he was dealing drugs, he has already been punished, his character is changed and he is amending his life. He has not done anything that merits him being put back in jail."

I don’t know if his character has changed or whether he has amended his life, but that is irrelevant, nevertheless Choudary is absolutely correct that Khayam has done nothing that merits putting him back in jail.

If it isn’t a crime to protest – even so insensitively and provocatively – then it seems to me that the authorities are using his parole conditions as a convenience. If a person with no criminal record could get away with his actions (with or without a heart-felt apology), then so should Khayam. If he attempts to rob a bank, mugs and old lady or sells more crack – you know, something criminal – by all means send him back to the slammer.

But for being “a bit of an idiot”, I don’t think so! And it’s not doing the image of British justice any good. In fact, like Khayam, the British justice system is also acting out its worst stereotype. Is no-one learning anything?

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Cartoon Islam

Is this cartoon Islamophobic?
Does it incite religious and racial hatred?
Should it be banned?
Does it cause offence?
Is it insulting to Muslims?
Does it stereotype followers of the Islamic faith as hateful, violent and intolerant?
Does the cartoon cause offence and exceed the boundries of responsible free speech?
Should a newspaper or TV programme be allowed to publish/broadcast this cartoon?

In fact, the above cartoon is only a cartoonised version of real-life Muslim extremist protestors who were demonstrating against cartoon depictions of the Prophet Mohammed on Friday, February 3, 2006 in central London (see original screen images below).

The cartoon above was not created by a graphic artist. It was created by running a Photoshop filter over a screen grab of live TV footage of the protest. The captions were literally cut and pasted from placards carried by the marchers.

Why are some Muslims and their appeasing liberal/left allies getting so het up about fantasy cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, while ignoring real-life murderous insults and threats by Islamist fundamentalists (depicted in the photo below) in London, Europe and many other parts of the world?

One cannot help but reflect on the irony, as journalist Sarfraz Manzoor did on BBC News 24, that it is perhaps not the best way to protest the way one is depicted in a cartoon by behaving the way one was depicted in the cartoon. “In a way it confirmed the stereotype,” said Manzoor. “The reaction is doing more damage than the original offence.”

Of course, the vast majority of Muslims, while being offended by the cartoons (much like I imagine most Christians were over Piss-Christ) , will no doubt be exasperated with the “rampaging mobs and hysterical nutters” (as Sunny of the progressive Asian blog ‘Pickled Politics’ described them).

Legislators will be in a bind now about whether to prosecute those wielding slogans inciting racial hatred and violence like “Slay those who insult Islam”, “Butcher those who insult Islam” and “Europe will pay, demolition is on its way”.

I’m sure it’s mostly bravado, and the protestors will discover that they too are the beneficiaries of free speech.

On the other hand, the BBC is in a flap over whether to show the cartoons or not. Anyone interested in seeing the original cartoons can find them on Iranian communist Maryam Namazie’s blog.

The loathesome BNP, it doesn’t take a sage to predict, will waste no time in exploiting these TV news images. But in a weird way (or perhaps not so weird), they speak the same language as these protestors. It’s the clash of un-civilisations.