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Why does the battle for gay rights stop at the borders of Islam?

3 February 2015

1:09 PM

3 February 2015

1:09 PM

You can tell when a battle has been won.  Read the Pink News or any other gay news site and you will see that there are almost no stories left to report.  A politician in Northern Ireland may be caught expressing an opinion on gay marriage which was the view of all mainstream UK political parties ten years ago.  There might be some gossip about various celebrities (so no different from any other newspapers).  But otherwise gay news sites are reduced to tentatively wondering if Transgender rights are the same as gay rights (the jury is out) and otherwise running mainstream politics stories which strangely favour the Lib Dems while expressing an inherited hostility towards the Tories and Ukip.  This is no tragedy.  It is a demonstration of the fact that after victory people get on with life as normal.

Of course not very far away there are people who take a quite different view of these matters.  In the newspapers today we can see photos of events in the Syrian town of Raqqa.  There Isis have just carried out another ‘execution’ of someone accused of being gay.  The victim – this time a man in his 50s – was thrown off the top floor of a seven-storey building.  He appears to have survived the fall and so was stoned to death by the crowd on the ground.


What are right-thinking people to do about this?  For most of them it isn’t easy because they don’t even know where to begin thinking about this and have been taught to be almost fearful about speaking about it.

I think we can probably say with some confidence that if an evangelical Christian group threw gays off towers in the Deep South, gay media outlets would currently be lambasting the Christian churches for a history of homophobia which had led to this pass.  There would be demands for every prominent and obscure Christian pastor to condemn this brutal act.  And they would.  If a group of group of deeply extrovert Jews did a similar thing we could, I think, expect a similarly stern response.  But the most that can be done with Isis is simply to report the facts and let them sit there, as though they come from nowhere.  As if the traditions of throwing gays off buildings or collapsing walls on them and so on are probably just accretions of colonial times with no connection to any religious tradition.  And so, anyway – back to minor stories about Tom Daley or Clare Balding.

There are those who believe that the fight for gay rights, or indeed human rights in general, stops at the borders of Islam.  Very few people seem to realise that they should not.  Of course we have legions of celebrities who are willing to sign letters calling for posthumous pardons for Alan Turing and others.  But how do these people select their targets?  Well, whenever I ask that question the best answer I hear is that people try to do things in their own societies because that is where they can make most difference.  Well, Alan Turing is dead.  It is hard to think of anything more tokenistic or pointless than ‘pardoning’ a man after he’s been tormented and many years after he has died.  But it is, of course, really really easy.

As for encouraging grass-roots responses on the ground (which is where everybody of course hopes it will come from), for the forseeable future is it hard to see the opportunities for a decent LGBT society to flourish in Isis-held territory.  So where are all these people who profess to care about gay rights?  Their absence suggests to me that agreement has broadly been reached that religious sensitivities trump human rights, as long as the sensitivities in question are Islamic.

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