This article infuriates me. It’s lazy, and that is the most inexcusable thing for such an inflammatory article to be. From it’s ‘Can we talk about immigration now?’ Daily Mail-esque headline (because, you know, I’m pretty sure people have been talking about ‘Muslim homophobia’ for quite some time now. With zero sense of irony, the poll Hari links to was TWO YEARS AGO!) to its selective use of facts, it’s shockingly irresponsible.
It is irresponsible in ignoring the fact that bodies such as the Muslim Council of Britain, the East London Mosque and the Association of British Muslims all condemned these stickers. Indeed, the latter organisation went even further and said “There is nothing in the Qur’an against LGBT people. Allah has honoured every son/daughter of Adam, so such a hateful message is not only morally and ethically wrong but actually unislamic.”
It is irresponsible in failing to explain the quite striking statement that “East London has seen the highest increase in homophobic attacks anywhere in Britain.” A quick Google search reveals stark headlines about soaring homophobic crime every year dating back to at least 2005. Is it perhaps possible that the ‘increase’ is down to a) increased efforts by the police to engage with the LGBT community and, linked to this, b) increased reporting of offences? It also fails to question any link between the gay population of various parts of the UK and an ‘increase’ – if homophobic crime is increasing across the UK, it’s logical it would increase more in areas with a large gay population (such as East London) than in other areas, no? And rise it has – apparently homophobic crime doubled in Scotland LAST YEAR, as opposed to a 28% increase in London in the past 4 years. Would Hari attribute the rise in Scotland to Muslim homophobia also?
It is irresponsible in treating homophobic attacks as a ‘special’ kind of attack, as if they exist in a vacuum. We already know that single men are by far the most likely to be attacked. Has this risen in East London generally? Without this knowledge the article is immediately meaningless. I read of stabbings in East London on a daily basis, but because they are typically seen as gang-related they are seen as nothing to do with homophobic attacks. If an entire area is suffering from a large incidence of violent crime, why would gay people be excluded from this?
Related to this point, is Hari saying that Muslim people are just more likely to attack gay men? Or is it rather that people from a certain socio-economic background are more likely to do so? Are middle-class Muslims running around East London stabbing gay men? If it IS related to socio-economic status then that tells us something, no? Would Hari attribute the violent crimes committed by Christians, agnostics, atheists etc to their spiritual beliefs? If I was to go out and mug a gay man, would this be because I was baptised? This goes to the hoary (but worth repeating) point that NO-ONE ever referred to the IRA as a ‘Catholic Terrorist group’ whereas the immediate reaction to any ‘Muslim’ political organisation is to immediately highlight the religious aspect (and presumed cause).
It saddens me that gay people are so willing to applaud articles like this without applying any critical thought. I don’t mean to downplay the importance of tackling the problem of attacks on gay men. But we do not exist in a vacuum, and however much some people’s sense of identity may depend on it, we are not a horribly oppressed minority. In tackling violent crime we should join as a community – a community based on shared space, values and empathy, and not sexuality – and tackle all violent crime. Simplistic articles like this do nothing to help with this.