During London’s Pride parade last week, members of Britain’s Council of Ex-Muslims (CEMB) were asked by police to lower their banners that read “Allah is Gay,” while other signs saying “Jesus is Gay” attracted no such concern.
“Pride is full of placards saying ‘God is Gay,’ ‘Jesus had two fathers,’ as well as those mocking the church and priests and pope, yet CEMB members hold signs saying ‘Allah is Gay’ – as we did – and the police converge to attempt to remove them for causing ‘offence,’” a statement on the CEMB’s website says.
Fear and misunderstanding caused the controversy, CEMB says in its statement:
“The only reasons our signs are seen to be ‘provocative’ are because criticism of Islam is deemed to be impermissible, because there is the constant threat of violence by Islamists against ex-Muslims but also dissenting Muslims and others in order to silence and censor, and because criticism of Islam and Islamism is erroneously conflated with an attack on Muslims.”
In response to the group’s signs, the East London Mosque filed a formal complaint against Britain’s Council of Ex-Muslims, claiming that the group was “inciting hatred towards Muslims.” The organization held multiple signs condemning Islam for its stance on LGBT rights. Some banners read “ex-Muslim and proud,” “f--k Islamic homophobia,” and “Islamophobia is an oxymoron.”
Salman Farsi, a spokesman for the East London Mosque, told Britain’s Evening Standard his mosque’s decision to file a complaint against CEMB was based on the belief the sign constituted a threat:
“We’ve raised a complaint with the co-chairs of the event [London Pride] that the group [CEMB] was inciting hatred against Muslims, and in particular to our good name, based on absolutely groundless reasons.
“Our religion doesn’t promote hatred or homophobia. Yes, there might be theological topics dealing with homosexuality in Islam, but that’s clearly very separate from promoting hatred and homophobia.”
Maryam Namazie, the spokeswoman for CEMB and an Iranian secularist, noted on her Facebook page the stark contrast between the response to the different banners and signs at London Pride:
“Had some back and forth about 'Allah is Gay' placard at the start. Police said many complaints about it being 'offensive' (though no one offended by 'Jesus is Gay') before we even headed out but eventually we managed to march with all our banners intact.”
While Namazie and CEMB say the intent of their signs was to protest Islamic views on homosexuality, not Islam itself, London Pride said they will evaluate whether CEMB will be allowed to participate in next year’s event.
"If anyone taking part in our parade makes someone feel ostracised, discriminated against or humiliated, then they are undermining and breaking the very principles on which we exist. Our code of conduct is very clear on this matter,” said a spokesman for London Pride:
"While our parade has always been a home to protest, which often means conflicting points of view, Pride must always be a movement of acceptance, diversity and unity. We will not tolerate Islamophobia.”