Civilizing the Muslims of London

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Johann Hari just tweeted about his article, ‘Can We Talk About Muslim Homophobia Now?‘. I tweeted back, ‘@JohannHari What do you mean by ‘now’? This was echoed by Gary Younge who joined in with his tweet: ‘Johann It implies ‘we’ weren’t discussing muslim homophobia before. But ‘we’ were. Alot. It’s hardly been taboo’.

And that is the point: it is not new or brave to discuss Muslim homophobia. It is what everyone does, whether – by the way – you are gay or straight and whether you in fact care about gay rights. It is not that we should not be outraged about violence against gay people, it is that the fact that some Muslim people have been violent against gays is used as another stick to beat all Muslims with in the current climate.

Johann Hari obviously cares about gay rights, but that does not mean that his message cannot be boiled down to: all Muslims hate gays and therefore should be discriminated against. This may not be the intent of Hari’s article, but it is its not altogether undesired outcome. When he says, ‘In the Netherlands, they now show all new immigrants images of men kissing, and if they object, they tell them they should go and live somewhere else. We should be doing the same’ he is pandering to argument that liberal values need to be protected by illiberal means. The conflation between ‘Muslims’ and ‘immigrants’ hardly needs mentioning.

When he says, ‘I believe British Muslims can change. I believe they can accept and love their gay children, just as surely as my parents – who also grew up in horribly homophobic places – accepted and loved me’ the civilizing mission that he has embarked upon could not be clearer. Do Muslims, and gay Muslims in particular, need Hari to ride in on his white horse to save them? Clearly not.


  • Phillip

    February 26, 2011

    I have to say I feel you have clearly mis-understood the point of Hari’s article. The first half certainly shakes you up with anger but by the end of the article you are in a very well balanced place. He isn’t literally meaning ‘can we talk about this now?’. I think he is just spreading the word about the awful behaviour of people who ever they are… although in the article he highlights Muslims. I think it is brave to discuss these topics and get people talking about it as so many people sit by and do nothing. We need to be stirred up and democratically fighting against these types of prejudice that STILL exist in today’s society. His message certainly doesn’t condemn ALL Muslims but there is no denying that the strict Muslims do hold a strong prejudice for homosexuals. We shouldn’t be alienating each other, otherwise we’ll soon be in the same viscous circle surrounding the conflict in Palestine.



  • Polly

    February 26, 2011

    I think this a reasonable response to Johann, but I feel that it comes from a perspective that contains a certain paranoia (perhaps not a bad thing), something that the trans community shares. My own view is that Johann went out of his way to try not to conflate Muslim with any other issues. You think he failed and I respect that, while disagreeing.

    To the extent that I have an issue with Muslims as a section of UK society (and excluding issues with the violent minority) it is that their voice is not being heard to condemn the violence. Muslims that I count among my friends (admittedly few in number) do condemn the violence in private, but they are not political or religious activists and are therefore not heard.

    What does the ‘average’ Muslim think of the violence perpetrated in the name of their religion? If, as I suspect, the majority is opposed to the violence, what can be done to get that majority view heard?

    At the moment, almost the only news that is heard is of the violence of intolerant bigotry. Until another side of Islam is heard, I feel that mutual intolerance will simply grow and grow…and I, for one, don’t want to live in that world.

    Within the context of Islam, I have no idea what the answer might be…it has to come from within the Muslim community. But, I do think that Islam is losing the PR war at the moment, and not just in the UK.

    How do you see the issues being addressed? I would welcome your perspective.

  • Alana Lentin

    February 27, 2011

    @Phillip, it is clear that people are homophobic. What I am interested in is what is the political utility, in the present climate, of singling Muslims out as being particularly homophobic, s if they were more so than others. Secondly, as soon as you say Islam/Muslims are homophobic you are associating everyone who can be identified as a Muslim (not always the same as those who self-identify as Muslim) with homophobia. Although there are many white homophobes, we do not talk about ‘white homophobia’. We talk neutrally about homophobes, and this is as it should be – for everyone. Hari is part of a liberal intelligentsia which has jumped on the bandwagon of a type of racism which is justified by the fact that it is precisely being out out by liberals and/or gay people. This does not make it many more acceptable than homophobia.

  • Valentinos K

    February 27, 2011

    “To the extent that I have an issue with Muslims as a section of UK society (and excluding issues with the violent minority) it is that their voice is not being heard to condemn the violence”

    Polly, is it because in your eyes they are all already presumed guilty and they have to prove their innocence?

  • Niek

    February 27, 2011

    “singling Muslims out as being particularly homophobic, as if they were more so than others”

    Johann Hari refers to a Gallup poll that clearly shows that Muslims are more homophobic than others:

    “None of the 500 British Muslims interviewed believed that homosexual acts were morally acceptable.”

  • Alana Lentin

    February 27, 2011

    Niek: Polls reveal what they set out to look for.

  • Dyana Rodriguez

    February 28, 2011

    Instead of “Muslims” perhaps we should say “Islamic fundamentalism”.
    Aren’t Islamic fundamentalist countries the only ones where homosexuality carries the death penalty?

  • Niek

    February 28, 2011

    Alana: A remarkable comment. So you’re criticising Hari for, what, backing up his claim with a mere Gallup poll?

    What exactly should he have used to assess the level of homophobia within the Muslim community?

    On what basis do you claim to know he, and the poll he cites, is wrong?

  • Alana Lentin

    February 28, 2011

    I know that any invocation of “the Muslim community” is as meaningless as “the white community” – something that nobody would say.

  • Alana Lentin

    March 1, 2011

    Good article by Richard Seymour on Johann Hari’s anti-Muslim racism today:

  • Richard Seymour

    March 1, 2011

    “A remarkable comment. So you’re criticising Hari for, what, backing up his claim with a mere Gallup poll?”

    It’s not unknown for polls to be conducted in such a way as to yield a particular response. The slightest alteration in question structure is often enough to produce an entirely different response.

    More pressingly, the idea that 0% of Muslims consider gays to be acceptable is simply prima facie absurd. There are more than 0% of Muslims who are gay. There are more than 0% of Muslims who are vocally supportive of gay rights. There are more than 0% of Muslims who have stated in previous polls that they accept and respect gays. All of this is easily accessible information and would be obvious to anyone who didn’t inhabit an anti-Muslim bunker of the mind. So, Hari’s selective citation of this obviously false poll number, which is at best a statistical outlier, is done with an attempt to provoke, sensationalise and demonise. He is using this bullshit figure, coupled with another bullshit claim (viz homophobic hate crime stats in the East End) to represent Muslims as the new folk devils, an only slightly more complex figure than ‘black muggers’ in the Seventies, or ‘sponging asylum seekers’ in the Nineties.

  • Jannik Thorsen

    March 3, 2011

    You lefties just cant handle the fact that muslims are more homophobic than the average white person.
    When the polls contradict your claims, Alana just says that polls can show whatever you want them to show.

    Alana, your way of arguing is a joke. Have you ever hesrd of ad hoc arguments?

    You and your pseudoscientific leftist community has by now lost all academic credibility.
    You are nothing more than quacks, haters and lyers with an extreme multicultural and anti-european agenda.

  • Alana Lentin

    March 4, 2011

    Dear all, especially Jannick,

    Please read this excellent response to hari:

    which goes in to far greater detail than I was able. Pay attention especially to this:

    “Speaking of statistics:

    The most detailed opinion survey of British Muslims was carried out by Gallup, who correctly predicted the result of the last general election. In their extensive polling, they found literally no British Muslims who would say homosexuality is “morally acceptable.” Every one of the Muslims they polled objected to it.

    Well, at least this time you provide a link to your source (although this turns out to be an article in The Guardian which contains only incomplete data, and itself fails to link directly to the survey); as a result of this I know that Gallup polled 500 British Muslims. That in turn tells me something quite significant – that this survey has almost certainly produced junk data.

    It pretty much has to be junk. I mean, for a start, there’s the 100% finding. Every one of those 500 Muslims said they believed homosexuality to be morally unacceptable, apparently. Not only did none of them find it morally acceptable, not one of them replied “don’t know”, or declined to answer the question. There are always people who answer any survey question “don’t know”; total unanimity like this is usually the hallmark of faked election results under dictatorships. This alone is grounds for being sceptical.

    But here’s another reason: the lowest credible estimate for the prevalence of homosexuality in the UK population is 1%. This means that, statistically speaking, an absolute minimum of 5 of those 500 Muslims should themselves have been gay, yet they condemned homosexuality as forcibly as their straight counterparts. That tells me either that recruitment practices for the survey were sufficiently flawed to mean no gay Muslims were recruited, or that the survey was conducted in such a way that people felt unable to answer in the way they wished (keep in mind this last factor would inhibit the free expression of views by liberal heterosexuals just as readily as homosexuals). Either way round, it strikes me we pretty much have to discount the findings of this survey, or, at the very least, treat them with great caution. We certainly shouldn’t use them as the basis for a diatribe about the inherent evil of Muslims.”

  • Alana Lentin

    March 4, 2011

    Also, Jannick, who is the illiberal here: “You are nothing more than quacks, haters and lyers with an extreme multicultural and anti-european agenda.”
    Subtle, and polite. Thanks

  • Alana Lentin

    March 4, 2011

    In another comment which I won’t deign to publish here, Jannick accuses me of “not doing social science but practicing multicultural politics.
    And she is paid by a university for practicing leftist pseudoscience. This is the most scary part of it all.”

    I presume this means that he thinks racism is science. Hardly surprising that he is based in the Netherlands where the rise of racism over recent years has been alarming!

  • Jannik Thorsen

    March 4, 2011

    @Alana Lentin

    The negation or opposite of “leftist pseudosciencs” or “multicultural politics”, is not “racism” as you falsely imply.

    Doing depoliticized social science would be commendable. But this is for practical reasons very difficult when most universities in the west are filled up with leftist undemocratic fanatics fantasizing about a crazy multicultural utopia, sanctioned by the EU.

    “Also, Jannick, who is the illiberal here:”

    So i am both illiberal and a racist for not agreeing with your extreme ideology?

    You are nothing more than a hypocrite. You are the one who wanted to suppress Thilo Sarrazins right to free speech.

    The muslim sex additude study also claims that a very tiny minority of british muslims think its morally acceptable for unmarried men and women to have sexual relations.

    Why not just accept the fact that muslims on a whole are very illiberal people, with extremely conservative views on sexuality?

    It seems like you are in a state of denial, since youre favorite victim group doesnt seem to live up to expectations.

    Let me encourage you to face up to the nasty facts, youre nasty multicultural fantasy is being exposed for what it is, so perhaps you should convert to realism instead?

  • Alana Lentin

    March 6, 2011

    It’s amazing how much vitriol can be generated when Muslims are the question.

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  • Domain Name Checker

    March 16, 2011

    I presume this means that he thinks racism is science. Hardly surprising that he is based in the Netherlands and in other some countries.

  • Francois J.

    June 23, 2011

    “Hardly surprising that he is based in the Netherlands..?”
    Doesn’t this remark qualifies as primary anti-dutch racism ? I wonder.

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  • Alana Lentin

    September 26, 2012

    Ah, just revisiting this thread. Warms the heart really!

  • Gay muslim

    November 1, 2013

    Gay ex-muslim here (well, athiest, but grew up muslim).

    Alana – Its amazing that you are finding fault with the assertion that muslims are generally less tolerant of gays. This is based on my every day experiences. Either the muslim community denies muslims can be gay, or it labels it as a white mans thing (“them”). This is the experience with a whole cross section (ethnic, income) of muslims. Examples: I know a western born muslim guy who went to med school in the west and detests gays. He’s always joking about what he’ll do if “they” come to him for treatment. He cant refuse because of the discrimination laws, so it puts him in a bit of a pickle. Another western born muslim female in her 30’s who’s really successful in her career finds it next to impossible to grasp the concept of “gay”. “So you will still get married and have kids, right?”.
    There’s also the issue of muslim gays and lesbians being pressured into hetero marriages, with the muslim family knowing full well of the persons sexuality. Not an abstract possibility that I’m pulling this out of thin air. I see this happen in real life.

    Of all the muslims I know, easily the majority is homophobic. Doesn’t mean they want to kill gays, but they don’t consider it normal.

    You don’t put much faith in surveys to get a sense of reality? Well, how about this. Contact your local muslim LGTB organization and speak to a bunch of the queer muslims about their experiences with muslim communities and non-muslims communities.

    You wrote towards the end “Do Muslims, and gay Muslims in particular, need Hari to ride in on his white horse to save them? Clearly not.”. That’s a topic of a long discussion on its own, but as I read your denial of homophobia in muslim communities, attribution of criticism to “islamophobia”, and focus more on maintaining an untrue and pretend reality of Islam, rather then accepting that some issues need to be dealt with, I’d so glad I have him to “save” me (a gay muslim) then you trying to pretend everything’s hunky dory.

    You don’t speak for gay muslims. Seriously. Hush.

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