The gay rights group, Outrage!, claim that Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain was forced to withdraw from making a key note address at the trade union-sponsored “Unite Against Fascism” conference held in London today, following protests against his alleged homophobic views.

However, Sir Iqbal was likely to have been absent due to the event clashing with a London rally against the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed in the European press.

“This climbdown is a victory for humanitarian values over homophobic prejudice. We want Muslim leaders like Sacranie to be part of the anti-BNP alliance, but only if they respect the human rights of gay people and other minorities,” said Peter Tatchell of the gay human rights group, OutRage!, which helped coordinate the protests against Sir Iqbal being invited to speak.

Mr Tatchell disputes that Sir Iqbal cancelled his appearance due to other engagements: “Three days ago the conference organisers were adamant that Sir Iqbal would be a speaker. After being deluged with protests they are now saying he is no longer available. This is not a credible explanation. We believe the organisers realised they could not secure the acceptance of a homophobe at an anti-fascist conference, so they dumped him.

“Sacranie’s attitude to gay people is similar to the homophobia of the BNP. He should have never been invited in the first place.

“Unite Against Fascism ought to be giving a platform to liberal, progressive Muslims, not right-wing homophobes like Sacranie.”

Fellow Outrage! campaigner, the gay Muslim, Ramzi Islam, added:”As well as actively campaigning to maintain homophobic laws like Section 28, he [Sir Iqbal] last month publicly denounced lesbians and gay men on BBC Radio, saying they were immoral, harmful and spread disease.

“Resorting to inflammatory language barely distinguishable from the homophobic tirades of the neo-Nazi BNP, the MCB website deionises same-sex relationships as ‘offensive’, ‘immoral’ and ‘repugnant’.

“The UAF would not invite as a speaker someone who said that black people are immoral, harmful and spread disease, or who vilified Jewish people as offensive, immoral and repugnant. Why, then, did they offer a platform to a bigot who says these things about gays and lesbians?”

Police said 10,000 people had gathered in Trafalgar Square before marching to Hyde Park. The event was described as “peaceful” and no arrests have been made.

No one at the Muslim Council of Britain was available to comment.