PinkNews.co.uk Exclusive

PinkNews.co.uk has been told of a five year plan to combat homophobia in the British Muslim community.

Muhammed Aziz, policy advisor to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), told PinkNews.co.uk that significant progress is expected following internal discussions after a productive All Party Parliamentary Group meeting earlier this year, which included the Muslim organisation and gay charity Stonewall.

Mr Aziz revealed plans to look at homophobia in the Muslim community and Islamophobia in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in reaction to controversial comments by MCB leader Sir Iqbal Sacranie on homosexuality.

It is hoped that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will help conduct the project, a DTI spokesman confirmed discussions have taken place.

This marks a shift from previous years where there has been little dialogue between the MCB and gay groups, Mr Aziz said: “We have brought about a lot of change from five years ago when the MCB were behind issues such as section 28, and against gay adoption.

“The first part of the strategy was to tell MCB if you have nothing positive to say keep your mouth shut, most of the negative statements now date back to 1999.”

Alan Wardle. Stonewall’s director of Parliamentary and Public Affairs, confirmed there has been some contact with the MCB but said any specific projects are in the early stages, he said “It is something we may look into for the future.”

Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill calmed the rumours, “We have been in meetings with a range of faith groups, there is nothing formal at the moment.”

The potential partnerships were first fostered at a meeting of the Equality and Diversity Forum on January 18, attended by Mr Aziz, and Mr Wardle, where both agreed their should be further discussions and debate between the communities.

This sentiment was reinforced at the January 31 meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Equalities.

Other gay rights groups including Outrage are offended that they have been excluded from plans, but Mr Aziz said the issues had to be treated sensitively, “They may be uncomfortable about individual personalities, Stonewall are seen as a safe pair of hands.”

Outrage’s Peter Tatchell said: “How does Muhammed Aziz square this commitment to fight homophobia with Sir Iqbal Sacranie’s comments that gay people are immoral, harmful and diseased. If the leader of the MCB holds these homophobic views how can we take seriously the MCB’s claimed commitment to fighting homophobia.

“The MCB supports legal discrimination against lesbians and gays, It has opposed every gay equality reform of the last decade.

“These actions do not look like the actions of an organisation committed to fighting homophobia.”

The MCB worked with gay groups such as the Lesbian and Gay Coalition Against Racism at last month’s Unite Against Conference. Secretary, Inayat Bunglawala said at the time, “British Muslims welcome working with everyone including members of the Lesbian and Gay community against a common enemy, fascism.”

Mr Tatchell said: “Outrage and other gay groups have been lobbying the MCB for a long time, it’s great that the MCB is now willing to reciprocate cooperation with the LGBT community.”

The next step according to Mr Aziz is to get the DTI to take the issues seriously, “We are looking to create productive policies rather than news and publicity.”