A group of gay rights campaigners has demanded that mosques in east London must ban homophobic speakers.

The call follows a £100 fine for a man convicted of pasting anti-gay stickers around the area.

Mohammed Hasnath, 18, of Leamouth, pleaded guilty to a public order offence over the ‘gay-free zone’ stickers, which misquoted the Koran.

A letter signed by 12 activists, including writers Julie Bindel and Paul Burston, said it was clear that Hasnath was part of a wider campaign to intimidate gay people. (Read the full letter below)

It said: “There is a strong feeling that homophobia is being covered up, or ignored, in order not to ‘endanger community relations’. The paltry fine issued by the court lends weight to this fear. It sends a message that bullies and thugs can get away with it, and that homophobia is a second-class crime.

“The problem lies not with the judge, who was constrained by the charges under which the case was brought, but primarily with the law itself which treats mounting an inter-city, coordinated anti-gay intimidation campaign as nothing more serious than illicit flyposting or spitting in the street. Such a light penalty would be unthinkable if we were considering groups operating across UK to create Jew-free, Black-free, Muslim-free or Christian-free zones.”

Homophobic hate crime has risen in Tower Hamlets over the last year, from 61 offences to 87. In 2008, gay man Oliver Hemsley was paralysed in a homophobic attack on Hackney Road, close to gay nightspots George & Dragon and The Joiners Inn.

The letter listed a number of anti-gay Muslim clerics hosted by the East London Mosque, including Abdul Karim Hattin’s 2007 ‘spot the fag’ contest and Abdullah Hakim Quick, who is on record calling for the death penalty for gays.

Activists said: “The East London Mosque claims to have no responsibility over those who speak there. The East London Mosque also claims to be opposed to the ‘gay-free zone’ campaign and homophobia. We demand that the East London Mosque live up to its stated word, take ownership of its platform and stop allowing its premises to be used to promote gay-hate campaigns.”

In response, East London Mosque spokesman Salman Farsi told the Guardian that homophobic speakers were not permitted.

“Any speaker who is believed to have said something homophobic will not be allowed to use our premises, whether that is us organising an event or someone else. As for the condemnation of homophobia, our director has gone on the record on this,” he said.

He added that the £100 fine was a “slap on the wrist” and said the mosque was doing “as much as we possibly can”.

Read the letter in full below:

JUST A £100 FINE FOR WAGING A HOMOPHOBIC HATE CAMPAIGN? WHAT HAPPENED TO EQUALITY?
Many gay and lesbian people across the UK and beyond are furious that during a period of rising anti-gay hate crime in Tower Hamlets a man found guilty of distributing and placing homophobic hate stickers around the borough has been fined just £100.

Mohammed Hasnath, of Leamouth, Tower Hamlets, admitted putting up the stickers, which declared a ‘Gay Free Zone’ and quoted a verse from the Qur’an, on the 25 bus, a bus stop in Whitechapel, Bow Church DLR station, and outside the Royal London Hospital, as well as handing them out to “random Muslim men”, between the 11 and 14 February this year.

The stickers (one sixth-A4 size) have been seen in several streets in Shoreditch, Canary Wharf and Hackney as well. Similar religiously-inspired homophobic hate stickers have also been reported in the Midlands. The campaigns lasted for several months, dating back to September of last year.

This week, some news reports inaccurately reported that the campaign to isolate, intimidate and stoke up hatred against the local gay population in East London was solely the work of one man, the convicted Hasnath.

People are upset that a coordinated, prolonged, multi-city attempt to define parts of the UK as Gay-Free Zones was treated as no more than mildly disorderly conduct. A comment on PinkNews says it all: “He was charged under section 5 of the public order act 1986 – which is often used to prosecute someone who repeatedly swears in the street – that is the level of offence that was used in the case. Shocking watering down of the impact of this on the communities by the justice system – let down by police and CPS…”

There is a strong feeling that homophobia is being covered up, or ignored, in order not to ‘endanger community relations’. The paltry fine issued by the court lends weight to this fear. It sends a message that bullies and thugs can get away with it, and that homophobia is a second-class crime.

The problem lies not with the judge, who was constrained by the charges under which the case was brought, but primarily with the law itself which treats mounting an inter-city, coordinated anti-gay intimidation campaign as nothing more serious than illicit flyposting or spitting in the street. Such a light penalty would be unthinkable if we were considering groups operating across UK to create Jew-free, Black-free, Muslim-free or Christian-free zones.

The absurdity of the sentence points to the need to change the laws so that gays receive the same protections as Muslims, blacks or Jews. For the words human rights to mean anything they can’t be applied only to people who belong to certain religious, sexual, racial, class, national or other groups. Human rights are for everyone or they are not at all.

The “Gay-Free Zone” campaign was deliberately committed to fill gay people with fear in an area where they have already have been subject to vicious assaults and intimidation by gangs and ideologues for years

The arrest and conviction of a low-level patsy on risible charges and the resulting arguments over the case – as well as the misinformation which had previously been knowingly spread by certain “community representatives” about the true identity of the culprits – are a sideshow and a distraction from the urgent business of investigating and stopping those who are behind this campaign of intimidation.

A BACKGROUND OF RISING HOMOPHOBIC HATE IN EAST LONDON
While it is often claimed that homophobic hate crime is ‘falling’ in Tower Hamlets, the most recent statistics released by the Metropolitan Police Service show that homophobic hate crime is UP in Tower Hamlets by 21% over last annual reporting period, from 67 attacks to 81; during the same period, religious/racial hate crime remained flat. (see: http://www.met.police.uk/crimefigures/datatable.php?borough=ht&period=year). Many gay people have been forced out of the borough, unable to cope with the harassment.

A particularly vicious attack – ignored by national media – occurred in late August 2008, when a 21 year-old art student, Oliver Hemsley, was butchered just after leaving the George & Dragon pub on Hackney Road in Shoreditch.

He was set on by a gang of 8 Bengali youths, his wine bottle snatched from him, smashed and the broken glass driven into his torso; they kicked him to a pulp, and finally a stabbed him in the neck, a knife partly cutting his spinal cord to leave him quadriplegic. A 15 year old, Nasrul Islam, was the only gang member to be brought to justice. Incredibly, the police released him on bail – only for him to mug a 12 year-old girl just days later. On his sentencing in March 2009, as an act of revenge, 30 youths attacked the George & Dragon and its customers with baseball bats (see: http://www.timeout.com/london/around-town/article/1058/gay-londoners-see-attacks-rise) For months, LGBT people walking along Hackney Road were subject to abuse and assaults, pelted with stones and eggs.

EAST LONDON MOSQUE / LONDON MUSLIM CENTRE – INFILTRATED BY EXTREMISTS, HAS HOSTED A STRING OF HATE PREACHERS
The East London Mosque (ELM), the main mosque in East London, was quick to distance itself from, and to condemn, the “Gay Free Zone” stickers. It has, however, many links with the extremist Islamic Federation Of Europe (IFE), which seeks to impose Shariah law in Europe. The IFE was founded after Jamaat-e-Islam’s members fled Bangladesh during the violent struggle for independence in 1971. Some were wanted for murder and escaped justice by seeking asylum in London. Of 22 IFE trustees, only 5 have not also been trustees of themosque.

We must stop assuming that the ELM/IFE represent the larger Muslim community. There are 80,000 Muslims in Tower Hamlets. About 4,000 of them, or 5%, attend the ELM. Last June, a host of Tower Hamlets organisations, including the Bangladeshi Welfare Association, the Brick Lane Mosque, the Bangladesh Youth Association and numerous other other local groups signed a joint release condemning the IFE as fascist. (see:http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2010/06/453923.html)

In addition to its IFE connections, the ELM has also hosted numerous hate preachers who have promoted the most vicious homophobia imaginable over the years.

While it is doubtful that many gaybashers are regular mosque attendees, the ELM’s preachers have created an atmosphere in which hate is socially acceptable; they have spread a message in which maiming and violence is the most dutiful, honourable, devout thing to do.

The preacher Uthman Lateef, who even hosted a gala dinner to highlight the Mosque’s supposed commitment to combatting homophobia earlier this year, is on record as saying to students at nearby Queen Mary University of London in 2007: “We don’t accept homosexuality… we hate it because Allah hates it”.

At the adjacent London Muslim Centre, Abdul Karim Hattin incorporated a ‘spot the fag’ contest into his sermon, with images of Elton John and the bloody corpse of a slain 2Pac at the mortuary.

He is quoted as saying: ‘This image will show you to the reality when you try to live a life you don’t live, and proclaim a life you never had…. So this man who proclaimed the gangster and fag – FAG – lifestyle: he ended up nothing more than a dead body on an autopsy table.” (2007)

Another preacher, Khalid Yasin, said: “The Koran gives very clear position regarding homosexuality, lesbianism and bestiality – these are aberrations, they are immoralities and …if convicted, punishable by death.”

Abdullah Hakim Quick who has led Friday prayers, also said in a speech at Kings College London: “They said, what is the Islamic position on homosexuality? And I told them. Put my name in the paper! The punishment is death. And I’m not going to change this religion.”

And Abdul Raheem Green on his blog called for gays to be stoned to death.

Bilal Philips, another who has led Friday prayers, wrote ‘the punishment could be death… it’s a punishment for deviant behaviour which threatens the family structure of a society.

Yasir Qahdi, another who has led Friday prayers, advised Muslim gays to marry a woman.

Despite all this, the East London Mosque claims to have no responsibility over those who speak there. The East London Mosque also claims to be opposed to the “gay-free zone” campaign and homophobia. We demand that the East London Mosque live up to its stated word, take ownership of its platform, and stop allowing its premises to be used to promote gayhate campaigns.

Signed:

Julie Bindel, Journalist and Feminist Campaigner
David Bridle, Managing Editor of London’s gay weekly Boyz Magazine
Paul Burston, Author, Journalist, Editor of Time Out’s Gay & Lesbian Section. Named one of the 101 most influential gay people in the UK in the Independent’s Pink List in 2010 for fourth year running.
Darren Cooper, Senior Consultant at Out Now Consulting
Alex Hopkins, Journalist, Editor; Publisher, Dissident Musings blog
Colm Howard-Lloyd, Trustee, Pride London
Mandy McCartin, Artist and Resident of East London
Mac McDermott, Publisher, HOMOVISIONTV
Linda Riley, Managing Director, Square Peg Media, Publishers of g3, Out in the City and Pride London Magazines
Paul Shetler, Human Rights Activist, Coordinator of London 2011 Summer of Love Campaign
Ian Sinclair Romanis, Gay Man and Resident of Hackney
Adrian Tippetts, Human Rights Campaigner and Journalist