Just a few weeks after saying it would no longer host homophobic speakers, the East London Mosque has been accused of breaking its promise.
It is to host a conference tomorrow with an organisation called Sex and Relationship Education Islamic but critics claimed that the group includes members of a homophobic extremist group.
The mosque says the members are no longer part of the extremist group and claims Muslims are being singled out.
The conference is billed as an “emergency public meeting” for parents concerned about sex education materials used in Tower Hamlets schools.
It is being jointly hosted by SREIslamic and the Safe At School Campaign, which is an offshoot of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC).
A letter sent to parents makes no mention of homosexuality; nor does SREIslamic’s current website. Its previous website, apparently last updated in 2009, says it campaigns against “the unacceptability of homosexuality which is often portrayed as a lifestyle choice”.
According to Andrew Gilligan of the Daily Telegraph, SRE Islamic is run by members of Hizb ut Tahrir, an extremist group which campaigns against homosexuality.
SRE Islamic’s director, Yusuf Patel, is said to be a member of Hizb ut Tahrir – although the mosque said it was well documented that he had left the group.
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “It is outrageous that after pledging to crack down on homophobia, the director of the East London Mosque, Dilowar Khan, will host and share a platform with Yusuf Patel of Hizb ut-Tahrir.
“The meeting is about sex and relationship education. Hizb ut-Tahrir campaigns against the acceptability of homosexuality.”
In response, mosque spokesman Salman Farsi said that Mr Patel was no longer a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir and claimed that Muslims were being “singled out” because Christian groups also oppose homosexuality.
He said: “Yusuf Patel is no longer part of Hizb ut-Tahrir and this has been reported on various internet sites. Mr Patel himself has confirmed this.
“Furthermore, whilst SREIslamic may have certain views which are not necessarily shared by the mosque management, it is but one of many groups which use our facilities and is part of a joint event organised by a Christian organisation.”
He added: “Mr Gilligan’s article is an attempt to link homophobic attacks and incidents by young thugs to a theological viewpoint on homosexuality which is shared by many Muslims.
“It should be clear that many other faith groups also hold similar views, but are not singled out in the same manner or with the same vituperative response.
“As reported widely in the press and media, we will not be hosting any hate preachers of any sort in the future. And we will keep all groups and future speakers under review. “
Last month, after receiving a letter from gay rights activists demanding a ban on ‘hate speakers’, Mr Farsi told the Guardian: “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.”
The promise came after a spate of anti-gay stickers plastered around Tower Hamlets.