When the BBC censored the debate about gays and Islam on the BBC3 programme entitled ‘Free Speech’ so as not to embarrass their hosts for the night, a Birmingham mosque, it sparked off considerable outrage. “Oh, the irony,” said everyone. “A programme entitled Free Speech ! Silenced by the BBC at the behest of the Muslims!”
The next day the issue was discussed on the Today programme.
A censorship row has broken out over the BBC Three programme Free Speech, after the Birmingham Central Mosque – where the show was being filmed – requested that the topic of being gay and Muslim was not discussed. Dr Mohammed Naseem, chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque, and Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, debate the issue.
On the Today programme the Imam, Dr. Mohammed Naseem, sounded breathy and frail. He has been vilified for his stance over his ‘request‘ that they refrain from discussing the question “When will it be okay to be gay and Muslim?”, and he seemed vulnerable and exposed; like a rabbit in the headlights.
Later he wrote about it in the Huffington Post. On the internet people greeted his further remarks with derision. They accused him of digging himself into a deeper hole with these remarks :
“ It was apparent that Lahore, the Muslim drag queen featured in the programme, “does not know his religion and has not got much links with it,” [...]
“He would have, otherwise, known that it is prohibited in Islam. If he wants to persue [sic] his inclination then he is free to leave Islam and follow any ideology that suits him,” Naseem continued.
I think it is unfair to condemn Dr. Naseem for saying what he genuinely believes, especially as he seems to be making some conciliatory noises. Is Lahore, (and are all gays) really free to leave Islam? Without having their heads chopped off, I mean? If so, that at least is a step in the right direction, since I understand in accordance with the strictest interpretation of Islam apostasy is punishable by death.
The poor man is nearly 90 years old. He has been brought up to believe that homosexuality is unIslamic and wrong. I’m not sure that, in the strictest interpretation of Islam, hosting a debate called Free Speech, “live on National Television” in a marquee outside a mosque is all that Islamic either, so here the mosque is perhaps trying to reach out to the wider world. Yet in this age of liberalism-gawn-mad he is press-ganged into trying to get his head round the concept that homosexuality has become the new heterosexuality.
Is it any wonder that he has trouble with this state of affairs? I confess I am not totally persuaded myself. Unless we deny all physiological gender difference and refuse to discriminate/distinguish between male and female in every conceivable (no pun intended) way, we’re the new racists. Personally I couldn’t care less what gays get up to as long as I don’t have to be told about it every five seconds. Unfortunately it seems I do have to, which causes me to resist that which I might otherwise accept, merely because I hate being told what to think. Yet the current consensus is that I must like it or lump it, and I daresay even Dr. Naseem feels almost the same. Sort of resigned to it. The culprit is not Dr. Naseem. He’s a product of his times. Vilification of Dr. Naseem and his Islam-based homophobia is a distraction.
The core issue is the BBC. It’s the BBC that was responsible for the whole fiasco. The stunt of using a mosque as a venue for a debate called Free Speech. A bad idea from the start. Another one of the BBC’s clumsy attempts to normalise Islam, which backfired in a big way.
Don’t blame the elderly reactionary Imam who was bound to think what he thinks. He wasn’t even obliged to offer a concession in the form of a free pass for those choosing to leave Islam, but he did so, almost generously.
The BBC tries to pretend that Islam is compatible with everything it is incompatible with, but in this case the BBC’s homophilia came head to head with the BBC’s Islamophilia. This time the latter triumphed, albeit temporarily. At least it has exposed the BBC’s delusional hypothesis that the two entities can live happily side by side for the sham it is.