From Green Left Weekly, December 4, 2002.
Homophobia and Islamic fundamentalism
BY LEON HARRISON
SYDNEY — While I have always supported struggles for social justice in Palestine and I am opposed to the US war drive against Iraq, I find that, as a gay man, my own community is under attack from not only Christian fundamentalism but also Islamic fundamentalism.
On June 28, representatives of the Canterbury-Bankstown District Gay and Lesbian Social Group (CBD), the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) West, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Western Sydney and South Western Sydney Area Health Service attended a lecture at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) Bankstown campus, entitled “Islam and homosexuality: an Islamic, scientific and logical approach”.
The content of the lecture was grossly homophobic. The organisations attending were extremely alarmed that such a meeting was permitted in a place of public learning and social enquiry. Some of the main concerns arising from the lecture included:
· Sheik Shadi, an Islamic cleric, called for an Islamic court to be set up in Australia, which would give Muslims the power to stone gay men and lesbians to death;
· Keysar Trad, vice-president of the Lebanese Muslim Association, rejected the concept of anti-discrimination and anti-vilification legislation and urged Muslims to defy these laws; and
· Hannan Dover, a lecturer in psychology at UWS (Bankstown), told the meeting that she would not allow a gay lecturer at the university to attend the lecture. She also informed the audience that she would not allow progressive, pro-gay Muslims to attend the lecture, nor would she allow them to join a group she was establishing for Muslim health workers.
Brad Gray from ACON's anti-violence project and other participants left the meeting feeling extremely fearful for the safety of all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, especially those from an Islamic background.
Since the meeting, letters have been written to the vice-chancellor of UWS asking how Hannan Dover's attitudes and work practices in relation to this issue fit with the university's equal employment opportunity policy.
The CBD has also written letters to state and federal MPs, as well as the Canterbury and Bankstown city councils, asking for support and assistance in condemning the statements expressed at the meeting. As a result of the campaign, Dover has been suspended from lecturing in psychology.
The CBD is organising a campaign to ensure the continuing safety of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transexual communities.
However, gay and lesbian community newspapers have been silent on this issue. They need to publicise attacks by all fundamentalists whether Christian, Jewish or Islamic. None of the gains made so far by the queer community in terms of civil rights can be allowed to be defeated.
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