Can ‘we’ tolerate homophobia for much longer?

Iqbal SacranieBenjamin Cohen responds to Iqbal Sacranie’s views on homosexuality and civil partnerships:

“It used to be the case that libertarians and liberals could argue with some justification that tolerance is a necessary part of a liberal society. As a liberal, I could say to Sir Iqbal: ‘I disagree with you but I tolerate the right for you to be intolerant.’ However, I’m not sure that we can continue be tolerant of those who show so little respect for our liberal way of life….

“Perhaps he needs to consider what the inclusion of ‘Britain’ in the name of his organisation means. In my view, this means engaging with the realities of modern British life, engaging with our tolerance of views and practises alien to our own and our desire for liberty and equality to be spread across our nation. As an alternative, there are many other countries where one could reside in order to escape these peculiar liberties of modern British life.”

Pink News, 4 January 2006

You can’t help but be struck by the casual racism underpinning this comment piece. We, the British, show “tolerance of views and practises alien to our own”, which presumably includes Islam. So Muslims are somehow different from “us”, the British, and if they don’t like “our” liberal way of life they have the option of leaving “our” country and pursuing their “alien” practices elsewhere.

You can imagine the outcry if similar comments were made in relation to Orthodox Jews in Britain, on the basis of Jonathan Sacks’ views on homosexuality – which aren’t, in fact, greatly different from Iqbal Sacranie’s. Sacks is on record as warning against “a real danger that the abolition of Section 28 will lead to the promotion of a homosexual lifestyle as morally equivalent to marriage” (see here) and, like Sacranie, he opposes civil partnerships as contrary to his religious principles (see here).

It’s also worth noting the comments section to the Pink News article. “Sam” observes: “There are plenty of countries where it is ok to discriminate against gays but not this one. Why doesn’t he go and live in one of them like Iran?” And “Don” responds: “I agree. If Iqbal doesn’t like it here, he could go to any number of Islamic countries where he would no doubt be warmly welcomed.” This is followed by the note that an “offensive comment” has been removed by Pink News staff. But the above remarks are apparently not deemed offensive by the moderators. Would they be equally happy with comments suggesting that, since the Chief Rabbi is opposed to Britain’s liberal legislation on gay rights, he too should leave the country?

Update:  Someone has posted excerpts from our piece in the Pink News comments box, and the article has now been rewritten to take account of our criticisms.