Over at Harry’s Place they’ve been celebrating Peter Tatchell’s success in bullying a small publisher into making a public apology for supposedly libelling him. The issue arose from criticisms of Tatchell made in the chapter “Gay Imperialism: Gender and Sexuality Discourse in the ‘War on Terror'” (pdf here) by Jin Haritaworn, Tamsila Tauqir and Esra Erdem, from the book Out of Place: Interrogating Silences in Queerness/Raciality, published last year.
The publishers’ statement of apology is comprehensive, not to say grovelling. It concedes that the offending chapter “contains serious, defamatory untruths concerning Peter Tatchell”. Tatchell apparently “is not Islamophobic” and “the insinuation that he is anti-Muslim is untrue”. In fact, “Mr Tatchell has never criticised Muslims in general, only Muslim fundamentalists”.
The publishers say they now recognise that “the human rights work of Mr Tatchell and OutRage! is motivated by a sincere support for people struggle against tyranny and injustice, and has involved valuable assistance to many LGBT campaigners in the UK and worldwide…. Peter Tatchell was one of the first LGBT campaigners to reject a western-centred approach to LGBT human rights and, from the early 1970s, to campaign for LGBT human rights universally and internationally.”
Indeed, it would appear that Tatchell bestrides our world like a colossus:
“From the 1960s, he has been active in anti-imperialist solidarity campaigns, supporting the national liberation struggles of the peoples of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Oman, Nicaragua, Palestine, Western Sahara, East Timor and West Papua…. Mr Tatchell continues to campaign for the independence of the Western Sahara, Palestine and West Papua. He supports the struggles for democracy and human rights in Iran, Russia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Burma, Turkey, Columbia, Somaliland, Baluchistan, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Belarus and elsewhere.”
It is evident that the author of this statement would fully endorse the adulatory description of Tatchell, by David Toube at Harry’s Place, as a “brave and saintly man”. And that is hardly surprising, since the statement was obviously dictated by Tatchell himself. Those of us who regretfully decided long ago that Tatchell had degenerated into a self-promoting narcissistic parody of his former self can only conclude that our judgement was spot on.
Presumably Tatchell threatened to take legal action against Raw Nerve Books, the publishers of Out of Place, and they lacked the resources to contest a libel case. (You might wonder how Tatchell himself, who is always at pains to emphasise that he is living in poverty, particularly when sending out begging letters asking for financial support, could have afforded to launch a lawsuit.) In reality, Raw Nerve Books would have little difficulty defending the criticisms of Tatchell made in the book, which are very much in line with those to be found on our website.
The authors also emphasise the point repeatedly made by Tatchell’s LGBT Muslim critics about the damaging consequences of his propaganda, for those organisations who are engaged in the task of combating homophobia in their own communities:
“Rather than help, politics such as Tatchell’s have worsened the situation for the majority of queer Muslims. It has become increasingly difficult for groups such as the Safra Project, who are forced into the frontline of the artificially constructed gay v. Muslim divide, to contest sexual oppression in Muslim communities.
“The more homophobia is constructed as belonging to Islam, the more anti-homophobic talk will be viewed as a white, even racist, phenomenon, and the harder it will be to increase tolerance and understanding among straight Muslims.
“The dialogue which Safra and other queer Muslim groups have long sought over this is more often than not ignored or disregarded, and white gay activists such as Tatchell have proved indifferent to the fact that the mud which they sling onto Muslim communities lands on queer Muslims themselves.”