Toronto’s annual gay pride parade this year saw the shocking spectacle of a group of hard-left, predominantly white activists trying to silence Middle Easterners from speaking out against the oppression faced by the LGBT+ community in Muslim countries.
A group of activists from Muslim-majority countries, including former Iranian political prisoners, marched in the parade under the banner of the International Center for Human Rights (ICHR). The ICHR is a group dedicated to opposing human rights abuses by dictatorships in general and the Islamic Republic of Iran in particular. They marched in Toronto Pride alongside LGBTory, a group which supports those who are politically right-wing and part of the LGBT community.
The marchers bearing placards bearing signs such as “Iran Executing Gays since 1979” and “Qatar Whips and Hangs Gays” were greeted by a gang of mostly masked demonstrators from the far-left Antifa faction. The far-left activists tried to block the ICHR group and prevent them from marching.
A young man from Antifa accused the ICHR of “emboldening” anti-Muslim hate, saying “Anti-Muslim racists look at you and they are emboldened, do you understand?”
The ICHR activists hit back, asking if he supported gays in Islamic countries. When he told them he had never been to an Islamic country they lost patience with him:
“You have never supported gays in Islamic countries” one man accused. A woman shouted “We are from the Middle East! You don’t know what you are talking about!”
Gays are routinely persecuted across the Middle East. In Iran, homosexual sex carries the death penalty. In Saudi Arabia and Qatar, any sexual acts, including homosexual acts, carried out by married people outside of their marriage carry the death penalty. However, given that homosexuality otherwise carries prison sentences or lashing, there are no outlets for LGBT people to have a normal sexual relationship.
Of the 10 countries in the world where homosexuality can carry up to the death penalty, all are Muslim countries: Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria (at least 50% Muslim), Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.
Despite all this, Pride Toronto was only too happy to partner with anti-Israel groups to protest so called “pinkwashing,” a made-up process which seeks to label highlighting Israel’s exemplary record on LGBT rights as a conspiracy to cover up oppression of Muslims.
Of course, this activism has not really been welcomed or recognized by the Islamist community. They are perfectly willing to accept solidarity from groups like this but are not willing to give any solidarity back.
In the neighboring United States, for example, a group called Muslims for Progressive Values, which as the name suggests has a more liberal understanding of Islam, attempted to host a booth at the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in conjunction with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which campaigns for legal rights for sexual minorities. ISNA is a Muslim-Brotherhood-linked organization, but has managed to become the largest and most powerful Islamic organization in North America. No other group has a larger or better-attended conference, which is presumably why MPV wanted to access the conference. The ISNA convention took place this year in Chicago from June 30 to July 3.
Sure enough, official ISNA staff soon appeared, including the chairman of the conference, Basharat Saleem. They were informed they had to pack up their stall and leave the conference. They say they set up at 10am and were thrown out at 3pm.
Frank Parmir, the MPV man in charge of the stall wrote in a public post on Facebook:
“It soon became apparent that their concern was for MPV’s presence, not HRC. They are glad to affirm HRC’s advocacy of legal rights for sexual minorities. But they are very uncomfortable with MPV’s advocacy of gender equality and LGBTQ inclusion. They were very clear that they are a religious organization. Their value structure has women as secondary to men…at least in ritual leadership. They are not in the least open to MPV’s call for gender equality. And their religious values do not allow any suggestion that members of the LGBTQ community can be Muslim if they are not repentant. They are adamantly opposed to the notion that there is any room in Islam for a conversation about the possibility of any equality of legitimacy between heterosexual intimacy and homosexual intimacy.”
Mr Parmir noted that he felt ordinary Muslims are not as homophobic as the leadership.
“Perhaps the great fault in all this is in ISNA’s name,” he concluded his post. “It is not The Islamic Society of North America. It is The Salafi Society of North America. ISNA is not, as its name implies, an umbrella organization for all Islamic communities. It serves only the ones they in their bigotry approve of.”
Clarion asked Mr Parmir if he thought things were changing. Noting he has been involved with MPV for about five years, he said he is seeing a shift.
“I definitely have seen a shift in the Muslim community. The leadership is still reluctant to openly discuss the possibility of offering women and the LGBT community full inclusion. But there are many, many more lay people ready to have that discussion. ‘Leadership’ is a misnomer. The imams and chairs of committees do not lead. They follow. And until progressive Muslims outnumber fundamentalist Muslims, the ‘leaders’ will not lead. Fundamentalism is intellectual rigidity. It is a fear reaction. When people embrace religious values out of fear, they are engaged in self-defense. And, they are likely to behave badly.
When people embrace religious values out of love, they are progressive. And, they are much less likely to behave badly.
It is tragic to see left-wing gay rights activists fighting against Muslims who speak out about Muslim homophobia in order to protect the reputation of Islam, only to have such solidarity thrown back in their faces time and again. With the work of activists like Frank Parmir, we will hopefully start to see that change.