Friday, October 07, 2005

Belarus Moonbow in Exile Festival

Tonight, Friday 7 October 2005, at 7.30pm in the Library, Conway Hall Humanist Centre, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1.

Homophobia in Eastern Europe. A talk by Bill Schiller, co-founder of the International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network, based on his extensive involvement in campaigns for lesbian and gay rights in the region.

The meeting is open to the public. Members and non-members are welcome.

Further information is on the GALHA website

The meeting is part of the Belarus Moonbow in Exile Festival being held in central London from Friday 7 to Sunday 9 October 2005.

It is a free public festival with writers, artists, documentary filmmakers, singers and poets, organised by the International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network.

There are activities at the Soho Community Safety Office, 24 Peter Street, London W1 from 11.00am to 3.00pm each day (11.00am to 6.00pm on Saturday), with follow-on events in different locations.

See the full programme.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Christian Voice out in the cold

Touching. Or rather not touching… with or without a bargepole. That seems to be the reaction of many mainstream Christian groups to Stephen Green, the annoying bible-punchinello of Christian Voice.

According to Ekklesia, the Christian news service, the Moderator of the United Reformed Church, Dr David Peel, has said Christian Voice had "the right to express its extreme views, but it is as representative of Christian opinion in Britain as the Monster Raving Loony Party would be of mainstream political parties – and far less entertaining.”

Dr Peel has also said that: “It is a matter of some regret that … the BBC should choose to undermine the reputation of Question Time by giving a platform to a small, self-selecting group distinguished mainly by its absurd claim to represent Christians in this country.”

Others have joined in. It seems that GALHA wasn’t the only group concerned about giving Green an opportunity to spout his views on national television. In a press release, the Christian radio station, Premiere, said:

“From previous experience, the BBC are aware of Stephen Green’s reputation for making inflammatory comments and we are concerned that the motivation to have him as a panellist on Question Time is to provoke further provocative and extreme comments which BBC viewers may assume represent mainstream Christian opinion."

Of course, Premiere Radio had previously joined Green in slamming Jerry Springer, The Opera.

Previously the Church of England’s Peter Selby (“Bishop” of Worcester) had condemned Christian Voice’s behaviour as “disgraceful” and Jonathan Bartley, director of Ekklesia went head-to-head with Green on the Jeremy Vine show. Bartley, and many callers, complained that Green made Christianity seem like “a bigoted, harsh and judgemental religion.”

Of course, while true, Green is certainly not the only one who does that.

Bartley also attacked Green over their intimidation tactics that forced a cancer charity to turn down a generous donation. When Green said that his god would make up the shortfall, Bartley challenged him to put his money where his mouth and makeup any shortfall himself should his prediction not come true. Green refused. When questioned about what he’d said to the charity, Green said “I can’t remember”. Luckily the charity has a better memory.

Christian bloggers have been just as dismissive of Green. One called him an “objectionable, hateful little man” while another called his appearance on Question Time a “tragic performance”.

And let us not forget that self-professed Christians Simon Hughes and Janet Street-Porter were particularly, um, ‘direct’, in facing down Green on Question Time.

So what has Green’s response been to all this?

Well, first he snivelled that “to be hated and stabbed in the back by one's brothers is very hard to take”… and then predictably quoted scripture. It is a reflex action which of course bedevilled his performance on Question Time as he grappled with his own “WWJS about privatisation of the NHS?”

So in answer to his critics, he whined something about John 15:18: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before [it hated] you.” Oh the poor puppy.

It is not known whether he added on the part about going to eat some worms.

He should read on. John 15:19 says:

If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

No one disputes that Stephen Green and his spaced-out lunatic colleagues at Christian Voice are from another planet!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Public Meeting - Sharia & Women's Rights

The Organisation of Women's Rights-Iran will be holding a public meeting in London on Wednesday 19 October at 6 PM to talk about why Islamic Sharia law is at odds with women’s right and why a secular state is so important.

Homa Arjomand, who co-ordinated an international effort to get proposals to introduce Sharia-based family courts in Ontario, Canada dropped will speak on a range of issues, including:

  • Why is Islamic Shari’a law in contradiction with Women’s rights?

  • Religious arbitration in Canada?! What happened?

  • Why should the state be secular?

  • Are Women’s right universal or cultural?

  • What is political Islam and why we oppose it?

The meeting will be hosted at Conway Hall, home to the South Place Ethical Society. GALHA members, of course, will know the venue well.

Join Homa Arjomand and Azar Majedi of the Organisation of Women's Rights-Iran for an evening of speech and discussions.

Date: Wednesday 19th October 2005
Time: 6pm
Venue: Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1 (Map)
Nearest Tube: Holborn
Directions: See here

Monday, October 03, 2005

What! And Piglet too?

Everyone has the right to whinge, object, protest and complain. Indeed, the "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" is a well-known caricature in the British political landscape. So, in this latest example of rank stupidity and bureaucratic absurdity, I do not blame the whinging whiner, but the authorities who acceded to his ridiculous objection – and those who supported it - need to be shown up for the idiots that they are.

So, what happened? Well, it appears that a Muslim employee of Dudley Council complained about pig-shaped novelty items in the workplace – in this case a stuffed animal ‘stress reliever’ – saying they were ‘offensive to Muslims’. The innocent promotional giveaway, it seems, has now caused anxiety rather than relieving it.

The stress releiver was apparently distributed by, a direct marketing company. According to their webiste, the company's name is derived from an old Gaelic expression "ar muin na muice", meaning "to be on a winner" or "to be a step ahead.

However, it doesn’t stop there. Now calendars showing cartoon pigs, porcelain figurines and even a tissue box with a picture of Winnie the Pooh’s friend Piglet have been ordered removed or covered up by the Council honchos.

According to a report in the Express & Star News, the move has not improved office relationships. On the contrary, one staff member, who remains anonymous, told the paper: "It's caused a bit of an atmosphere in the office. The staff did comply but it's just crazy - things like ornaments that have been on desks for years have had to be removed."

But not everyone aggress. Councillor Mahbubur Rahman, a practicing Muslim, said he agreed with the action taken:

"If it is a request made by an individual and other officers can reason a compromise it is a good thing, it is a tolerance and acceptance of their beliefs and understanding," he said.

It is this sort of action that trivialises real oppression and real offence. Few would dispute that a pigs head left on the steps of a Mosque or a Synagogue is a vicious and offensive act, but to ban cartoon pigs on a box of tissues from the workplace on similar grounds? Doesn’t that just make a mockery of tolerance?

I say this as a defender of “political correctness”. I think it is perfectly legitimate to take steps to be inclusive and minimise offence. It is perfectly reasonable to ask for halaal, kosher and vegetarian options in staff canteens if there is a demand for it. I support the move to change “Merry Christmas” to “Seasons Greetings” in acknowledgement of the fact that many religious groups and secularists celebrate Winterfest in different ways. In spite of the hysterical ravings of “Councils Ban Xmas” that appeared in some tabloids, it was the right decision. Workplaces ought to be, if not entirely secular, at least faith-neutral.

But seeming to equate a piggybank on a desk or a video of ‘Babe, Pig in the City’ left lying around with the acts of neo-Nazis is really not helping the case for genuine political correctness. Rather than fuelling religious tolerance, it fuels resentment – and the tabloids!

Celebs back Iran protest against executions

Little Britain star Matt Lucas, actor Simon Callow and singer Boy George are supporting the axm and OutRage! 'Homophobia Kills' protest against the recent homophobic executions in Iran.
Actor Jeremy Sheffield, comedian Scott Cappurro and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell will attend the protest outside the Iranian Embassy in London:

1pm tomorrow, Tuesday 4 October 2005:
Embassy of Iran, 16 Prince's Gate, London SW7 1PT

Getting there:
The Iranian Embassy is near the Royal Albert Hall, by the junction of Kensington Road and Exhibition Road. Nearest underground stations are South Kensington and Gloucester Road.
Tuesday’s protest is being organised by gay magazine axm, and by queer rights group OutRage!
Thousands of axm readers have signed the axm 'Homophobia Kills' petition, which will be handed over to the Iranian Ambassador.

Endorsing the protest, Matt Lucas said:
'Recently in Iran two teenagers were executed for being gay. This is­ just one example of the constant persecution of gay and lesbian people by the Iranian government. I support efforts to put pressure on the Iranian government to stop this persecution. While gay visibility has grown in Britain in recent years we cannot forget the plight of those in more hostile parts of the world who live with the daily risk of jail, torture and execution for no other reason than their sexuality.'

Simon Callow states:
'I'm sorry, I can't make it to the Embassy on the 4th: I'm filming all day. But I unreservedly condemn this savage and barbaric treatment of homosexual men in Iran. It is inconceivable that we should have diplomatic relations with a country which betrays its citizens in this way.'

Two gay teenagers were publicly executed in Iran on 19 July 2005 for the 'crime' of homosexuality. The youths were hanged in Edalat (Justice) Square in the city of Mashhad, in North East Iran. They were sentenced to death by Court No. 19. Iran enforces Islamic Sharia law, which dictates the death penalty for gay sex. One youth was aged 18 and the other was a minor under the age of 18. They admitted to having gay sex (probably under torture) but claimed in their defence that most young boys had sex with each other and that they were not aware that homosexuality was punishable by death. Prior to their execution, the teenagers were held in prison for 14 months and severely beaten with 228 lashes. Their length of detention suggests that they committed the so-called offences more than a year earlier, when they were possibly around the age of 16.

“Although the Iranian government claims the youths were executed for the rape of a 13 year old boy, underground gay groups inside Iran tell us that the two teenagers were lovers,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.

“They point out that the Iranian government routinely makes up allegations of sexual abuse, drug-taking and spying to discredit the people it executes and to discourage public protests”.The executions in July and ongoing revelations of continued anti-gay atrocities in Iran have shocked and mobilised axm readers who are travelling from as far afield as Scotland, Cornwall and Yorkshire to attend the protest onTuesday.

According to axm magazine editor Matthew Miles:
'The shocking images of the executed Iranian teenagers have galvanised our print and online readers, with thousands of people signing our petition in a ten day period. As LGBT people in the West finally gain most of the rights we deserve, it seems we are proving that there is such a thing as a global gay community by focusing on the struggle for equality in more hostile parts of the world. Protest is only a step but, as organisations such as Amnesty International and OutRage! have proved, it can and does bring change and that's why, along with OutRage!, axm magazine will be protesting against the Iranian Government from 1pm on Tuesday 4 October.'

Sign the petition against Iran online, or by post.
Post: Iran Petition, axm magazine, 2 Charlotte Road, London EC2A 3DH

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Gay Catholics should leave the Church with their dignity intact


Gay Catholics should abandon the Church that hates them, says GALHA.

The news that the Vatican is to conduct an anti-gay witch hunt in Catholic seminaries around the world is the final straw in the Church’s ongoing persecution of gay people, says the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA).

GALHA is calling on all gay Catholics to leave the Church and thereby stop giving it their financial, moral and practical support.

GALHA secretary George Broadhead commented: “The Pope’s latest insult to gay people should convince gay Catholics once and for all that they are not welcome in the Church, and that eventually they could find themselves being unceremoniously thrown out, just as gay priests will be. They should leave with their dignity intact and ensure that their fellow Catholics understand why they have done so.”

Mr Broadhead said that the Vatican’s continued insulting condemnations of gay people affected not only gay Catholics but all gay people, religious or not. “Whenever the Pope issues his defamatory statements about gays, they are widely reported. They add credence to the idea that it is perfectly alright to despise people because of their sexual orientation, and they legitimise more extreme forms of persecution. The latest purge of seminarians reinforces the spurious idea that all gay men are paedophiles. How any self-respecting gay man or lesbian can continue to support an institution that so patently wishes to hurt them is beyond comprehension."

Mr Broadhead added that he hoped that heterosexual Catholics of goodwill would make clear their own opposition to the Pope’s persecution of gay people and consider abandoning the Church themselves.

(This has been issued as a GALHA news release)