On the censorship of ‘Gay Imperialism’ and Out of Place

We have recently witnessed the umpteenth attempt to silence voices that denounce paternalistic, neo-imperialist politics and argue against Islamophobic positions and homonationalist activism. On 7th September 2009, the book Out of Place: Interrogating Silences in Queerness/Raciality (2008) edited by Adi Kunstman & Esperanza Miyake, was declared out of print by its publisher, Raw Nerve. The collection, which was the first academic volume on queerness and raciality in Britain, contained an important article which exposed the use of gay rights discourse as an instrument to justify neo-imperialist, anti-migrant and Islamophobic policies, namely ‘Gay Imperialism: Gender and Sexuality Discourse in the “War on Terror”‘ by Jin Haritaworn, Tamsila Tauqir and Esra Erdem. In ‘Gay Imperialism’ the authors – themselves academics and activists writing from different trans/queer of colour, queer Muslim and migrant feminist positions – pointed out how the equation of ‘Muslim’ with ‘homophobic’ (as well as sexist) has contributed to the tightening of borders, the re-construction of the West as the champion of civilisation and modernity, and the victimisation and patronising of Muslim queers.

In Germany, migrants from ‘Muslim countries’ applying for nationality are required to pass a discriminatory ‘Muslim Test’ which asks questions such as: What would you do if your son was gay? In the Netherlands, applicants are asked to react to a video showing two men kissing. Drawing on the work of Chandra Talpade Mohanty (1991) and of Jasbir Puar (2007) the article shows how it is not incidental that the attention drawn to non-Western and Muslim gender and sexual regimes comes at the same time as the ‘War on Terror’, the increase in restrictive migration policies and the general upsurge in Islamophobia. The authors point out how, ‘gay rights’ and gender equality, even though they were achieved very recently and not at all exhaustively, have become symbols of the civilisation and modernity of Western countries. While the importance of these (even if limited) rights and equality is not disputed, the authors warn against a white Western single-issue emancipatory politics that claims universality and patronises non-white non-Western Muslim women and queers, while serving neo-imperialistic, racist discourses. It seems rather obvious to draw a parallel with how Western feminist abolitionists feed into security laws that criminalise migrant sex workers and effectively lead to deportation and further marginalisation in the name of combating gender violence. The same societies that demonise and discriminate against Muslims are increasingly criminalising sex workers, using ideas about both homophobia and gender violence as their tools to deport and detain migrants, sex workers and people of colour.

There are further parallels between the abolitionist and the Islamophobic discourse: Instead of working with Muslim or non-white non-Western queer organisations (or even simply listening to what they are saying), the tendency for majority white, western gay rights and queer groups is to talk for them, to “save them”- ignoring and re-enforcing the multiple oppressions at stake. Likewise, Western abolitionist feminists do not listen to migrant sex workers’ voices, and by so doing they relegate them to the duped status of victims that need rescuing by the enlightened and modern Western feminist, or, even, by the border police that will ‘assist them home’. Migrant sex workers are equated with trafficked victims and trafficked victims with passive, naive women with no agency or no migratory project of their own.

The ‘Gay Imperialism’ article made just such an informed, valuable critique. It drew on acute textual analysis and provided thorough references and links to the texts critiqued. Yet the authors made the “mistake” of naming examples of white queer/gay rights politics that re-produced Islamophobia and patronised queer Muslims, one of which included the gay rights activist Peter Tatchell in the UK. In response to this, the publisher Raw Nerve has issued an apology to Peter Tatchell on its web-site and declared the whole book out of print. The apology deems the article as falsely accusing Peter Tatchell of being Islamophobic and racist and enlists a long series of ‘untruths’ contained in it, which are quoted out of context and misrepresented as personal accusations. Ironically, the authors had warned about the difficulty of raising a critical voice against Peter Tatchell. The censorship stands in stark contrast to the radical defence of freedom of speech which Tatchell has made a name for himself. In 2006, this went as far as leading him to participate in the March for Free Expression, which was also attended by various racist and fascist groups. Once again, marginalised voices are being threatened and silenced, but this time, this silencing is instituted by the very champions of free speech themselves.

Peter Tatchell’s political campaigns are illustrative of a post-political trend towards celebrity activism where the needs of the many are sacrificed to the empowerment of the few. This is reflected in his tendency to name his campaigns after himself (as in, the Peter Tatchell Human Right Fund). ‘Peter Tatchell’, even more than OutRage!, is one of the most quoted names in Western media representations of gay rights activism. The Raw Nerve apology repeats this personalisation of activism by making Haritaworn’s, Tauqir’s and Erdem’s critique and its subsequent suppression look like a personal problem between the authors and Peter Tatchell.

This nevertheless misses the point. No-one has anything personal against Peter Tatchell. No-one, further, disputes that he genuinely thinks of himself as anti-racist, anti-imperialist or anti-Islamophobic. However, part of doing allied work is being accountable when one’s statements or actions reproduce oppressive structures. Part of being a public person, further, is being open to public critique, rather than shutting it down with force. Sadly, this is not the first time that queers of colour and queers from the Global South have critiqued Peter Tatchell and been punished for it. Tatchell’s and Outrage!’s campaigning in Africa has been strongly criticised for not having listened to African LGBTI activists’ repeated warnings that their actions were in fact harmful. In an open letter quoted by the authors of ‘Gay Imperialism’, activists described how Tatchell and Outrage! had “repeatedly disrespected the lives, damaged the struggle, and endangered the safety of African Human Rights Defenders”. They identify this as neo-colonialism, which is an interpretation we share. While this statement is thankfully still to be found on the net, it has been met with a similarly punitive response, which the Raw Nerve ‘apology’ repeats. We condemn this attempt to quell the voices of queers of colour and queers from the Global South, and express our support to both the African Human Rights defenders and the ‘Gay Imperialism’ authors for resisting racist and imperialist statements and actions made in the name of a white Western ‘gay rights’ agenda.

It is undoubtably within a neo-imperialist logic that a white Western Gay man can obtain the role of the saviour of victimised Muslim and non-Western queers, while re-enforcing Islamophobic discourses that construct the West as morally superior. And it is also within a neo-imperialistic logic that one sees white Western feminist abolitionists joining forces with anti-migrant state institutions in the name of women’s rights. As we know from our work, for migrant sex workers this often means the ‘right’ to be ‘saved’ and deported, not the right to decide upon one’s work and lives. X:talk was born out the necessity for marginalised voices to be heard, against paternalising and criminalising discourses that deny us the right to speak for ourselves. We therefore condemn the censorship of ‘Out of Place’ as an act of force, that if anything confirms the article’s political validity and necessity.

The censorship of ‘Gay Imperialism’ and the Out of Place collection points us in a worrying new direction. Many of us may had thought that a degree of freedom of expression for marginalised voices had been reached. Yet here we go – it has become clearer than ever what the price of anti-racist critique is, and who is paying it. An important document has been lost to us, and those who would like to form their own opinion on the matter can’t. Let us hope that the censorship will have the opposite effect, and lead us to raise our voices even louder. Let us hope that it will provide the impetus for new alliances across activist and academic movements, that join to fight oppression in all its faces, including the ones that wear the cloaks of feminism and gay rights.

Category: analysis

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33 Responses

  1. Thank you for this intelligent, well-written statement against the censorship of this clearly important collection. How can I get my hands on a copy?

  2. Thank you for this wide-ranging critical perspective — and for this website as a whole!

  3. Out of Place – Fabrications against Peter Tatchell

    Peter Tatchell writes:

    There are many, many false things wriiten about me in the book Out of Place. There is not a shred of evidence to support its claims.

    This issue has nothing to do with censorship. The issue is printing lies and fabricating quotes. That is what the book Out of Place did to me – and that is why I objected to it.

    Fabricating quotes and smearing fellow comrades is shameful and has no place in progressive politics.

    All my articles, speeches and news releases are archived on my website. You can view them here:

    http://www.petertatchell.net

    I invite anyone to find evidence of my Islamophobia, racism or support for imperialist wars or the “war on terror.” These claims in Out of Place are total fiction. I have campaigned against these or similar injustices for over 40 years.

    I was focred to seek an apology and correction regarding one chapter in Out of Place because it printed outright lies and fabricated quotes about me.

    The publishers (Raw Nerve Books) were horrified and deeply apologetic. Hence their full apology which you can read here:

    http://www.rawnervebooks.co.uk/Peter_Tatchell.pdf

    I did not use the libel laws to suppress Out of Place. This is another lie being spread about me.

    The book was already out of print when I drew its falsehoods to the attention of the publishers. It was not withdrawn because of me.

    I have no objection to the other chapters in Out of Place being reprinted in a new edition, and I made this clear to Raw Nerve Books.

    Free speech, which I defend, should not include the right to print lies designed to wage sectarian wars and to discredit political opponents, which is what the chapter in Out of Place does.

    I would defend any of you if you were defamed with such untruths.

    No one should be allowed to falsely claim that someone is a racist and that they collaborate with fascists, when they are not and do not. Out of Place should not be allowed to get away with such lies about me – or anyone.

    I am sure you would accept that lies and libel are not legitimate free speech. You would not like to be falsely accused of attacking Muslim people and promoting an imperialist agenda, which is what this book did to me.

    IslamaphobiaWatch is not a truthful, honest website. It is run by political sectarians to defame and discredit people they see as political enemies. It is full of outright lies against me and many others, including many progressive, left-wing Muslims, anti-racists and supporters, like me, of the anti-war movement.

    London’s former Mayor, Ken Livingstone, has since apoloised for making false allegations of Islamophobia against me.

    I count many leading Muslim and black activists amoing my friends and political comrades. They know my 40 year record of anti-racist, anti-war and anti-imperialist campaigning. They are aware that I have been a fierce defender of Muslim and black communities against state oppression, including trenchant opposition to the so-called “war on terror”. They would not support me if I had done the things that the book Out Of Place falsely claims.

    I hope this reassures you. Best wishes.

    Solidarity!

    Peter Tatchell, London

  4. Jennifer says:

    @ Kathryn:

    There’s currently a PDF of the chapter here.

  5. admin says:

    Here is another statement. It was originally posted here

    Racism and the Censorship of “Gay Imperialism”
    by Aren Aizura

    Dear friends,

    Over the last few years a number of timely publications have illuminated the connections between gender and sexuality, the War on Terror and racialisation. One of these is Out of Place: Interrogating Silences in Queerness/Raciality, edited by Adi Kuntsman and Esperanza Miyake and published by Raw Nerve Books in 2008. An edited collection examining intersections between race and sexuality in the United Kingdom, Out of Place joins Jasbir Puar’s Terrorist Assemblages as a key contribution to this debate. Alongside other contributions in Out of Place, the chapter “Gay Imperialism: Gender and Sexuality Discourse in the War on Terror”, by Jin Haritaworn, Tamsila Tauqir and Esra Erdem pointed to the continuing deployment of queerness as a symbol of “freedom” to rationalise the continuing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and future wars in Iran and elsewhere, as well as to rationalise restrictive and racist immigration policies in “Western” or “liberal” nations. “Gay Imperialism” uses the work of activist Peter Tatchell, founder of Outrage!, as an example of how white gay activists can become complicit with this agenda by painting Islam as inherently homophobic and misogynist, and appointing themselves as the saviours of non-white queers.

    On September 7th, Raw Nerve Books declared Out of Place to be out of print, removed it from circulation and sale, and issued an online apology to Peter Tatchell. Presumably this is the result of threats of legal action by Tatchell and Outrage!. The apology quotes its own publication to apologise for what it accepts as defamatory statements and misrepresentation of Tatchell and Outrage! by Haritaworn, Tauqir and Erdem. These include:

    1. that Tatchell is “Islamaphobic” and “part of the Islamaphobia industry”
    2. that Tatchell is “racist”
    3. that Tatchell “sling[s] mud onto Muslim communities”

    As one sees if one reads “Gay Imperialism”, these so-called accusations are all taken grossly out of context and reduce the complexity of Haritaworn, Tauqir and Erdem’s argument. The apology continues by obsequiously praising Tatchell and Outrage!’s “anti-racist” work, and making further accusations against a number of African LGBT activists, who had refused to work with Tatchell precisely because of his paternalistic attitude, and who are cited in “Gay Imperialism”.

    It seems likely that Tatchell’s lawyers presented Raw Nerve with an already-written apology and asked them to sign and publish it. Tatchell is notoriously litigious. He is equally notorious for staging highly publicised, “one man” actions that appear to have just as much to do with his public image as a gay celebrity activist as any political work. However, Tatchell himself is not important here. What is important is that this critique is evidently so threatening to Tatchell and to the book’s publishers that it must be removed from circulation, and the authors must be condemned as liars.

    This incident proves something about how difficult it is to do anti-racist work. Pointing out racism, no matter how carefully we might phrase it and no matter which arguments we have about the use of the word ‘racism’, is often perceived as a personal and individual affront. Those so accused often appear to find it wounding or traumatic — psychically wounding, but more importantly, wounding to their public image. “How dare you accuse me of racism? I am not racist; I have lots of friends who are people of color!” goes the cliched defensive response we are all familiar with. This way, the person or organisation critiqued can escape engaging with the content of the critique and put the burden of proof back on the person who raised the issue. It is not coincidental that the person making a critique of racism is often non-white, deploying old colonial stereotypes that people of colour are untrustworthy ingrates who don’t know what’s good for them. This problem of white, “well-intentioned” activists ignoring or actively silencing the desires of the people they profess to help in order to maintain the myth of their own generous self-sacrifice is endemic to many struggles: feminist anti-“trafficking” activism; indigenous land and rights struggles; migration activism; the backlash against the wearing of hijab by Muslim women in France and elsewhere, and on and on. The only way it might ever stop is for its perpetrators to acknowledge their role.

    Meanwhile a really amazing book is being censored. The authors of the chapter and the editors of Out of Place are unable to comment due to UK libel law. It’s unlikely that Raw Nerve will reissue the book, even if the editors wanted this. Meanwhile the authors’ reputations are themselves besmirched. There are several things you can do about this situation:

    1. Circulate this and your own commentary among your friends, companeros, colleagues.
    2. Circulate “Gay Imperialism” — a PDF is online here:

    3. Write letters in support of Jin Haritaworn to:
    The Gender Institute,
    The London School of Economics and Political Science,
    Houghton Street, London
    WC2A 2AE, UK

    Please pass this around, respond, send it to other listservs.

    In solidarity,

    Aren Aizura

    Aren Aizura is a Post Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Gender Studies of Indiana University, Bloomington

  6. admin says:

    And another statement. This article was first published here – it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.

    Out of Place, Out of Print: On the Censorship of the First Queerness/Raciality Collection in Britain

    by Johanna Rothe

    In their article “Gay Imperialism: Gender and Sexuality Discourse in the ‘War on Terror'” (2008), Jin Haritaworn, Tamsila Tauqir and Esra Erdem critique white gay discourses in Germany and Britain that trade in Islamophobic constructions of a gay-friendly, sexually liberated ‘West’ and a homophobic, sexually oppressive ‘Islam’ as the West’s Other. They argue that these constructions are validated in the politics of the ‘war on terror’ and the erosion of migrant citizenship, and that racism is “the vehicle that transports white gays and feminists into the mainstream” (p. 72). Their work extends a tradition of antiracist feminisms that analyse the complicities of feminist and sexual politics in colonialism, war, and other forms of state violence. Writing collaboratively as trans of color, queer Muslim, and migrant feminist scholars and organizers, Haritaworn, Tauqir and Erdem call for a different kind of sexual politics.

    This critique and call are now being suppressed. On September 7 the publisher, Raw Nerve Books, issued a public apology to Peter Tatchell, a white gay leader in Britain, and his organization OutRage, who are criticized in “Gay Imperialism.” Raw Nerve furthermore declared the collection in which the article appeared “out of print.” The collection Out of Place: Interrogating Silences in Queerness/Raciality, edited by Adi Kuntsman and Esperanza Miyake, has been censored. On the publisher’s website, where one could formerly order the book, one is now asked to read the publisher’s statement of “apology and correction” instead.

    The “apology and correction” are a show of force. In an authoritative voice, the statement denounces that the article contains “untruths,” and it proclaims Tatchell “not Islamophobic” and not racist. It quotes brief phrases from “Gay Imperialism” and intersperses them with averments that it is “not” so, or that Tatchell has “never” done this.

    “Mr Tatchell has never ’employed tactics of intimidation and aggressive divide and rule’, nor has he ‘attempted to discredit those who resist his patronage.’ He does not ‘sling mud onto Muslim communities’.”

    Some of the phrases of “Gay Imperialism” quoted in the “correction” use obviously metaphoric language (“sling mud”). Their simple negation — without examination of the context from which their meaning derives — is a farce.

    The “correction” next disparages the power of judgment of the African LGBTI human rights defenders whose scathing criticism of Tatchell and OutRage is referenced in “Gay Imperialism.” The judgment of Dorothy Aken’Ova of INCRESE in Nigeria and others who signed a public statement of warning against Tatchell and OutRage is deemed not significant because the signatories allegedly “did not know Mr Tatchell and OutRage.” The statement of warning, which is signed by twenty individuals representing over a dozen organizations in ten African countries is denounced as the result of “untrue gossip spread by one person who was waging a sectarian political vendetta.” (It is available online on the pages of the Monthly Review Zine at mrzine.monthlyreview.org/increse310107.html.)

    The apology and correction finally conclude with a long list of Tatchell’s anti-racist and anti-imperialist credentials. This follows a common pattern of silencing anti-racist critique by posing to respond to it while deflecting attention from its substance. As Jay Smooth famously says, it is difficult to confront politicians and celebrities with their racism: “It always starts out as a what-they-did conversation, but as soon as the celebrity and their defenders get on camera they start doing judo flips and switching it into a what-they-are conversation.” (His video is called “How To Tell People They Sound Racist” and can be seen on his hip-hop video blog ill Doctrine.) The celebrities’ defenders, I would add, also take it upon themselves to define what racism is and to act as if their definition were the only one. It strikes me as unprecedented that Raw Nerve Books so wholeheartedly assumes the role of Tatchell’s defender. I can only speculate about the pressures that moved this small independent feminist publisher suddenly to claim that role.

    What next? Smooth’s analysis would make me predict that after all this “empty posturing” on the part of Tatchell’s defenders, who perform their allegiance to the truth that Tatchell is not racist, the show will end and “we forget that the whole thing ever happened.” This is not an unrealistic scenario. The “apology and correction” and the decision to censor the publication are a violent inducement to “forget” that Tatchell’s rhetoric and politics ever motivated an anti-racist critique. If you read only the statement of apology and correction, you would not know that “Gay Imperialism” contains a critique. You are given the impression that the article is nothing but a series of baseless allegations, factual errors which “correction” has cleared away. The correction delegitimizes “Gay Imperialism” (comparably to how it delegitimizes the criticism by Aken’Ova and others) as something that cannot be taken seriously.

    The censorship of Out of Place weighs perhaps even heavier than all these belittling statements, because it literally prevents many people from reading the critique and forming their own judgment. The violent suppression of “Gay Imperialism” and the book in which it appeared also works as a warning to the authors, editors, and other critics and potential critics of Tatchell to better keep their mouths shut.

    We will not take this warning lightly. Whether we will obey it is a different question. People with few symbolic and material resources — women of color and queer and trans people of color, people from the Global South, often people with precarious jobs — have taken the lead in criticizing Islamophobia, racism and imperialism in white gay and queer politics. The censorship of “Gay Imperialism” has made the risks of such a critique manifest. It remains to be seen whether “we forget that the whole thing ever happened,” or whether a different “we” is emerging that gathers its strength as it recollects what it would much more easily forget.

    References:

    “African LGBTI Human Rights Defenders Warn Public against Participation in Campaigns Concerning LGBTI Issues in Africa Led by Peter Tatchell and Outrage!” (January 31, 2007), Monthly Review Zine. Available at mrzine.monthlyreview.org/increse310107.html (last accessed October 7, 2009).

    Haritaworn, Jin, with Tamsila Tauqir and Esra Erdem (2008) “Gay Imperialism: Gender and Sexuality Discourse in the ‘War on Terror’,” in Out of Place: Interrogating Silences in Queerness/Raciality, eds. Adi Kuntsman and Esperanza Miyake, Raw Nerve Books, York, pp. 71-95.

    Raw Nerve Books “Peter Tatchell: Apology and Correction,” August 2009. Available at http://www.rawnervebooks.co.uk/Peter_Tatchell.pdf (last accessed October 7, 2009).

    Smooth, Jay “How To Tell People They Sound Racist” (video, 2008) on ill Doctrine (video blog). Available at illdoctrine.com/2008/07/ and at youtube.com/watch?v=b0Ti-gkJiXc (last accessed October 7, 2009).

  7. Thierry Schaffauser says:

    Ok, so I post what I said on the email list as we decided to have an open debate and I hope Peter still reads us so he can react as well.

    “I have not read the book and I dont know exactly what it reproaches him.

    It seems difficult to call someone islamophobic or neo colonialist if we dont have the examples to support these says.

    There are very strong attacks and I am not sure it makes the debate advances to do so.

    I consider Tatchell as a friend not an ennemy and someone we can discuss with. So such attacks dont seem to me really progressive.

    We can make clear reproaches and he would be happy to discuss them but it needs clarification.

    I think his comment proves that he is open to the debate.

    Perhaps I miss something but for me he is one of the only activists who doesnt colllaborate with the straight state (like Stonewall) but keeps resisting. He supports sex workers rights who many prefer to abstain to avoid the abolitionist accusations of sexism, women exploitation complicity etc.

    We may not like his style and his obvious love for fame but we can also consider that he has never really benefited economically from his 40 years campaining and still lives in his small flat in Elephant and Castle when many gay activists would rather accept a post in a Labour administration or a HIV institution or whatever.

    This is what we call the pacification of the gay movement but Tatchell is one of the only ones who remains at war againt the straight system.

    Yes he attacked muslims leaders for their homophobia, but he does the same for everyone wherever they are. He outed christian bishops as well. ”

    Camille sent me the text so I am going to read that and come back.

  8. Thierry Schaffauser says:

    Well, so from what I understand so far, they reproach Peter :

    – to confiscate muslim and ethnicised queers voices in being interviewed in the media and invited at events to speak on issues that concern them.

    – to be presented (or to present himself?) as a saviour of the third world queers.

    – to put them at risk in leading actions that put them in conflict with their own communities.

    So in his defence I would argue that :

    – Yes he is famous and I would say charismatic. Yes the media prefer interviewing him rather than people who could be more legitimate to speak but is that only his fault? I may see how it is very annoying but why not focusing on the media or the organisers of anti-racist events who prefer let him talk rather than other groups ?

    – Yes he campaigns against homophobia all around the world and for asylum seekers right to stay in the UK when he could let people do the job themselves and focus only on UK white queers issues. But then, he would be reproached to abandon people who suffer criminalisation in other countries and being racist…

    – Yes he takes risks and perhaps may have put other people than himself at risk, (which has to be proven), but activism is also about risks. When Rosa Parks sat on that bus, she knew that she would be arrested and beaten up and that it would create a racist backlash reaction against all african americans.

    I think these critics are actually quite conservative arguments against radical activism. Because yes perhaps he should have done nothing during the last 40 years so homophobic governments wouldnt have been able to use the argument that they have to fight against queer people because of the threat of white gay men proselytism in their countries and communities who try to introduce the western concept of homosexuality when there are normally no gays in their country or in their community or religion.

    Can we fight against our real ennemies instead?

    We can make him reproaches but I dont think it is very efficient if we want to make him realise the mistakes he may have done in 40 years of activism by calling him a gay imperialist.

    Otherwise if it is only about trying to get some attention by making a controverse in attacking someone who is famous and usually seen as the opposite, it is not very interesting and I dont think X-Talk should take part of that controverse.

    Thierry

  9. PG says:

    Just a quick note on one point of Thierrie’s defence of Peter Tatchell.

    The first two points, as well as Peter Tatchell’s own response, do not need further engagement with. The critique to PT’s POLITICS is well argued in all of the above statements. The same things are being repeated over and over, as if they hadn’t been addressed in our statements. At this point, it is not Peter Tatchell or his fan-club who should react to our statements, but Raw Nerve. After all, it was Raw Nerve that published that apology (though I doubt they wrote it) and decided not to re-print ‘Out of Place’.

    But we just can’t accept the following:
    – Yes he takes risks and perhaps may have put other people than himself at risk, (which has to be proven), but activism is also about risks. When Rosa Parks sat on that bus, she knew that she would be arrested and beaten up and that it would create a racist backlash reaction against all african americans.

    How can you compare Rosa Parks’ highly political act -the act of a black woman challenging US racist segregation (only 54 years ago) by refusing to give up her sit to a white man- with the actions of a white western Gay rights activist who is not prepared to be criticised for his politics by those very subjects he claims to fight for, but instead insists on his being anti-racist by listing the friends of colour he has?

    This is highly offending for any of us who believe in the ultimate importance of people of colour’s history of resistance and struggle.

    PG

  10. Thierry Schaffauser says:

    I compared him with Rosa Parks because her actions put many people at risk in creating a huge repressive reaction from the segregationists, like any other activist can be reproached to do so.

    I think we can criticise his politics but I dont think it is true to claim that he pretends to speak on behalf of queers of colour.

    So now apart being white and doing queer activism what is the real racist and islamophobic things he has done ??

  11. PG says:

    @Thierrie
    As I said, I find it useless at this point to keep repeating ourselves. I also do not think we share the same understanding of how racism and Islamophobia operate and can be reproduced, even if not willingly, by certain politics that assume the positions we speak and act from mean nothing.

    If you agree that Tatchell can be criticised for his politics then that is exactly what the Article by Haritaworn, Tauquir and Erdem was trying to do, when it still was in print.

    You have the right to disagree, as Tatchell had the right to respond himself to the article, but ‘indirect’ censorship and enlisting of misrepresented ‘untruths’ is what instead happened.

  12. Thierry Schaffauser says:

    But Tatchell says he didnt attempt to prevent the book publication and it is the edition house that did so.

    I am not saying that the positions we speak from mean nothing.

    But I think it is like reproaching me to speak on behalf of female sex workers which I have never pretended to do when I speak for sex workers rights. So am I sexist for doing so ?
    This is exactly what abolitionist people say.

    And there are some female “prostituted women” who say that male sex workers cant speak for themselves because it goes against their true experience as female victims.

    So if I show all my feminist work and claim having many female friends who are not victims then it means it is typically a sexist reaction.

    I can agree that we are all sexists and racists etc but at one point how do we do to change that? If it is just to accuse someone and be happy to be right against this bad racist person who even doesnt want to admit he is racist and only that is the evidence for his racism I think it goes a bit too mad for me.

  13. […] „On the censorship of ‘Gay Imperialism’ and Out of Place“ „Racism and the Censorship of ‘Gay Imperialism’“ von Aren Aizura „Out of Place, Out of Print: On the Censorship of the First Queerness/Raciality Collection in Britain“ von Johanna Rothe […]

  14. Sara Ahmed says:

    Peter Tatchell invites us to find evidence of “my Islamophobia, racism or support for imperialist wars or the “war on terror” in the articles that can be downloaded from his website. I would like to say that a brief glance at some of these articles shows some very serious problems in terms of the employment of racialised vocabularies, for example in: Their Multiculturalism and Ours; Why has the left gone soft on human rights?; The New Dark Ages (you don’t need to read Frantz Fanon to discuss the problem with the use of the very term ‘the new dark ages’ though Fanon, as always would help) and Islamic Fundamentalism in Britain. I don’t have the time in this brief informal response for the call to respond to go through all of the problems with these pieces, for example, with how some of the critiques of ‘universal human rights’ discourse which have been an important part of LGBT, feminist, socialist as well as anti-racist histories are represented as ‘going soft’. I do intend to offer a systematic critique of some of the terms of the arguments used in due course, which I will publish where they can downloaded, in the interests of sustaining and enabling a debate. But I do want to question here how Mr Tatchell is responding to the critique, and even to the critique of the response to the critique offered in this very thoughtful and careful piece of writing by Aren Aizura. Critiques of racism are reduced and misheard as personal attacks, which is what blocks a hearing of the critique. In the end, the situation becomes re-coded as a question of individual reputation and good will: we lose the chance to attend to the politics of the original critique.

    We need to reflect on what we are talking about when we are talking about racism. Racism in speech does not simply depend on the explicit articulation of ideas of racial superiority but often works given that such associations do not need to be made explicit. So for example politicians might use a qualifier ‘this is not a war against Islam’ and then use repeatedly terms like ‘Islamic terrorists’ which work to associate Islam with terror through the mere proximity of the words: the repetition of that proximity makes the association ‘essential’. In other words, proximities becomes attributes (they become ‘sticky’ as I suggested in my book, The Cultural Politics of Emotion). The process of attribution is in turn bound up with the justification of action, especially in cases where actions are presented as moral whilst involving force (war on terror becomes about freedom from oppression/violence, or even liberation from the oppressors, where freedom resides here, ‘in us’, oppression resides there, ‘with them’). So some forms of violence becomes represented as intrinsic to some forms of culture, and not to others (violence ‘here’ would be individual or exceptional rather that something that can be attributed to ‘us’).

    One of the hardest aspects of this process if how even languages of liberation and freedom, which we might assume to be ‘our languages’, to be oppositional, to be about challenging dominant norms and making possible new forms of flourishing, can be used in this process: freedom can be what ‘we’ have or even what we are. Other critics have pointed out how the language of freedom can be a technology for distinguishing ‘an us’ from ‘a them’: from Judith Butler, to Jasbir Puar, to Jin Haritaworn, Tamsila Tauqir and Esra Erdem, the authors of the article, whose passing from print we are right to mourn. When governments justify war on the grounds of freedom from oppressive gender regimes, it helps to recognise that theses justifications have a history, to refuse to hear them as in any way ‘new’. As Gayatri Spivak taught us, empire itself was justified in these terms, with a description that remains extraordinary for its precision: ‘white men saving brown women from brown men’. Homophobia too can be exercised as what ‘the others’ needs liberating from; it too can become attributed to others, and thus an attribute of others (homophobia can be seen as intrinsic to Islam but homophobia in the West would be seen as extrinsic, as an individual problem or a problem with individuals). The language of sexual freedom and sexual rights can thus exercised as a political gift. When freedom or rights becomes a justification for war and empire, they become cultural attributes: what we have, what we give them, what we must force them to have. To become aware of this process is not to withdraw from a commitment to freedoms, but it must mean acquiring a certain caution about turning our commitments into our own attributes or even ego ideals (as if we as activists know in advance what is good or right for ourselves or for others).

    We must call for a recognition of how racism in speech can employ the languages of freedom, which conceal the violence of its mark (note the recent uses of freedom of speech to justify the freedom of some to articulate racist views, or the reduction of freedom of speech to ‘freedom to be offensive’). When we are dealing with language and power we are dealing with how power often does not reveal itself: power becomes the capacity not simply to regulate speech but to generate ideas through proximity: freedom for example is put near certain other categories, giving them both value and force. My own work on Islamaphobia for instance has looked at how ‘being hurt or offended’ by racism becomes seen as the ‘problem’ of Muslims who don’t integrate, such that Islam becomes what offends our freedom, what challenges our freedom. None of these associations have to become articulated as a viewpoints, nothing has to be explicitly said.

    It might be helpful to point out that homophobic speech can also work like this, by withdrawing from the necessity to articulate a viewpoint: for example, someone does not have to be anti-gay by saying ‘all gays are paedophiles’ or ‘all gays endanger the well-being of our children’, all they need to do is put the category of paedophilia ‘near’ to the category of homosexual to create this effect. Or note how if a lesbian or gay person is involved in child abuse, the category of lesbian or gay will be made explicit in media reporting, which becomes an implicit invitation to make queerness part of the problem of the abuse: but a heterosexual person will be involved in child abuse (much more commonly) and their heterosexuality will not be brought up in the description, which allows heterosexuality to disappear from the scene of abuse. The way in which problems are presented makes some people and not others into problems (this again involves a process of attribution: you make the attributes of x essential to the problem). A critical and complex understanding of language and power is needed to get at this mechanism. We must take the time we need to get at this.

    It is my view that Mr Tatchell’s writings on Islam and multiculturalism repeat and reproduce many ‘problematic proximities’ between Islam and violence, and thus participate in the culture of Islamaphobia. It is because this culture exists that we must take care not to reproduce its effects. I refuse the call to express solidarity with such work. I would also say that the apologies given to Mr Tatchell are a symptom of the problem rather than a solution. One of the most problematic texts I have read in many years is in fact the apology produced by Raw Nerve: which helps to reveal what is going on in the situation better than anything (it not only grossly caricatures the original argument, but it actually represents those critiqued as the ones to whom we should be grateful, who should receive our thanks). Still we can do things with problems: some texts in their problematic associations can help us understand the world we are. As Audre Lorde (an early black lesbian feminist critic of racism and imperialism in both the women’s movement and in lesbian and gay politics) taught me: we need to struggle to find better ways of describing what goes on in our world, which means staying proximate to the scenes of its violence.

    I am aware that if there is any response to my comments it is likely that it will be to expose their error. But even if that is the case, its worth putting these words down. We all need to get words out there, words that attempt to offer new descriptions, to give us the possibility of imagining new worlds. Words can be offered as signs of hope; they get passed around, they can becomes line that connect us, in the political struggle for other worlds.

  15. […] Imperialism’ and Out of Place, a response by Peter Tatchell and read the ongoing debate here. We encourage interested folk to contribute their comments and opinions to this necessary forum. […]

  16. Thierry Schaffauser says:

    Ok I understand the problematic to link a category of people with what is reproached to them but I dont think it is what Tatchell is doing. I think it has always been clear to me that he was targeting certain homophobic people who may be not white as well as white.

    Then if governments like the German example given in the book use the gay rights agenda against migrants can we really accuse gay rigths campaigners for that ?
    I think we are confusing different things. Tatchell has not set up the racist anti migration German rules.

    It is like when IslamophobiaWatch accuses Tatchell to prepair minds with the war against Iran because he protested against the hanging of two gay Iranian teenagers. On the contrary Tatchell has always opposed these imperialist wars.

    We have to be careful that homophobia is not used to describe muslims and ethnic minorities and to present the west as the civilised tolerant world when we know it is not the case.

    But I think the focus on Tatchell is not fair as he is not campaining against non white homophobia but against homophobia full stop wherever it comes from.

    I think the fact to accuse him of islamophobia is a way to allow the persons he campained against not to respond on it.

    And worse in allowing them not to respond and in defending these homophobic people as “victims of gay islamophobia” it lets think that muslims are inherantly homophobic and that it is against islam and/or muslim people to reproach some of their leaders’ homophobia.

    It is exactly like when Christian people are defending the pope and accuse the gay lobby to attack their faith. It is not about their faith or their identity as you can be religious without being homophobic. It is about their homophobia.

    Now, if you are saying that only non white queers can lead these reproachs and attacks, I fear to disagree too cause we all live in the same country and the same world and wherever this homophobia comes from it affects all queers not only queers from the same community that these homophobic guys.

  17. Jutta Zalud says:

    “The apology deems the article as falsely accusing Peter Tatchell of being Islamophobic and racist and enlists a long series of ‘untruths’ contained in it, which are quoted out of context and misrepresented as personal accusations.”

    I have read “Gay Imperialism” already 3 times and I have not found a single line where Peter Tatchell is accused of racism or islamophobia. And I wonder if I’m blind or not able to read the text or if all this is not about the text at all but about old fights between a few people.

  18. […] a response originally posted here http://www.xtalkproject.net/?p=415 Peter Tatchell invites us to find evidence of ‘my Islamaphobia, racism or support for […]

  19. […] On the censorship of ‘Gay Imperialism’ and Out of Place | x:talk We have recently witnessed the umpteenth attempt to silence voices that denounce paternalistic, neo-imperialist politics and argue against Islamophobic positions and homonationalist activism. (tags: gay imperialism islamophobia censorship) […]

  20. The real censorship is by my critics. They are posting entirely false allegations about me, mostly on closed lists, and will not allow me to post my side of the story (this list is a rare exception).

    I first found out about the untrue allegations against me in Out of Place in early June. I went to the Raw Nerve Books website and saw that it said the book was “Out of print”. This was some weeks before I eventually wrote to the publishers. So there is no question that the book was withdrawn on my account. It had already gone out of print before I approached the publishers.

    The issue with this book chapter on Gay Imperialism is not differing opinions but outright lies and falsehoods. No academic or activist has a right to print fabrications about me, you or anyone. The conclusions the authors of Out of Place draw are based on untrue claims for which there is no evidence.

    Interestingly, the authors provided no footnotes or sources for their outrageous allegations.

    It is not the responsibility of the victim of a falsehood to suffer the defamation of their character and then to prove their innocence. It is the responsibility of authors to not publish lies.

    No one has the right to publish a book and say, for example, that you sexually abuse young girls or secretly take funding from neo-Nazis and do PR work for a racist publishing house. You should not be expected to prove that you do not do these things. The people who make these claims have a duty to prove the claims are correct or to not publish them. The authors have failed to offer any evidence for the outright untruths they wrote about me – some of which were highlighted by Raw Nerve Books in their apology (see below).

    I would defend you unconditionally if you were lied about and defamed in this way. Apparently, I cannot expect much mutual solidarity from the many people who are spreading these false claims about me.

    Typical of the lies written about me by Jin Haritaworn, Tamsila Tauqir and Esra Erdem in Out of Place are the claims that I am anti-Muslim. I have campaigned only against Muslim fundamentalists who oppose democracy and human rights, but bever against Muslim people in general.

    The truth is very different from the lies the authors and their friends are spreading:

    For example: I have been prominent in the campaigns to defend Muslims falsely accused of terrorism, including Hicham Yezza:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/feb/23/hicham-yezza

    and Hyrbyair Marri and Faiz Baluch:

    http://www.newstatesman.com/society/2008/09/pakistan-marri-british-london

    I stood bail and provided evidence for Mr Baluch during his terrorism trial, which helped result in his acquittal (and Mr Marri’s).

    I have also helped secure asylum for dozens of Muslim refugees and for Muslim victims of miscarriages of justice, such as Mohammed S:

    http://www.petertatchell.net/criminalinjustice/judgechallenge.htm

    The selective, twisted interpretation put on some of my writings, which I wrote in defence of oppressed Muslim women and LGBTs, deliberately ignores the context and overall content of my 42 years of human rights campaigning.

    These attacks are typical of the petty personal attacks and political sectarianism that are constantly undermining the global struggle for human rights, social justice, peace and anti-imperialism.

    We should all fight the real oppressors and not pick fights with, and publish false allegations against, other progressive people.

    Yours with best wishes, Peter

  21. Carrie Hamilton says:

    The original comment piece posted by my co-activists in xtalk, as well as other excellent postings by Sara Ahmed and those in the other links, have eloquently and convincingly explained the political and intellectual value of the original article by Jin Haritaworn, Tamsila Tauqir and Esra Erdem, as well as the outrage of the actions taken by Mr. Tatchell and the Raw Nerve publishers in having the volume Out of Place taken out of print.

    I do want to make one further point to Peter Tatchell: your error as an activist lies not only in your refusal to engage in difficult debates about racism in gay and queer communities, rather than attempting to block debate by silencing your opponents. It lies also in your utter inability to understand that your dogged desire to prove that you, as an individual, are ‘right’, and to protect your public reputation as a spokesman for gay rights, is infinitely less important than the collective struggles against racism and homophobia.

    The fact that you have been able effectively to have an important intervention in debates about racism in queer communities taken out of circulation does not mean that you will be successful in dominating these debates, as the thoughtful exchanges on this and other feminist and queer political sites thankfully demonstrate.

  22. Thierry Schaffauser says:

    Dont let all that put you down.

    If you are often a target it is because you often do the right job.

    I know it is hard but take that as an evidence of the good things you do. Cause people who agree with you wont send you emails to show their gratitude but I can tell you that for many many gay people you are a hero.

    Now, on this book precisely, I think their intent is good but I think they didnt choose the best person to illustrate gay imperialism.

    I mean there are so many gay men who make a career and with the aids industry in particular which has much more impact for the third world.

    But you are an icon and therefore an easy target.

    I think they might be right on certain things but it is mixed in a middle of false accusations so obvioulsy you cant have a proper understanding.

    But from what they say and what I can understand may be problematic :

    – There is the fact that non white queer activists are made invisible and not seen as legitimate enough for the institutions and the media. They often prefer to be in contact with white activists such as you who are more mediatic. As I told the group I think the problem comes more from the media and the power itself but i can see how it is annoying when for instance straight allies speak on our behalf.

    – I think the fact that you are so mediatic and that there is no other activist who gets the same amount of attention makes you appear individualistic and not able to work with other people or only as their leader. For instance they criticise the fact that you called your fondation “Peter Tatchell Human Rights fund” which puts the focus on your own person.

    – The actions you lead are often spectacular and may put other people at risk.

    – I dont know if they think that only non white queers should do activism concerning themselves. I am not sure about that. I think they accept the idea of working in alliances but it has to be in an equal position of two or more partners having the same visibility and helping each other in their actions and not one who seems to helps the other one who cant do by him/herself.

    – They think that the fact you say that you receive many requests from people around the world and that it affects your health puts you in a position of savior who sacrifice himself for the people who need his help which is typically something third world people experience all the time and describe as neo colonialist, even if it comes from a good intention.

    – The fact that you describe sometimes muslim homophobic people or countries in keeping their muslim character links their muslim identity with what is reproached to them and may be interprated as something defining the muslim identity. For instance when you say about Iran that it is an islamo-fascist state, Muslim people can hear only islam and fascist linked together like if all muslim were called fascists. It is like for instance when to denounce peadophilia the media always say an homosexual peadophile has raped a young boy..

    We need to dissociate the identity from the qualification.

    I think these points are the interesting ones they could discuss with you.

    I understand it is not easy to try to read the “good” critics that you can really answer to and concerning your real actions and says.

    I hope it helps you to see where are their concerns.

    Try to see the “good” critics in the middle of all the hated reproaches.

    I think the best thing to do would be to organise a meeting with them and clarify all what is irrelevant and pure lies from what may be legitimate questions.

    They have to realise as well that most of the things they reproach like the censorship of the book doesnt come from you.

    I copied this email also to the X Talk mailing list.

    But I will add it to the website cause it’s the place where we can have a proper and public discussion.

    Hopefully the outcome of this discussion may calm down some of the attacks as people will see you are not what they claim.

    XXX

    Thierry

  23. […] look. Here’s the same set of lies, recycled on another site, “X-Talk“: The censorship stands in stark contrast to the radical defence of freedom of speech which […]

  24. […] “Out of Place, Out of Print: On the Censorship of the First Queerness/Raciality Collection in Britain” by Johanna Rothe, Monthly Review, “On the Censorship of ‘Gay Imperialism’ and Out of Place”, X:Talk website […]

  25. Rob Jarrett says:

    Peter Tatchell started his campaigning career defending aboriginal peoples against imperialism in Australia. He has been consistent in his opposition to ALL human rights abuses ever since. Peter is the most honest and upright person I have ever met. If people want to argue about tactics that is fair enough but please do not descend into personal abuse and smears. I have supported the Palestinian people since 1973 and I marched to help bring down the Shah of Iran. It saddens me to see people who should be on the same side arguing. We have a big enough job on our hands fighting imperialism and Zionism without fighting ourselves.

  26. femme says:

    <>

    Actually two things bother me about this comment.
    One being the suggestion that Rosa did what she did knowing it was going to cause harm to others because of it.
    The other is the suggestion that her doing what she did, refuse to stand her exhausted body up, caused harm to others, as there is nothing out there that points to this. Next we will hear that the lunch counter sit down also caused harm to others.
    It was Rosa who was arrested beaten and abused because of her actions.
    It was because of her actions others stepped up and also began to understand that just hoping things would change, wasn’t going to work. Instead actual action would have to happen.

    Please point me to “the others” who also suffered, and by others I’m not speaking about those who were in strong support of her actions.

    I don’t know this person/supposed Icon that this discussion is about, but by reading his own comments I can see that I do know of people very much like him.

    Those people or groups that feel it is up to them to speak for all others, even if they have no real understanding of what the others want/need or live.
    Why do not such people use their celeb to bring forward those who actually are living in those areas, living that life, know completely the true issues and needs?

    Is it that ever growing feeling of power by having others speak their name, mention them as the “expert?
    To me a true expert knows they are not true experts but rather know and willingly share that their knowledge is limited to their own experience. They make sure others they have a voice with hear the other voices, from those living it.

    It just seems too often people of colour are set up without a voice, much like as we saw in the times of Rosa Parks, by those who know what is best, sic, for the rest.

    Fine you have an idea, but when your ideas power over the idea/needs of those lives you will affect, your own ideas mean squat.

  27. GMan says:

    Peter, your error is being white and male. The sooner you apologise, the sooner all these victims will be able to move on… Freedom is slavery and all that jazz.

  28. Asad Saeed says:

    Having read Haritaworn, Tauqir and Erdem joint chapter, ‘Gay Imperialism: Gender and Sexuality Discourse in the ‘War on Terror’’ (1) it’s completely clear why the publisher’s printed such an unreserved apology to Peter Tatchell. The article fails to meet accepted academic standards, is defamatory and splattered with gross generalizations. The authors write;

    • “Peter Tatchell…has successfully claimed the role of liberator of and expert about Muslims gays” pg 72

    • “Racism is…the vehicle that transports white gays and feminists into the political mainstream” pg 72

    • “many white gays and lesbians seemed almost triumphant when Copeland, after attacking the black area Brixton and the South-Asian Brick Lane, chose gay Soho as his third target” pg 74

    • “white people with queer identities often tell us that they do not feel like confronting the gay leadership with it’s racism.” Pg 89

    Tatchell himself denies that he is a “liberator of and expert about Muslims gays” and rightly challenges the authors to find evidence of their claim (2), which they fail to provide. Haritaworn et al’s criticism implies that Tatchell, for trying to learn about Islam’s role in relationship to homosexuality, should be chided for daring to seek such knowledge? Should Tatchell similarly be remonstrated for seeking information with regards to other religions’ homophobia?

    With regards to the other above three quotes concerning motivations and thoughts of ‘whites’: the writers provide no factual, empirical evidence for such inflammatory claims. Not only are they unqualified, they are racially divisive.

    Rather than seriously consider arguments against religious homophobia, the writers choose to conflate race with religion throughout their article and thus are quick to interpret any criticism of Islamic homophobia as racist, and/or imperialistic (as their chapter heading suggests).
    The authors’ assert that there is an ‘artificially constructed gay v. Muslim divide’, but this statement conveniently ignore facts. For example, in 2009 the Centre for Muslim Studies working alongside Gallup, produced an in-depth analysis of Muslim integration in France, Germany and the UK [Gallop Coexist Index]. It showed 0% of British Muslims find homosexual acts acceptable (58% of British non-Muslims do). While Muslims in France and Germany showed more tolerance it is significantly below the level of non-Muslims (3) and Christians (4). Currently the only countries worldwide that have the death penalty for homosexuality, justifying their actions under Sharia law, are Muslim (although Uganda with the support of the Ugandan Church and American Evangelicals may soon join them on this front). How are white, feminists and gays, responsible for ‘constructing’ (homophobic) Sharia law or the attitudes of British Muslims?

    Haritaworn, Tauqir and Erdem in their article acknowledge migrating to Britain and Germany “in search of a better place” to live. As LGBT/Muslim women one assumes this must partly be about escaping religious homophobia from their (Muslim) countries of origin. Interestingly the authors do not address the paradox of defending the cultures/religions that they have chosen to leave but instead attack the culture(s) and individuals that have offered them greater sexual and academic freedoms. I have no problem with a migrant criticising a culture, I am a migrant, however that their attack is so one sided belies their lack of objectivity. The liberation these Muslim women enjoy in their adopted countries is largely down to the decades of campaigning from liberal progressives – many of them coincidentally white, feminists and gay men. Peter Tatchell, as one of these campaigners, has challenged all ‘fundamentalist religionists’ be they Catholic, Jew or Christian as well as fascists groups like the BNP. Tatchell’s presence and protests at the Anglican Lambeth Conference last year and the 2007 Moscow gay pride march (when he faced Russians Orthodox protestors and neo-fascists) are only a few examples of his never ending campaigning against all forms of religious homophobia and intolerance.

    I appreciate that some African LGBT people/organizations may strongly disagree with Tatchell’s political tactics but they are the same tactics he’s deployed across all religions and cultures. Tatchell may have a different approach to those of the writers and some LGBT Africans, but there are sufficient Asian and Black LGBT people who publicly acknowledge they have benefited from Tatchell’s campaigns (2). While ‘academics’ like Haritaworn, Tauqir and Erdem continue to squabble over semantics from their safe havens and waste airspace attacking Tatchell, homophobic religious fundamentalists worldwide proceed unheeded, winning the bigger battle. Independent of what is happening in countries governed by Sharia law, if you look at the draconian antigay legislation being currently introduced across Africa, clearly African LGBT strategies are not working and white GLBT activists alone cannot be blamed for this failure.

    Tatchell himself has acknowledged he is up for debate and intelligent discussion about his political tactics however for Haritaworn, Tauqir and Erdem to imply he is a potential racist, neo-fascist, colonialist imperialist just because he has treated Islam or African countries the same way he has tackled hard line Anglicanism or Catholicism in European countries, is lazy and slanderous deduction. If he did not speak out for Black and Asian gays many would accuse him of racism by claiming he is only protecting the interests of white gays in the West. The ad hominem arguments set up by these authors mean he is damned if he does act and damn if he doesn’t.

    For the authors’ to argue, “gay Muslims are controlled by white people” and hence lack a voice and visibility ignores the basic fact that many UK Muslims are fearful of being vocal and identified as gay because of reprisals from within their own communities. Channel 4’s film Gay Muslim (2006), where only one British gay Muslim out of 200, was prepared to show their face on television – and this is not an isolated pattern – says more about the real problem that any ‘white’ conspiracy theory.

    The authors say no one from the ‘white’ press wanted to meet the Imams who have sanctioned same sex unions. However they fail to name any Imams who have spoken positively about homosexuality. The only Imam I know personally in the UK who has ever championed homosexuality publicly, now lives in fear as a result of members of the mainstream British Muslim establishment threatening him and his family.

    Haritaworn, Tauqir and Erdem defend Iqbal Sacranie’s (the ex-leader of the Muslim Council of Britain) – when he said homosexuality was sinful, diseased, immoral and that civil partnership undermine the foundations of society – because his comments were consistent with British attitudes on homosexuality and “only five years after the age of consent and a mere 3 years after the repeal of the infamous Section 28”’. This type of reasoning patronises Muslims. When Sacranie, who one assumes understands discrimination as an Asian Muslim, dishes out prejudice towards gays he demonstrates hypocrisy at a grand scale. Tolerance is not a one-way street. His comments went far beyond just challenging the age of consent for homosexuals. Why is it reasonable to lambaste Christian Bishops (e.g. Graham Dow) and Cardinals like Thomas Winning or MP Iris Robinson for their Christian homophobia but not Sacranie for his Islamic homophobia? Because it would be Islamophobic, and by the writer’s criteria, racist, as well? And what was the British establishment’s response to Sacranie, they knighted him; more evidence of rampant Islamphobia no doubt.

    Inayat Bunglawala (a prominent member of the Muslin Council of Great Britain) recently saw DV8 Physical Theatre’s work called To Be Straight with You, examining religious homophobia within the UK. This verbatim work, made by a white gay man, led Bunglawala to write an article for the Guardian (5) arguing that the Muslim Council of Britain needed to start showing the same tolerance and inclusivity towards gay Muslims, as Muslims expected from British non-Muslims. So despite gay Muslims giving their ‘voices up to white people’ it seems perhaps a white person has had some, albeit small, impact on the MCB which was welcomed by at least one Muslim intellectual.

    Lastly there has been much discussion about the author’s article being censored by Tatchell and/or others. The book was already out of print before Tatchell wrote to the publishers. Secondly he has never objected to the article being printed only that it contains factual accuracy, surely the benchmark of all academia. The retraction and apology of the chapter by the books publisher’s shows how far from away academic standards the authors travelled. While British law champion’s freedom of speech, it also rightly protects people from slander and false accusations.

    Asad Saeed

    1 Out of Place. Interrogating Silences in Queerness/Raciality. Edited by Adi Kuntsman Esperanza Miyake (Raw Nerves Books. 2008)
    2 Peter Tatchell defends himself. http://www.petertatchell.net/politics/academics-smear-peter-tatchell.html
    3 Gallop Coexist Index 2009
    4 Pew Centre for Research. http://people-press.org/report/?pageid=765
    5 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/oct/05/gay-muslims-support

  29. […] On the censorship of ‘Gay Imperialism’ and Out of Place | x:talk We have recently witnessed the umpteenth attempt to silence voices that denounce paternalistic, neo-imperialist politics and argue against Islamophobic positions and homonationalist activism. (tags: gay imperialism islamophobia censorship) […]

  30. […] 4) Sara Ahmed’s comment ‘Problematic Proximities, or why Critiques of “Gay Imperialism” Matter’ on Xtalk [pdf4] […]

  31. […] 4) Sara Ahmed’s comment ‘Problematic Proximities, or why Critiques of “Gay Imperialism” Matter’ on Xtalk [pdf4] […]

  32. […] 4) Sara Ahmed’s comment ‘Problematic Proximities, or why Critiques of “Gay Imperialism” Matter’ on Xtalk [pdf4] […]

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