Anti Fascism

The Quality of Ken Livingstone’s Defence

I’m up to my eyeballs in work at the moment – that’s the recovering economy for you – and like Harry, I’ve not got time at the moment to do a point by point rebuttal of Ken Livingstone’s shameless apologia for the vile Qaradawi. Suffice it to say that the entire document picks and chooses its arguments, using false comparisons, misleading rhetoric, and selective quotation to present Qaradawi in the best light possible.

It is, quite simply, a work of propaganda. For which Londoners will have to pay.

But let’s make a small start here.

This is what Ken Livingstone says about Qaradawi’s views on homosexuality:

Lesbian and gay rights

The dossier also fails to substantiate the accusation in the 9 September letter to the Mayor that Dr al-Qaradawi defends ‘the execution of homosexuals under Islamic rule’.The authors refer to the Egyptian government’s repression of gay men(page 9), but offer no evidence at all that Sheikh Qaradawi supported this. He has in fact explicitly opposed repression of homosexuals. In the Channel 4 News interview in July, when he was asked about his own view of Islam’s attitude towards homosexuality, he replied: ‘It is sufficient for a Muslim to object to it verbally or at least within his conscience. We are not required by our faith to declare a war against homosexuality and homosexuals.’

While it is true that Dr al-Qaradawi says that homosexuality should be discouraged, this view is shared by many, probably most, representatives of the world’s major religions. The Jewish Torah and the Old Testament specify that the penalty for homosexual acts should be death: ‘If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.’ (Leviticus, 20:13) This does not mean that every Jewish or Christian leader shares this view.

The abolition of Section 28 was opposed by leading Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs. For example the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, was quoted as saying that ‘in Judaism homosexuality is forbidden’, adding that abolition of Section 28 would ‘lead to the promotion of a homosexual lifestyle as morally equivalent to marriage’ and ‘frustrate any attempt to educate children in the importance of marriage as the basis of a stable and caring society’.58 Perhaps the authors of the dossier believe that Dr Sacks should be excluded from City Hall along with Dr al- Qaradawi?

Livingstone’s first line of defence is that Qaradawi does not espouse a vigilante war against homosexuals. That defence crumbles when you realise that Qaradawi doesn’t “explicitly oppose repression of homosexuals” at all. He espouses the establishment of islamic law as the proper basis of government. And, under that system of law, homosexuals are to be repressed. In other words, he wouldn’t repress homosexuals himself: he’d get the state to do it. Nobody is accusing Qaradawi of vigilantism: they’re accusing him of something far worse.

Livingstone’s second line of defence is that Qaradawi’s views are not out of line with “the Jewish Torah and the Old Testament”. However, he goes on to suggest that merely because these views are expressed in a religion’s holy book, it is not fair to assume that all religious leaders accept them. I agree.

The difference is that Qaradawi not only accepts these views: he actively promotes them in their most disgusting form. This is MEMRI’s transcript and translation of Qaradawi’s views as expressed, not for Channel 4 News, but for Al Jazeera, where you might think he feels able to express himself more freely:

The Zionist lobby organized a massive campaign against me. One of the main reasons for this campaign was that I object to the homosexuals. They said to me, “You hold a hostile position against homosexuals.” When they asked me in the press, on television, on the radio, and in other media, “What is your opinion?” I said: “I don’t have an opinion on homosexuals.” My opinion is the same as decreed in Judaism, Christianity, and the Islam, and which appears in the Torah, the New Testament, and the Koran, and which was announced by the Pope of the Vatican, the founders of Christianity, the rabbis of Judaism, and the moral philosophers. This is the opinion of all of these. I have no personal opinion on this matter. They want to make the pervert… They are called “perverts” and the phenomena is called “perversion.” Perversion means a deviation from the norm. They want to make this perversion a natural thing. How can a pervert be natural? This is what they want

How’s that for “explicitly opposing the repression of homosexuals“? Pretty much on par with the quotation from the Chief Rabbi, don’t you think? But that’s a minor point. People are entitled to their opinions on these things.

And in any case, as Ken points out, MEMRI’s translations can’t be trusted because the Guardian’s Middle East editor doesn’t like their political connections, and because they once mistranslated the Arabic word “wilayah” in a manner with which Juan Cole disagrees. So obviously anything from MEMRI is to be discounted.

Let’s try this instead, from, the official publisher of Qaradawi’s fatwas:

The spread of this depraved practice in a society disrupts its natural life pattern and makes those who practice it slaves to their lusts, depriving them of decent taste, decent morals, and a decent manner of living. The story of the people of Prophet Lut (Lot) (peace be upon him), as narrated in the Qur’an should be sufficient for us. Prophet Lut’s people were addicted to this shameless depravity, abandoning natural, pure, lawful relations with women in the pursuit of this unnatural, foul and illicit practice. That is why their Prophet Lut (peace be upon him) told them, (What! Of all creatures, do you approach males and leave the spouses whom your Lord has created for you? Indeed, you are people transgressing (all limits)!) (Ash-Shu`araa’ 26: 165-166)

The strangest expression of these peoples’ perversity of nature, lack of guidance, depravity of morals, and aberration of taste was their attitude toward the guests of Prophet Lut (peace be upon him); these guests were angels of punishment in human form sent by Allah to try these people and to expose their perversity. The Qur’an narrates the story thus: (And when Our messengers came to Lut, he was grieved on their account and did not know how to protect them. He said, ‘This is a day of distress.’ And his people, who had long since been practicing abominations, came rushing toward him. He said, ‘O my people, here are my daughters. They are purer for you, so fear Allah and do not disgrace me in front of my guests. Is there not a single upright man among you?’ They said, ‘Thou knowest well that we have no right to thy daughters, and certainly thou knowest what we want.’ He said, ‘If only I had strength to resist you or had some powerful support!’ Said (the angels) ‘O Lut, truly, we are messengers of thy Lord; they shall not reach thee….)(Hud 11: 77-81)

Having said this, I should stress here that Muslim jurists have held differing opinions concerning the punishment for this abominable practice. Should it be the same as the punishment for fornication, or should both the active and passive participants be put to death? While such punishments may seem cruel, they have been suggested to maintain the purity of the Islamic society and to keep it clean of perverted elements.

The best you can say of Qaradawi – and Ken Livingstone is anxious to give him any benefit of every doubt – is that he’s a defender of punishing homosexuals – even though the punishments “may seem cruel” – in a number of ways, most of which involve some manner of execution:

As to the issue of how the homosexual person is judged in an Islamic State, the Companions of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him differed among themselves on this issue, and this led to different views maintained by Muslim Jurists. For example, in the Hanafi school of thought, the homosexual is punished through harsh beating, and if he/she repeats the act, death penalty is to be applied. As for the Shafi`i school of thought, the homosexual receives the same punishment of adultery (if he/she is married) or fornication (if not married). This means, that if the homosexual is married, he/she is stoned to death, while if single, he/she is whipped 100 times. Hence, the Shafi`i compares the punishment applied in the case of homosexuality with that of adultery and fornication, while the Hanafi differentiates between the two acts because in homosexuality, the anus (a place of impurity) may also be involved while in adultery (and fornication), the penis/vagina (which are reproductive parts) are involved. Some scholars hold the opinion that the homosexual should be thrown from a high building as a punishment for his crime, but other scholars maintain that he should be imprisoned until death.

But, of course, that’s OK because its no different to the Chief Rabbi raising (misplaced) doubts about the wisdom of teaching children that a homosexual lifestyle is the moral equivalent of marriage.