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Why isn’t Ken defending the victims of Islamist repression?

In the following post, by Outrage’s Ramzi Isalam, a Gay Muslim who escaped murder by Islamic fundamentalists in Algeria, he urges the left to side with the victims of the Islamist repression – not the perpetrators.

Ken Livingstone’s abusive comments to Jewish reporter Oliver Finegold is the latest in a series of gaffes that have alienated many of the Mayor’s loyal left-wing supporters.

His insensitive remarks about the Holocaust follow his ill-judged embrace and defence of the Muslim fundamentalist cleric, Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Ken claims Qaradawi is a “moderate” who combats “socially regressive interpretations of Islam.” This is complete nonsense. Liberal Muslims all over the world reject Qaradawi’s intolerant views, which include the killing of apostates, gays, adulteresses and innocent Israeli civilians.

As a victim of Islamist repression, I am amazed the Mayor has dared to misrepresent a reactionary cleric like Qaradawi as a progressive; especially since Ken has never offered any support to those of us who have suffered at the hands of the Islamists.

Unlike Livingstone, I know what Qaradawi really stands for. When living in Algeria, I listened to his religious broadcasts in Arabic – uncensored and unedited to appease western liberals. I heard his Islamist bigotry firsthand. Qaradawi often defended the barbarity of Sharia law. He has a far right political agenda. His aim is to create a worldwide theocratic state, where every person is subject to his intolerant interpretation of Islam.

The Mayor claims Qaradawi has been unfairly maligned by left-wing critics. He cites apparently progressive statements made by the cleric; conveniently ignoring his anti-Semitic, homophobic and misogynistic comments. While Qaradawi does sometimes espouse moderate opinions, it is usually only in order to hoodwink western politicians and journalists. Such gullibility is breath-taking. This shameless collusion with the reactionary wing of Islam has got to stop.

Ken says dialogue with Muslims is vital. I agree. But why isn’t the Mayor having a dialogue with liberal Muslims and giving support to the victims of Islamist repression? So many Muslims have suffered at the hands of the fundamentalists, not just in Algeria but in Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

We never get support from the left, let alone an invitation to City Hall. As a Muslim, I deplore Islamophobia, but I also deplore the way sections of the left are colluding with Islamist fundamentalism. This appeasement does not help Muslims; it sustains our persecution.

I speak from personal experience as a gay Muslim man born in Algeria. My life was a nightmare. I was beaten and threatened with death by Islamic fundamentalists. Two of my gay friends were murdered by the Islamists.

Gays are not the only victims. Some of my non-gay neighbours were also killed. People just disappear overnight. We never see them again. This is the state of terror in Algeria in 2005. It has been like this for well over a decade. Islamism has destroyed my country.

I face up to five years jail for evading the draft. I refused military service because I object to the way the armed forces abuse the civilian population and are involved in a dirty war against dissidents.

I fear what would happen to me if I accepted the draft. Gay recruits are queer-bashed and gang-raped. In Algerian civilian and military prisons, homophobic torture and sexual assaults are commonplace. I don’t want to suffer that fate.

When I fled to Britain and claimed asylum, the Home Office admitted I could be jailed for a period of three months to five years for draft evasion. It also conceded: “In Algeria homosexuality is illegal and attitudes to homosexuality are not enlightened. It is therefore likely that homosexuals suffer discrimination, and on occasions are subjected to physical and verbal abuse by non-state agents as a result of their sexual orientation.”

It shocked me when the Home Office nevertheless concluded “you have not established a well-founded fear of persecution and you do not qualify for asylum.”

I could now face deportation to Algeria. I live every day fearing arrest and forcible repatriation. If I was sent back, I could be jailed and tortured by the Algerian government – or be hunted down and murdered by homophobic Islamists.

Over 100,000 people have been killed by fundamentalist terrorists (and up to 50,000 others by the Algerian state in its indiscriminate war on terror).

The victims of the Islamists include women who refuse to be veiled, gay lovers, people who hold a liberal interpretation of the lslamic faith, and progressive students, intellectuals, journalists, lawyers, trade unionists and left-wing activists.

In January 2003 the Military Police came to my house. They told my father I had to collect my draft papers and join the army. I knew I had to leave Algeria immediately.

I flew to Heathrow on the 9 February 2003 and applied for asylum.

I thought I would be greeted with sympathy and understanding. Instead, I was fingerprinted and photographed, like a common criminal. Since then, the Home Office has twice turned down my asylum claim. I feel betrayed and fearful.

Nevertheless, I am also enjoying the pleasure and relief of living openly as a gay man. For the first time in my life I have gained self-confidence and self esteem. This would have been impossible if I had remained in Algeria. There are no gay organisations or support groups. Gay people have no protection from arrest, torture and murder. I cannot believe a Labour Home Secretary expects me to give up my new-found freedom and to return to the homophobic nightmare of Algeria.

* The gay rights group OutRage! is appealing for funds to help Ramzi and other gay asylum seekers: Please make cheques payable to “OutRage!” and send with a cover note marked “Gay Asylum Campaign” to: OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT.

* You can support Ramzi Isalam by writing a letter, addressed to the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, urging him to grant Isalam asylum or leave to remain in the UK on compassionate grounds . Please send your letter to Isalam’s solicitor so he can present it to the Home Secretary: Pierre Makhlouf, Hackney Community Law Centre, 8 Lower Clapton Road, London E5 0PD.