• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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BBC Documentary Explores Anti-Gay Attitudes in Uganda

Yesterday evening BBC 3 broadcast The World’s Worst Place to Be Gay?, a documentary about Uganda presented by gay DJ Scott Mills. There are few surprises: gay people are forced to live in slums, rejected by their families and at risk of violence, while a sampling of random interviewees from the street shows a visceral hatred for homosexuals and a wish for their execution (“everything bad should be done to those people”, says one young woman).

Mills also spoke to some of the individuals who are actively promoting anti-gay feeling: Giles Muhame, managing editor of Rolling Stone newspaper; Pastor Solomon Male; and David Bahati MP, author of the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill (a bill not unfairly dubbed by critics as the “Kill the Gays Bill”). Muhume is notorious for “outing” homosexuals in his newspaper (although a court injunction recently put a stop to this), and he explained that his paper had got information through having “infiltrated their circles” and by talking to “ex-homosexuals”. Muhame also claimed that stories of attacks on gay people were lies, and (rather unconvincingly) that if his own picture had appeared in the paper he wouldn’t be scared. He added:

We are not policing but we are assisting the police to do their work.

Muhume also told Mills that homosexuality reduces one’s lifespan by 24 years – that particular talking-point comes from Paul Cameron of the Family Research Institute (Cameron has featured on this blog previously).

Pastor Male, meanwhile, was introduced as claiming “he was first to openly come out against gays” – he has appeared on this blog here (it’s perhaps worth noting that Male has deployed accusations of homosexuality against rival pastors). Male’s views, expressed with a smile, are what you would expect: homosexuality is “morally incomprehensible, abominable”; “of course” gay people are as bad as paedophiles; “it is beyond human imagination that people of the same kind can love each other”. When Mills tells Male that he was gay from birth, Male insists that he is saying this “to deceive other people, because you want so many people to come to your ranks”.

Mills then went on to interview David Bahati on the grass outside the Parliament building: he described his proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill as “a wonderful piece of legislation that will help those who are involved in this behaviour, but also protect those who are not involved in this”. He also claimed that a quote attributed to him about killing homosexuals was a misquote, and that he wants gay people “to come back to normality”. Like Muhame, Bahati further claimed that accounts of abuse and violence against gay people was “planned deliberate propaganda by the gay movement… I’ve not seen any person being harassed”. As for parents chasing away their gay children, “I’ve not heard of that in this society”. Bahati explained that once the Bill was passed, parents would be expected to report their children to the police, and then “the law enforcement agencies should take care of that”.

Mills then told Bahati that he is himself gay; Bahati’s first response was awkward, and then became slightly hysterically jocular:

Well, I think  if I had known, it would be a different matter for this interview…. I think it’s not professional, right, to engage in this… If you are we could probably ask our police to check if that’s right [laughs]…. Make sure you are not caught in the act because if you are you will be put in.

Bahati then terminated the interview; Mills tells us Bahati followed up by calling his fixer asking for information, and that police had been sent to a hotel where Bahati incorrectly thought they were staying. Bahati previously featured on this blog here.

Channel 4 Documentary on Extremism in Muslim School and Violence in Madrassa

Channel 4’s Dispatches has just broadcast a documentary on hard-line teaching in a Muslim school in the UK and violence in a madrassa attached to a mosque, using covert recording over a two-year period. The programme, entitled Lessons in Hate and Violence, can be seen in the UK here; it forms a follow-up to Dispatches‘ 2007 programme Undercover Mosque (blogged here), and complements a BBC Panorama programme on extremism in some British Muslim schools which went out in November (blogged here).

Much of the programme focused on Darul Uloon al-Islam, a full-time secondary school in Birmingham which has in the past been visited by MPs and various officials. Footage shows an older student leading an assembly as preaching practice, in which he explains that Hindus have no intellect because they “worship cows”, and that they “drink the piss of a cow”. Following the summer holidays, a teacher warns that pupils with “un-Islamic” hairstyles will be trimmed, and the students are told not to integrate: society is “Shaytan”, they should “hate” walking down English streets, and they should “put away” and “forget” non-Muslim friends. Guest speakers are brought in to explain that less rigorous Muslims, defined as having a “less than a fistful” of beard, are of more potential harm than associating with a Jew, and that punishment awaits:

You know when the Angel of Death comes and he rips their soul out. He will give them such a beating that this forked iron rod will enter his body and it will enter every single joint. And then the Angel of Death will twist it and he will twist it and he will twist it. You will feel the pain on that day.

Pupils are also told not to wear trousers that go below the ankles, as this “imitates women”: “that part of your feet will be in the fire of hell”. The programme’s presenter, Tazeen Ahmed, explained that in 2007 the school’s Deputy Headmaster had been recorded in Undercover Mosque giving an anti-integration talk,  after which he had resigned since this was supposedly not in accordance with the school’s principles. The school’s response to the new footage has been to claim that the senior student who had denounced Hindus had been expelled, that certain teachers have been dismissed, and that outside speakers had said things that were not in accordance with the school’s ethos.

The programme also noted that despite the above, the school has been praised by inspectors, who had recorded that “pupils learn about the beliefs and practices of other faiths and are taught to show respect to other world religions”, and that the school was “promoting tolerance and harmony”. The inspectorate’s name appeared on-screen but was not discussed – this was the Bridge Schools Inspectorate, which also featured in the Panorama documentary. BSI deals with a small number of Muslim and Christian schools, and Barry Sheerman MP described it on Panorama as a “sub-system” which had “slipped through the system before anyone noticed what had happened”.

There’s also a brief related discussion of a school called Darululoom London; Ahmed noted a website which appeared to be associated with the school and which promotes segregationist teaching. However, the school insisted there was in fact no connection, and that a teacher named as overseeing the site is in the process of having his name removed.

Another portion of the programme dealt with the Markazi Jamia Mosque in Keighley, where there is a madrassa that appears to be overseen by a Islamic version of Wackford Squeers: the teacher is shown roaming about the room where children are learning the Koran, hitting and kicking cowering pupils more or less at random. At other times, older pupils are shown bullying the younger. The footage was shown to Sir Roger Singleton, author of a report entitled Physical Punishment: Improving Consistency and Protection; he had visited the madrassa as part of his research and he told Ahmed that the footage indicated that he had been misled. As is customary in these programmes, there was the obligatory door-stopping: Ahmed and her camera crew made their way to the mosque to get a response from mosque officials, who quickly shut the door on her. A local councillor, Khadim Hussain, then appeared and unfortunately appeared to suggest that the programme-makers were endangering the children. Since then, Ahmed explained, a man has been arrested and the police are investigating.