Sacranie charge dropped, but Muslim gay row continues
The Metropolitan Police have confirmed that there will be no further action taken against Sir Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain umbrella group, after the Crown Prosecution Service advised that he had no case to answer for alleged anti-gay comments on a BBC radio programme.
But Muslim leaders immediately became involved in another row, after the organisers of a Festival of Muslim Cultures due to be opened in Sheffield tomorrow by Prince Charles refused permission for an event to celebrate the lives of gay Muslims.
Aaron Saeed, Muslim affairs spokesperson for the gay rights group OutRage! had offered to stage such an event, but told the Guardian newspaper that 'we were told that gay Muslims don't belong in a festival of Muslim cultures.'
A spokesperson for the event said that participation in the Festival was not restricted in terms of ethnic, sectarian or group divisions - but that this particular proposal would have caused offence to some Muslims and was therefore out of keeping with the tenor of the show.
Isabel Carlisle said that the Festival of Muslim Cultures did not want to be 'subverted by any other agenda.
Muhammad Yusuf of the Interfaith Alliance, a new and small group on the inter-religious scene which tries to promote mutual tolerance, said that the Festival organisers' decision was 'a matter of regret'.
OutRage! has been accused by some Muslims of being deliberately insensitive towards them, while its members have accused Muslim organisations and leaders of homophobia.
The group has also ëouted' clergy, and its figurehead Peter Tatchell - a human rights campaigner who has twice tried to perform a citizen's arrest on Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe - once occupied the Easter pulpit at Canterbury Cathedral to protest against the Church of England's rejection of homosexuals.
Many lesbian and gay Christians disagreed with the aggressive tactics, though sympathising with the message.
Observers say that, as with the church, changing attitudes to sexual orientation in Muslim communities is going to be a long process and needs to be led from within rather than forced from without.
But gay rights activists say that they are tired of being told to tolerate intolerance and discrimination.
Meanwhile, London mayor Ken Livingstone - who has been attacked for his willingness to dialogue with more radically conservative Muslim spokespeople - today opened an IslamExpo in London, claimed to be the largest in Europe, which aims to challenge public prejudice against the religion.
And Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, himself besieged by warring factions in the Anglican churches over sexuality, will tomorrow help launch a new Christian-Muslim Forum aiming to build bridges between the communities in the sphere of public participation and consultation.
The Muslim Council of Britain is also involved in a continuing row over Holocaust Memorial Day on 26 January 2006, which it is refusing to back because it says it is not inclusive enough - something the organising trust disputes.
[Also on Ekklesia: Christian-Muslim Forum and Islam Expo seek to build bridges 23/01/06; UK Muslim body to reconsider Holocaust event; Muslim leader may be checked by police for alleged gay slur; Tensions set to continue around UK Holocaust Memorial Day; God and the politicians - BBC2 - an Ekklesia response; Incitement to religious hatred: Growing disagreement; Anti-war campaigner flies to Iraq to plead for Christian peace activist; Government plans reopen debate on faith schools]