Our Response to Homophobic Protests Outside Parkfield Community School on 7th March

Parkfield Community School - Understanding Parent's Religious Homophobia

Our organisation, Naz and Matt Foundation, was founded because a community and a conservative religious family did not understand what it means to be born gay.

They saw it as a disease that needed to be got rid of. Something that was not compatible with their interpretation of their religion.

Sadly, as a result of those views my fiancé and soulmate of 13 years, Naz, took his own life in 2014 shortly after being confronted about being gay by his deeply religious family.

This is why it is so important for the entire LGBTQI+ community, and our heterosexual allies, to peacefully challenge the homophobic protests that are currently taking place outside of a primary school in Birmingham.

We must remain positive and find ways of working with the parents to help them understand what it means to be born gay, and how to accept their children.

We do not choose to be gay.
We are born this way.

The protesters, on the 7th March, stated publicly in a hostile, prejudiced manner that a gay person’s very existence is not valid – that ‘it is not okay to be gay‘. This is a concrete example of homophobia and a clear prejudice towards gay people at a public event. And based on the West Midlands Police definition of a ‘hate crime’, it must be considered as such:

Hate crime is any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards a person based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or gender identity.

Note – we absolutely support the right to protest. But the protest that happened on the 7th March was totally unacceptable.

We must all pay attention to the events in Birmingham and realise this is a much wider issue that will at some point affect all of us.

The voices of the protestors highlights cognitive dissonance. It’s certainly not what I expect from peace loving, religious people. The disruption created to the children’s education is potentially harmful. There is a level of intolerance towards the LGBT community which has not been seen since Section 28 ended and should not be seen or heard in 2019.

No Outsiders aims to educate about diversity, equality and inclusion within multicultural communities. Let’s keep advocating and championing the ethos of the programme.

If you’re reading this article and decide to turn the other way and do nothing, we fear that more young gay people, from conservative families like my Naz, may take their own life if they see such a bleak, hostile and unaccepting future ahead.

LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.

It is my responsibility, and our responsibility, to give hope to anyone that is struggling to find acceptance from their family – to help them forge a peaceful new path ahead based on love, understanding and acceptance.

Religion should never be used as an excuse to keep children willfully blind of reality. Marriage (Same Sex Couples) act has been enshrined in law since 2013 in this country we all call home. There is nothing age inappropriate about this fact. All children should be made aware of it.

In fact Sarbat has contributed towards the formulation of this law and we would challenge any community that wishes to either demean or erase us.

Dharam Singh
Sarbat Sikh LGBT

Imagine growing up knowing that you’re gay. Now imagine your parents are traditional and conservative in their religious or cultural views. You know deep down that your parents will never accept you if they find out you are gay. They will reject you, kick you out of your family home, cut off all financial ties to you… and in the extreme cases our Foundation has had to support… some parents will beat, exorcise, or even try to kill their own children… just because they were born gay and don’t meet the expectations of the rest of the family.

Now imagine if you are growing up in Saltley or Alum Rock in Birmingham right now, near to where the Parkfield Community School is located. A young gay person, particularly if they are Muslim, is going to be feeling vulnerable, at risk, trapped, isolated and scared.

Let’s be clear –

You can be gay and Muslim.
It’s okay to be gay and Muslim.
Nobody has the right to tell you otherwise.
Only God can judge.

Hidayah condemns the actions of protesters outside Parkfield School as not only homophobic but unIslamic. Islam is a loving religion that accepts everyone wholly and it is not represented by these people. They are not doing Allāh’s work – quite the opposite.

This is a cultural problem, not a religious one. Islam is a religion of love, and we will welcome anyone made to feel unwelcome or afraid by these misguided protesters.

May Allah subhana wa ta’ala grant them guidance to see the error of their ways.

hidayahlgbt.co.uk

Free help and support is available if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning or intersex:

The escalating situation

The methods used in the public protest on Thursday 7th March were shocking and disturbing.

Young children (some of them being primary school age) and parents were drawn into a hateful tirade towards gay people – including the singling out and targeting of a Parkfield primary school teacher (who coincidentally is gay, and one of three UK teachers to have been shortlisted for the “world’s best teacher” award).

Parkfield Community School was also targeted with homophobic graffiti. This is a school – considered as an ‘Outstanding’ school by Ofsted – whose goal it is to achieve acceptance for everyone in their community – every race, religion, gender identity, age, disability or sexual orientation.

Equality is exactly that. Equal.

Seeing how some members of ‘the local Birmingham community’ are reacting in public with so much hostility and hatred towards gay people is beyond saddening. It’s SCARY. For anyone. Gay or otherwise.

I grew up in San Francisco, having LGBTQI+ education and history was so important to help combat homophobia and prejudice.

In the 80s hundreds of thousands lost their lives to AIDS, in the mid 90s the San Francisco AIDS foundation sent community members living with HIV and AIDS to speak to the students, for some this was the first meeting someone living with this horrible disease.

I know through these classes, it was such a breakthrough moment for my generation, we took it upon ourselves to say no to homophobia, no to prejudice and no to discrimination. Don’t take that power away from the next generation.

Peta Cooper
Founder of GaysianFaces.com

Age appropriateness

Some people have said the protesting parents’ only issue is that the equality being taught is not appropriate for primary school children. This is a smokescreen and sadly the negative sentiments of the parents are echoed in many conservative religious communities around the UK, regardless of age or religious background. And this is not specific to followers of one religion either – conservative Jewish and Christian protesters have also joined the mob.

Here is an example of some of the homophobic abuse sent to our charity, by a parent, following a recent talk that we did at a secondary school:

nazia.naz.12139 Why are you adamant to impose this on Muslim kids? You have no right to come to my child school and give this talk on something that goes against our religion! If your BF took the easy way out and killed himself. Then you should question yourself! Obviously your so called relationship wasn’t strong enough was it... Why ur imposing this on kids then? Why not go and do this talk to the adults of the Muslim community eh? It weren’t kids that had issues with naz it was the adults in their family. Cos u know u can’t! So ur just encouraging these kids to become the future naz and go down the same route!!

It’s worth noting that in the above case, the students and teachers were very positive about our talk. It was a parent who had the issue.

The protest on 7th March must be considered a ‘hate crime’

Based on the video evidence we have seen, including that filmed by one of our own volunteers on Thursday 7th March, we believe that protest turned into an ‘incitement of hatred‘ – targeting gay people, a (gay) school teacher and the school he works in.

The following was observed on 7th March. It has no place in modern Britain:

  • Targeted harassment, teasing and name calling of a gay teacher (“mufti moffat”), publicly on a loudspeaker in the middle of the street, in front of crowds of parents and school pupils.
  • Encouraging school children and parents to publicly shout “Shame, Shame, Shame” outside of a primary school towards those inside.
  • Telling children and vulnerable young LGBT+ people that’s ‘it’s not okay to be gay’ (sexual orientation is a protected characteristic under the Human Rights Act)

I hope the parents will soon realise the harmful impact they are having on young LGBT+ people, some of them perhaps their own children.

The protest on Thursday 7th March must be recorded as a ‘homophobic hate crime’. The police must step in to protect the vulnerable LGBT+ individuals who now live in fear within their community.

Next steps?

To reiterate the the purpose of this article – we are asking the community to find peaceful, helpful and constructive ways of challenging the homophobic protests and escalating negativity towards the LGBTQI+ community to achieve greater acceptance and understanding.

To remain positive, calm and explore ways of working with, and helping parents understand that a person who is gay… is born that way. It can’t be changed. And we must not try. We all have the ability to love and accept another human being who is different from ourselves.

Positive action must be taken before it’s too late and another young LGBTQI+ person sadly takes their own life because their family and their community rejects them.

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