Whilst extremists turn on Sadiq Khan – the mainstream majority should be thanking him

February 17, 2013 6:02 pm

In the wake of the Equal Marriage vote two weeks ago there was plenty of coverage on LabourList of how Labour MPs voted. Most of the focus was on those MPs who voted against, but there has been precious little attention given to those who voted in favour. In large part that’s because it was something they believed in, and the vast majority of the party did too. But it’s worth noting, amongst all of the metaphorical manure that is dumped on the heads of our politicians on a daily basis, that some MPs are forced to face horrific and disproportionate backlashes in their attempt to do what they think is right.

Take Sadiq Khan for example. No-one would question his stance on equality for a second, and he has the voting record to show for it.

There was therefore little comment made (or expected) when he voted to introduce Equal Marriage. It was in line with his beliefs and he did so proudly. But that doesn’t mean that his bravery in doing so should be overlooked – because by doing so Sadiq Khan angered some deeply unpleasant people.

Sadiq is perhaps Britain’s most prominent politician of Muslim faith, which has led to him facing death threats from extremists in the wake of the Equal marriage vote. Threats which are credible enough for the police to urge him to review the security around both himself and his family. It’s as depressing as it is distressing that some people feel Khan should be personally punished for voting with his conscience in a bid to bring more equality and freedom to our society. The Daily Mail reports that the delightful Mufti Muhammed Aslam Naqshbandi Bandhalevi (head imam of the Jamia Islamia Rizvia mosque in Bradford) “has issued a fatwa, or ruling, declaring Mr Khan an ‘apostate’ from Islam and said he should ‘repent before Allah’.”

The fact that Khan is a practising Muslim who attends Mosque each week is evidently not relevant to some, all because he quite rightly believes that people who love each other should be allowed to marry.

What a narrow and sad little view of the world that is.

The example of Sadiq Khan is of course an extreme one – but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Those of us who value equality as well as religious freedom – the mainstream majority – should thank Khan for his steadfast defence of both, and for being willing to defend the cause of equal rights despite such a vehement and hateful backlash.

Sometimes the political decisions are easy, but the repercussions are very hard to bear indeed. The next time we attack our politicians, perhaps we should remember that.

Update: It has become clear that Sadiq Khan is not the only MP of Muslim faith to face such vile attacks. Others who voted for Equal Marriage – Rushanara Ali, Shabana Mahmood, Anas Sarwar (all Labour) and Sajid Javid (Conservative) – are all believed to have been similarly targetted. We should thank them too.

  • NT86

    These Islamist organisations should get stuffed. If they hate our values so much they should frankly leave Britain and move to some backwater in the Middle East or South Asia where they can find other like minded freaks. Let’s see how long they last in those countries without the state benefits and public services.

    Good on Sadiq Khan and the other Muslim MP’s who voted for equal marriage!

    • JoeDM

      Mmm…. Surprising lack of interest in this politically incorrect and anti-multiculti messeage on LL.

      I would have thought all the right-on trendies would have been down on it like a ton of bricks.

      • NT86

        I’ve always condemed Labour and the left’s overall silence about religious fundamentalism and the failure of multiculturalism (as well as immigration policy) in Britain. I don’t live in some cut off trendy part of London. I live in the north and have seen for myself what this has done to the cities here. Labour lost a lot of support from the white working class in the north because they felt marginalised by these cynical projects.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    My thoughts and admiration to Sadiq Khan for a principled stance that he was probably aware may not be welcomed by “some of” his co-religionists.

    Is there a legal status in secular Britain of these “fatwas”? I recall once reading that some Moslems regarded the fatwa issued on Salman Rushdie by the Ayatollah Khomenie as being a religious duty for them to perform – authority to murder being granted over the secular law by Allah, and thus it was that the police took the threat so seriously for those years. But what is there to stop a Ayatollah from issuing any fatwa he wants? Is there some Muslim council that can arbitrate? There should be some control of these things, or someone really will get killed.

    • robertcp

      I would assume that its only legal status is incitement to murder. The cleric is probably too bigoted and stupid to understand that he is free to make an idiot of himself in this country.

  • Daniel Speight

    It’s as depressing as it is distressing that some people feel Khan
    should be personally punished for voting with his conscience in a bid to
    bring more equality and freedom to our society.

    I applaud Sadiq Khan’s courage in going against some in his community by voting for what he believed in when it was a free vote. I would only hope I could show similar courage in such circumstances. I do think same sex marriage is for the best.

    Having said that I would also therefore say respect the free vote and allow others to claim ‘conscience’ even when voting the opposite way. Although I think the way MPs voted on the issue can be used to show the unenlightened mindset of many Tory MPs it would be dangerous to then try and witch-hunt individual MPs. Don’t let’s start issuing ‘liberal’ fatwas to match the Islamist ones.

  • Daniel Speight

    It’s as depressing as it is distressing that some people feel Khan
    should be personally punished for voting with his conscience in a bid to
    bring more equality and freedom to our society.

    I applaud Sadiq Khan’s courage in going against some in his community by voting for what he believed in when it was a free vote. I would only hope I could show similar courage in such circumstances. I do think same sex marriage is for the best.

    Having said that I would also therefore say respect the free vote and allow others to claim ‘conscience’ even when voting the opposite way. Although I think the way MPs voted on the issue can be used to show the unenlightened mindset of many Tory MPs it would be dangerous to then try and witch-hunt individual MPs. Don’t let’s start issuing ‘liberal’ fatwas to match the Islamist ones.

    • Hugh

      “Having said that I would also therefore say respect the free vote and
      allow others to claim ‘conscience’ even when voting the opposite way”

      What do you mean?

      • Daniel Speight

        Hugh, if Mark is going to praise Sadiq Khan for voting his conscience in a free vote, then he also has to be fair to those that voted the opposite way,also because of their consciences.

        • Hugh

          He’s praising him for voting in that way in the face of death threats. Who voted against in such a manner?

          • Daniel Speight

            So if a militant gay lobby threatened an ultra-conservative catholic, would that put him/her on the same pedestal as Sadiq Khan. Not sure if the argument over voting one’s conscience depends on this Hugh.

          • Hugh

            I think you’re missing the point. Khan doesn’t deserve our support because he voted according to his conscience (which indeed would mean we should back every MP’s decision to the hilt); he should be supported because of the nature of those who are attacking him.

          • Hugh

            I think you’re missing the point. Khan doesn’t deserve our support because he voted according to his conscience (which indeed would mean we should back every MP’s decision to the hilt); he should be supported because of the nature of those who are attacking him.

  • http://twitter.com/PaulBHalsall Paul Halsall

    Since apostasy in Islam is a capital offence, I think the Mufti concerned needs to be arrested.

    Good for Mr. Khan on voting for equality.

    It is worth mentioning perhaps that the majority of Catholic MPs (47 out of 82) voted for equality as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Chandler/100000059028926 Andrew Chandler

    Whilst it may be true that the ‘vast majority’ of the Party are in favour of this change, I hope that those of us, Christian socialists, whose Methodist and Baptist forebears helped to found this party, and who are deeply opposed, will not become a persecuted minority. I wrote to the CSM and the Party leadership when Yvette Cooper seemed to suggest that Same-sex marriage was Party policy, asking whether there had even been a debate about it, not to mention even one line in the last manifesto. I’m still waiting for a reply! The vote was a private vote, and I think it’s wrong that the liberty of conscience of individual MPs should be exposed by advertising which way they voted. Only by writing this into the manifesto as policy will Labour risk alienating millions of supporters at the next election, not to mention the many hard-working families who are struggling to survive, who are broadly tolerant of alternative models of family, but for whom this is another selfish obsession of the PM and his middle-class political élite in Westminster.

  • Alan A

    It is of course outrageous that Sadiq Khan was threatened for voting for equality.

    However Sadiq Khan himself has – in a huge turnaround since the days of Blair and Blears – been right at the forefront of promoting some of the worst Islamist extremists in Britain. For example, recently, Sadiq Khan was the high profile guest at this event:

    http://hurryupharry.org/2013/01/29/labour-embraces-islamist-extremists/

    Earlier, Sadiq Khan – along with Stephen Timms – had attempted to get Engage, a group run by individuals linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist groups, appointed as the secretariat of an APPG on Islamophobia. Engage had been exposed asan organisation which is very closely tied to specific Islamist political parties, which both defends those political parties and associated hate preachers, while attacking Muslim liberals in the most personal terms. In particular, it attacks British Muslims for Secular Democracy.

    http://hurryupharry.org/2011/07/19/iengage-binned-by-parliament/

    You can’t play both sides. It just doesn’t work.

  • http://twitter.com/robertsjonathan Jonathan Roberts

    Good on Sadiq. This is where solidarity really comes in to its own – when someone makes a stand on a matter of conscience, and are offered support by the wider community in the face of intimidation. We should have his back on this. Freedom of speech is as important as the freedom of religion – but in this case this extremism is a perversion of religion, and must not be tolerated by muslims or wider society.

    We can’t allow people to be bullied, be it by rogue groups using their faith as an excuse to promote hate, or any other groups. I hope he and his family are safe. But I suspect we do need to look at what ‘fatwas’ mean in terms of UK law and whether they should be considered an incitement to violence.

  • markfergusonuk

    There is no such thing as a private vote in the House of Commons. All votes are public – as they should be – as MPs are representatives.

    • markfergusonuk

      (And as someone raised as a Methodist, I’m always surprised the Methodist Church isn’t more enlightened on equal marriage, considering it is so liberal in so many other areas)

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Chandler/100000059028926 Andrew Chandler

        My brother was raised as a Baptist, and was baptised, like me. That doesn’t make him a Baptist now and he had a Humanist wedding. I think he would probably have a different view on this issue to mine, but that’s not the point. The point is that he’s probably more interested in how to get his kids through university, just like me, than in your artificial concept of ‘equal marriage’, which is NOT Party policy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Chandler/100000059028926 Andrew Chandler

      That’s petty semantics, Paul, as you very well know! I defined what I meant by ‘private’, in the sense of being according to individual conscience, just as with votes on abortion and hanging in the past. You are pursuing your own agenda here, not Party policy, and you know that too! What is good for Sadiq Khan should also be good for MPs who have strong Christian or Muslim beliefs against the redefinition of marriage. Do you recognise their liberty of conscience?

  • http://twitter.com/robertsjonathan Jonathan Roberts

    Andrew, whilst I too believe that those with views outside the mainstream of party thought should not be ostricised (heaven knows I’m out of the mainstream), as a Christian myself I have drawn a different conclusion to you on the subject of gay marriage. There is simply no clear biblical instruction on this. The (undoubtedly romantic) love shared by Jonathan and David (Samuel 18) or Ruth and Naomi (Ruth I) was considered by the Council of Nicea to be worthy of inclusion in the Canon – the less pleasant description in the book of Leviticus describes homosexuality as an ‘abomination’ (rutual uncleanliness) – putting it on a par with the crime of eating shellfish. Other quotes, often from St Paul, regularly used are ones that, in my view, make St Paul the victim of a misunderstanding of the etymology his words and early Church revisionism. But even if he did believe in the words attributed to him, during Paul’s revelation God said to him ‘do not call anything impure that God has made clean’. Instead – just look at the words of the man you and I worship – Jesus Christ. He campaigned against adultery, idolatry, divorce, greed, inhospitality and many other things. If homosexuality was such a sin, and we know it existed at the time but was less understood, he would have had something to say about it. What he did champion, was the concept of love – for God, and each other. Unlike many Gnostics of the era, he believed in marriage as a way of formalising love and companionship. So all I can do is say what my Sunday School teacher used to say to me – if you are ever stuck, just ask yourself – what would Jesus do? I personally think that if two people, any two people, came before God to announce their love for each other, Jesus would be very happy indeed. I simply see no evidence to the contrary.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Chandler/100000059028926 Andrew Chandler

      Jonathan, I never said that homosexuality is a sin. Again, this is confusing homophobia with biblical understanding. Jesus himself was very clear about marriage and about homosexual men being exempted from it, along with those who had chosen a life of celibacy (see Mt 19 vv 3-12). To say that there is no clear biblical instruction on this is simply wrong, but notice that Jesus is accepting of the natural fact of homosexuality. The Ethiopian eunuch is also baptised by Philip in the Acts of the Apostles. If anything, homosexuality was better understood in NT times, but less accepted generally because of the need for procreation to maintain society, which was even more accentuated in OT times with all those genocides.. That’s what makes the position of Jesus and Philip so remarkable.That’s my position, and that’s why the Party should not be asking us to abandon our beliefs in an erroneous pursuit of ‘equality’ in this matter. We need something (within the churches) that celebrates difference in relationships, not pretending that we are all the same. The problem in the UK really lies in the fact that churches have a legal obligation to perform marriages, whereas in most European countries, as in Hungary (where I was married and live now) the legal registration is done separately by the state. So, Christians who follow Christ’s teaching on marriage are forced to accept Gay marriage against their consciences in the UK, whereas elsewhere they can simply ignore it, and go on believing in marriage as the union of one man and one woman for the purpose of generating and nurturing a family, among others. I don’t deny, by the way, that Gay couples can nurture just as well. By the way, I am also bisexual, but chose to marry at 32 because I found a woman I wanted to have a family with. God has blessed us with two sons, and if either chose to form a partnership with another man, I would be happy for them, and would like to see their love and companionship celebrated in church, just not as marriage, which is fundamentally about the duty of creating a family through natural means, something which homosexual couples obviously cannot do.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Chandler/100000059028926 Andrew Chandler

      Incidentally, Jonathan, Gnostics were those in the early church who denied Christ’s humanity, They were not around in first century Palestine.

  • markfergusonuk

    What I meant, Andrew, is that I have always found Methodism to be a welcoming and open faith, not closed and didactic. Which is why your response has saddened me.

  • Sundar Thavapalasundaram

    I came across this article today, and read it with great sadness. Sadiq Khan and his fellow muslim MP’s who voted in favour of Equal Marriage showed great integrity and selflessness. In doing what was right, despite the consequences, they have demonstrated through their example that extremism has no place in influencing the political process and our aspirations for a fairer society. Long may this be so.
    I salute you all.

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