I am a local member of the British Humanist Association and am reaching out to you during the month of Ramadan. I am writing to appeal to you to fly the LGBT or 'rainbow' flag over the Mosques of Barnet as well as the 15 local mosques in solidarity for the 50 victims of yesterday's Orlando shootings. I am hoping you will forward my message to the representatives of the mosques in our borough and encourage them to fly this flag during the month of Ramadan.
I am confident you agree with the press release of the Association of British Muslims, condemning yesterday's targeted attack on the LGBT community: "The Creator does not tell us to hate, let alone harm, anyone because of their differences to us. We have all been created by the same Merciful and Gracious Creator. We cannot but condemn this attack on the innocent people of Orlando, Florida."(http://www.aobm.org/). Indeed, the Orlando shootings are an appalling act of wilful violence, undoubtedly perpetrated by an isolated shooter with a history of mental illness. He may claim his act of heinous violence has an Islamic justification and it doesn't. The majority of Muslims in Barnet, as elsewhere around the world, will look at this action in disgust and horror, and condemn it.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has weighed in on this issue, rightly characterising the attack as 'heinous' and 'cowardly'. In the midst of the horror this event causes me, I feel a swell of pride that the mayor of the city I live in as love can vocally condemn this action.
Which is why I invite you to join him by making the bold move of raising the LGBT flat over your mosque. As I already mentioned, the violence in Orlando is most un-Islamic by the moderate standards of our local Muslims. And yet deeply homophobic views persist even in moderate Islam. A recent survey by Channel 4 showed over half of British Muslims believe that homosexuality ought to be criminalised.
This means that if this survey is truly representative, 1 out of 2 British Muslims regard the love of one man for another as a crime. This worrying attitude is not compatible with a civil society in 2016, in Britain or in any other country which promotes and supports cooperation and coexistence between communities and people of all faiths and none.
More worrying still, this survey was conducted in Britain, where many Muslims reconcile the principles of an open society with the tenets of their faith. The results would come out differently - and have done - in similar surveys across the world. Many Muslims believe that homosexuality is a moral or mental disorder to be corrected or legislated against. This cannot continue: we must support those voices within Islam which are calling for reform of such outdated and harmful beliefs and practices.
I am not a Muslim and do not profess to have the answer to the complex social and political questions which Muslims face today. I would rather listen to and support a local Muslim leader than claim to be a voice for change. Like other religions before it, Islam can only reform from within.
But yesterday's shootings provide all Muslim leaders, each mosque and Muslim school in London, with a unique opportunity. To raise an LGBT flag above their building, proving that Islam is indeed above all a religion of peace. With one simple gesture, your association and London's mosques could simultaneously lead the way in extending solidarity with the families of the Orlando victims, and letting the Barnet LGBT community know they are welcome in any mosque in our borough.
I imagine such a move would be unpopular with some members of the community. Perhaps even offensive. And yet offense may be the inevitable cost of a truly bold statement of solidarity with the most vulnerable members of our community.
I hope you will receive this appeal in the spirit of kindness and cooperation in which it is intended. As a Humanist, I can assure you that such a far-reaching political statement would win you the support and attention of the British Humanist Association as well as many other supporters. As a secularist who respects the values of peace and kindness held by those of all faiths or none, I appeal to you to make this bold statement in support of LGBT communities everywhere.