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London. 2011. The world’s most multicultural and cosmopolitan city.
Gay Pride – Saturday 2nd July.
Surely gays and lesbians don’t need to parade their existence down Oxford Street anymore…we’re sorted in this city, right? What is Gay Pride anyway?
Is Pride about going to the gym every day the week before and getting your haircut just right, or perhaps volunteering to help one of the many organisations that need help on the day and truly feeling part of a community?
Come Pride, will you be with those ‘shiny new people’ you now interact with on Facebook, or spending time with actual friends who have invested genuine energy into your friendship and given a crap about you?
I remember seeing the London Gay Pride marches on television news, growing up in school, itching to one day be able to go, as a proud adult fighting homophobia with other homofriendly adults. My first pride in the 90s didn’t disappoint! It was a sensory feast. A sea of movement, walking with purpose. Cheering, friendly people, hot guys and hot gals, music, everyone happy – it was most definitely a powerful, ‘we’re here, we’re queer and we (don’t!) drink beer’ moment. Feeling suppression being defeated. Feeling part of a community. And then the glorious Trafalgar Square rally. Beautiful!
Fast forward to 2011. Millions descending onto the streets of London, marching, whistling, partying. Dancing in Leicester and Soho Squares. Who but a boring party-pooper would not be excited by all the revelry?!
But, we can do this every weekend. What’s so special about one day?
The difference? The march. The first march for gay rights in the UK was in 1970, when 150 gay men protested through Highbury Fields in north London, The first official UK Gay Pride Rally was in 1972. Since then the march has grown in number and importance, originating from the 1969 Stonewall riots, through to Section 28, age of consent and equality for all.
Huge issues that had / have serious consequences on our well-being. The only reason we can still celebrate today is because of the march and the ongoing fight for gay rights.
Which is why the march and rally are always important. Having fun with loved ones too. But inbetween all the ogling at half-naked torsos, perhaps drinking and drugs, and general carefree merriment, it’s important to remember why we can be free in the first place, and why other places unfortunately can’t.
Iran, Uganda, Malawi, Russia, Latvia, Serbia…just some of the countries where our LGBT community are struggling to have the same rights we take for granted, sometimes even just being alive. We must march for them.
But in London we still have battles. Homophobia still exists in sport. Hate is still being preached by bigots in the name or religion, be it a minority of youths flyering Tower Hamlets ‘supposedly’ they claim in the name of Allah, or Christian leaders who think Jesus would equate homosexuality with paedophilia. Or atheists who will never treat an LGBT person as an equal.
For some, the march may be redundant. ‘Who cares? I don’t need to fight for anything anymore’. For me? Marching as a British Muslim who is gay and out has impassioned me. Obviously some people may not be able to relate to that.
But there is a growing divide between gays whose families are secular and their perception of what’s left in the gay struggle, and those gays whose families are from minority groups, e.g. blacks, Muslims etc. The first time I saw a group of gay Muslims marching together was a lightning-bolt moment, my eyes nearly popped out, I felt fired up. Years later, I spoke on stage at the 2007 Pride Rally at Trafalgar Square, as a trustee on behalf of Imaan (LGBT Muslim support group). The square was as packed as ever, but it was the day after police arrested a few individuals outside Tiger Tiger club in Piccadilly for an alleged terrorist bomb plot. I expected animosity and jeering, but was overjoyed that the whole crowd rallied together, cheering with full gusto at fighting homophobia, Islamophobia, all prejudice, and celebrating our diverse community, both it’s similarities and differences.
Speaking personally, as a double minority it is much easier in the short-term to bury your head in the sand, to not confront the issue, and this is also true for secular gays and religious straights. Showing the world you’re gay and Muslim can be twice as hard than being a secular gay. And shunning people who associate with religion / gays is cowardice, whether you’re gay or straight. But for me the greater good, forcing Muslims to accept the existence of gays and forcing gays to accept the existence of other minorities, is vital to escape the ‘dark ages’. If I/we don’t do it, than who will? We can’t depend on others or the next generation to do the hard work for us, as much as it would be a much more peaceful life for us! A journey not without heartache, but hopefully one that avoids future heartache for many.
It’s not normal to get on with everyone and like everyone, it’s human nature for people to have things in common with some, and have not much in common with others. But there can be a danger of the gay scene becoming ‘ghettoised’. Unnecessary factions. For example, it would be bad if gay Muslims just stuck to each other and didn’t socialise with others. I am heavily against the new trend of some minority groups, such as some Muslims, being completely segregated. My grandparents came to London in the 1960s and wouldn’t have bothered coming if they did not happily integrate as proud British Muslims.
It works both ways. Everyone’s heard the paradigm of it being a ‘straight, white male world’, a comment on the least oppressed, people on top of the ‘dog eat dog’ world. Anyone who is ‘missing’ at least one of these characteristics will have experienced the pain of oppression, and would have fought to assert their rights, e.g. gay white males, straight white females, straight black males. Those who are oppressed usually become more accepting overall of other minorities, not just their own, as they understand the shared struggle for universal human rights. But worryingly, there seems to be a trend where those that were once oppressed have forgotten. My theory is that, just for example let’s say some gay whites, you get to the ‘top of the tree’, you’re in the big city smoke and finally feel accepted, and you can do what you want and no longer feel oppressed. And for some, that might mean that at best you’re not bothered about socialising with other minority groups and at worst you ‘ghettoise’ yourself from them, maybe because for some, finally being at the ‘top of the tree’ really is important (e.g. taken to extreme, the fact that some gay people join far-right political organisations). I will defend an atheist’s right to question my or anyone’s religion, but that’s a completely different thing from being anti-Muslim / anti-whatever religion / anti-minority, which is just as bad as being homophobic.
But like I said, it works both ways.
More than being LGBT which is one strand of our being, we are people; a false sense of elitism achieves nothing.
Pride is about having self-pride. Respect, love and honesty for yourself and others. Be with positive people. Help those in need. Maximise time with those who appreciate you and minimise time with those who don’t. Remembering your real friends and family.
AND…Pride also means not feeling you HAVE to go out on the day, fearing you’re missing out; it is OK not to go sometimes, have a quiet one in solitude or with loved ones.
As long as homophobia exists in this country or indeed any other, and as long as people aren’t inclusive of all gay people, religious to atheist, black to white, young to old, fat to skinny, as long as people aren’t accepting of the rainbow of diversity that the LGBT community is and instead want to create divisions in soulless cliques…
So whether you’re parting hard and celebrating, or having a quiet reflective one, solo or with loved ones either here or in memory of those who’ve passed, Happy Pride.
Love Fiez X
Bit random to include Gaga and no this isn’t a plug for her, as much as she’s fabulous! But this advert came on while blogging and I like the happy sentiment.
My latest blog is inspired by a practice, it’s simplicity and good-naturedness I may have taken for granted that non-Muslims also understand, in a seemingly ever-increasingly ‘phobic’ world.
Now, half my friends eat pork, don’t eat halal food, get intoxicated etc, and like other Muslims, I really have no issue with that because it’s none of my (God-damn! ) business. People observing my way of life can either join me or not. It’s not my business to preach and indeed I’m not blogging to convert anyone, just to be clear.
But over the years, likely to be exacerbated post-9/11, I have heard rumblings of discontent over this practice, culminating in a piece on The One Show in September this year where a particularly disgruntled member of the public was speaking about why many British people are against halal meat. Initially surprised years ago when I first heard that people could possibly have an issue, this very soon changed to not-being-surprised-at-all considering people can be just plain prejudiced, particularly post-9/11.
Negative Islamic stories in the media being the norm these days, I was nevertheless surprised to first hear in 2009 a mini-uproar at KFC’s plans for some of it’s chains to serve halal chicken. Mainly because, Muslims who before couldn’t get themselves a fix of some of the ‘Colonel’s’ fried-chicken now could, it wouldn’t stop non-Muslims from eating it and it would surely be better for KFC’s profit, so everyone’s happy….no?
It appeared not. People were up in arms over their ‘freedom’ being compromised and objected to this ‘barbaric’ practice. And the guy on The One Show, before being informed of the practice on site by halal butchers, said he had the right to know if meat he ate was halal or not, as non-Muslims have the right to not take part in this practice.
So, doing my bit to help people make an informed decision for themselves, here is an attempt to cut through the offal to get to the meaty truth. (Sorry ).
First things first – unless you’re a vegetarian, you could say that sacrificing any animal for consumption is cruel, full stop.
The One Show mentioned that in the West, animals are stunned before sacrifice, and as most halal butchers don’t, this is therefore cruel.
First of all, if no halal methods are available, then Muslims can of course eat what animals they like to survive.
So what is halal sacrifice exactly? It is where animals are slaughtered by a human making a swift, deep incision with a sharp knife on the neck, cutting the jugular veins and carotid arteries of both sides together with the trachea and oesophagus but leaving the spinal cord intact in this initial cut. Within seconds, the blood pressure in the brain falls to zero and the animal becomes unconscious, and so feels no pain as the knife is sharp. And this is done while a prayer is said, which is for the animal and also to bless the meat.
This is fundamental – if the animal feels pain, it cannot be considered halal.
But halal doesn’t stop there.
Like ‘kosher’ for Judaism, halal for Muslims means anything that is fit for consumption / inclusion in life that is good and respectful for all.
Most people have probably heard of halal food, where like with kosher, livestock that are permitted to be consumed are sacrificed in a certain way in God’s name to allow them to be fit for consumption. It also bans the consumption of pork, blood, carrion or animals killed by strangulation, being beaten, by predators or other non-halal means.
But the concept of halal is not just for food. It extends through life, complimenting Islamic principles to help guide individuals in living a decent life and in considering each other’s welfare.
In exactly the same way, halal food means the welfare of the animal throughout it’s life is of utmost importance. The privilege of eating animal protein implies a duty to animals from their rearing right through to their slaughter. So battery-hens or stunning cooped up animals on a conveyor belt are equally non-halal. Organic principles anybody? Yup, Islam had them from the beginning.
People’s rights to choose what they eat
I’ve come across some internet forums where people have expressed not only their disapproval of eating halal food, but that it represents an ‘Islamification’ of the West – Muslims forcing their way on non-Muslims.
Not to go off on a tangent, but the vast majority of Muslims don’t want to force people to do anything, because to do so is against Islamic principles.
But coming back to the point, I agree that any place where meat is served should state not only whether it is halal or kosher, but also whether it is organic or not, and other such factors. Totally agree that people should have the right to know what is on offer so they can choose to eat it or not.
But really…let’s be honest about what this exact ‘disapproval’ is of. Is ‘Joe Bloggs’ really that concerned about the welfare of the cow used for his beef-burger or the pig used for his hotdog? Mmmmm? Of course not. OK, of course more and more people these days genuinely are concerned, and so they should be. But I think for a lot of people, it’s more the fact that they just don’t want to feel that, at best, they are ‘encouraging’ or supporting Muslims, and at worst, they just don’t want anything to do with them. Am I right? Am I wrong?
I uphold anyone’s right to have the freedom to live how they please. But not if it’s through ignorance or lying about what the real reasons are.
So there you have it.
It turns out that some of the KFC branches had to revert to non-halal food as they also had to stop serving bacon on the premises, which led to a big reduction in sales (I know, I know, the Daily ‘Hate’ Mail). And quite right too! It’s simple business and the unwritten ‘law’ of the majority. If more people are going to be disadvantaged / inconvenienced from eating somewhere than those who would benefit, then it’s completely wrong to change things.
But in KFC branches located in parts of town where the vast majority aren’t going to touch bacon products, then why not have it halal? And non-Muslims who may be in the minority in that small town just won’t be able to have bacon – OK, I can see that as seeming unfair, but they can still have chicken if it’s halal, if they want to, and eat bacon elsewhere, it doesn’t make a difference. After all, large numbers of Nando’s are halal and have been for years and most non-Muslims eat there happily side by side with Muslims…when you’re hungry, you’re hungry!
Interestingly, there was a study done on comparing halal slaughter with non-halal slaughter. By no means is this post an attempt to criticise non-halal slaughter, but it makes for interesting reading where it states that ‘stunning’ and the subsequent procedures actually cause pain and not the opposite. See what you make of it, Deutsche Tieraerztliche Wochenschrift (German Veterinary Weekly), 1978; Volume 85: Pages 62-66.
So be a vegetarian, be a meat-eater, but use your (meat)loaf.
Light-Hearted Comedy Bit!
I tried to find the Pam Ann sketch on her dealings with offering halal food…but found this Malaysian skit. It’s a bit weird! :-/ But it’s not afraid to use humour and is actually quite informative, so I like it, hope you do too!