The hotly debated issue of children learning about LGBT issues at primary school mainly centres around the conflict between the adherents of religions which do not tolerate LGBT lifestyles, principally fundamental Christians and Muslims, and their concerns that any expression of the existence of LGBT matters, especially to young children, is deemed to encourage and promote LGBT lifestyles. The head-on clash between Parkfield Community School’s the No Outsiders programme aimed at teaching tolerance of differences in society and the Muslim families of the pupils, which has seen 80 per cent of the school roll withdrawn from the school by their parents, is a prime example of entrenched attitudes and a refusal to even consider any point of view other than that the programme is an acceptable force that will corrupt the pupils.
Since the publicity given to this conflict and the subsequent focus on LGBT individuals in society, gay Muslims are finding their voices, pointing out that they would have welcomed such a programme when they were at school as they felt totally isolated and frequently became the subject of bullying and threats of serious violence. Afshan D’souza-Lodhi, the only Asian drag queen in Britain who is now moving towards transitioning, believes that education at a young age would have the effect of significantly encouraging tolerance and reducing the risks in the playground for LGBT children; as opposed to spreading the LGBT lifestyle amongst the Muslim community as the parents believe. Afshan commented in the Guardian “What I would say to parents who are protesting is that there is nothing to be afraid of. Just because your children are learning about LGBT relationships, it won’t make them gay. By excluding your child, all you will do is develop feelings of hate and prejudice among them. Children don’t deserve that; they deserve a well-rounded education.”
Amanullah De Sondy, a lecturer in contemporary Islam at University College Cork, has sought to point out to the protesting parents that they are too rigid in their “black and white” view of Islam, leaving no room for recognising that the Islamic texts are not so inflexible and there are many grey areas and the route to God can take many paths. He also mentioned that there are misconceptions in the interpretation of the Quran sighting the story of Lot, which is frequently sign-posted as a parable against the LGBT community, as not anti-gay but anti-sexual assault.
The stories coming from the Muslim LGBT community are very similar in the complete feeling of isolation and being unacceptable in the Muslim world; being taken to doctors and imams in the hope of a miracle cure, sometimes being forced into marriage as a quick fix. The confusion and upset for the devout LGBT Muslim seems to have been amplified by the view that the loss of their belief was the only course that they could take.
The prejudice and aggression experienced by young LGBT Muslims is just as illegal as it is for any other section of society and should not be tolerated. Only by standing up and refusing to accept homophobic behaviour, whether in the workplace or in society in general, will there ever be a change for the good.