The Rev Ray Gaston has been, and is, very active in left-wing politics and in the ‘Stop the War Movement’. He is also a strong supporter of Respect (which Birmingham’s Councillor Salma Yaqoob leads) and may actually be a member. Gaston also ‘lived for a year as a Muslim’. Thus Gaston can hardly give people an unbiased account of September's English Defence League demonstration. He didn’t!
Firstly, Gaston wrote that the West Midlands Police ‘received no notification of the march from the EDL’. But earlier I had read, in the Birmingham Post, that this was also the case with Unite Against Fascism. Not only that, but UAF had said that there was not going to be a counter-demonstration against the EDL’s march. So Gaston’s position displays obvious double standards.
Gaston also wrote about prosecuting members of the EDL for ‘religiously aggravated offences’. There is no such crime, at the moment, in the UK. New Labour contemplated bringing in such a law but wisely decided against it. Oh, yes, and there have been no such laws in this country for a very long time. Thank God! We also have a tradition, in the UK and Europe, of the criticism of religion which goes back to David Hume in the 18th century and, in fact, all the way back to the ancient Greeks.
In terms of the September Birmingham demo. I was also at Bennett’s pub at pretty much the same time as Gaston. I did not see EDL members throwing missiles at Asian Muslims because they couldn’t – they were barricaded in the pub. They did throw a couple of glasses at the police – but that may have been a response to being barricaded in! As for ‘provoking’ the young Asian thugs. They came down to be provoked and their aggressive actions were egged on by the SWP/UAF alliance (which Gaston seems to be part of). How naïve does Gaston think Birmingham people are? Everyone knew, and Birmingham Post and Mail photos showed (i.e., Asian youths throwing missiles and carrying baseball bats), that these Asian Muslims came down to kick a few EDL heads in.
As far as I know, the EDL members did not chant any racist slogans or abuse. Did any black (non-Muslim) people reported such abuse or racism to the police? Or was this really just another Muslim and SWP/UAF fabrication? However, EDL members did indeed chant slogans against Allah. So what? This is a free country. We have allowed criticism of Christianity (much criticism, usually from the very same far left which is now ‘defending’ Islam) over the last hundred years or longer. If the EDL feels strongly about Islam and Allah or Muhammad, then why can’t it express its views? If the faith of Muslims is so weak (not strong) that it can’t take criticism (or even abuse), then that says more about the egg-shell nature of that religion that it does about the critic. Why should we succumb to threats of riots, murders, assassinations and fatwahs against those who dare speak out against radical Islam? Why should we stop criticism of Islamism when it is fascist and intolerant? Or, as Nicky Campbell said when he was interviewing Martin Smith (the leader of the SWP/UAF): ‘Does fascism only have a white face?’ Don’t the threats, riots, assassinations and fatwahs prove Islamism’s fascistic and intolerant nature?
Is it all a case, for Gaston, that all religions are good – by definition? The problem is that Gaston does (or once did, before he became an Islamophile) a lot for the gay community. I wonder what his Muslim friends think of gays? In Iran the Islamic state kills gays. In Paris in 2001, a Muslim killed the gay Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, for being gay. Homosexuality is a sin in Islam. Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that homosexuality is ‘immoral’, ‘not acceptable’, ‘spreads disease’ and ‘damaged the very foundations of society’. Does Gaston think that ignoring all these contradictions and realities will make things better? They may make him feel more pious and fluffy about himself. But outside the inter-faith meetings - and even the anti-war demonstrations - there are many Islamists that would happily kill him for his leftism and his (prior?) support of the gay community. Indeed, many of his far-leftist friends, like Chris Harman of the SWP, wouldn’t have much time for him either if it weren’t for their joint membership of this mad and self-contradictory alliance of misfits and extremists. That is, misfits and extremists against everything the British Government does (by definition), everything the non-leftist and non-Muslim British people believe in, and every single British tradition and law.