Thursday, January 4, 2007
Prominent Muslims and Jews united with Christians yesterday
to voice concern at laws boosting gay rights.
Churches are organising demonstrations next week against the
Sexual Orientation Regulations, which are due to come into force
Campaigners claim the rules will force religious groups to promote
homosexual rights in contradiction to their teachings and could
persecute those who disapprove of homosexuality on moral grounds.
Dr Majid Katme, of the Islamic Medical Association, yesterday
urged Muslims to join protests against the "unjust"
laws, including a torchlight parade in Westminster to coincide
with a Lords debate next Tuesday.
And for the first time the Board of Deputies of British Jews
voiced concern over the legislation.
The regulations, which are in line with EU requirements, will
punish businesses and organisations which discriminate on grounds
of sexual orientation.
Hotels which refuse to let double rooms to gay couples could,
for example, be taken to court.
Christian campaigners fear churches which refuse to let out parish
halls or conference centres to gay groups would face legal action,
as could schools which fail to teach that homosexuality is equal
The Church of England has complained that vicars who refuse to
bless civil partnerships may be also targeted. And the Roman Catholic
church has threatened to close its nine adoption and fostering
agencies if they are forced to place children with homosexual
The outcry has piled pressure on Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly
- a devout Roman Catholic who is thought to have approved the
regulations reluctantly - to rethink the legislation.
Dr Katme made his plea to Muslims in a letter circulated to several
hundred supporters and 40 imams, who are expected to publicise
the issue during Friday prayers. Urging Muslims to "join
our Christian friends in their campaign against the new proposed
law on sexual orientation", he said: "It is against
our religious rights and against our human rights and against
our conscience and religious beliefs to have this new unjust law
forced on all of us British Muslims."
Dr Katme, a prominent figure in campaigns against abortion and
the decline of traditional family life, warned that the new laws
would require "Muslims and Christian believers legally to
accept and appoint homosexuals or anyone with any sexual deviation
in our Muslim institutions and centres, mosques, schools, clubs,
companies, hotels, business, shops etc".
He urged supporters to carry banners which were "polite,
sensible and on the issue only".
Nadia Lipsey, spokesman for the Board of Deputies - the representative
organisation of British Jewry - said yesterday: "It must
be possible for people to live their lives in the manner in which
they choose as long as it does not impinge upon the rights of
"We hope that to this effect the regulations will be framed
in such a way that allows for both the effective combating of
discrimination in the provision of goods and services whilst respecting
freedom of conscience and conviction."
Miss Kelly has yet to publish final details of how the regulations
will work. However, similar proposals for Northern Ireland say
anyone found guilty of discrimination will faces fines of between
£500 and £1,000 for a first offence and up to £25,000
for repeat "serious" offences.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship,
which is organising the London demo, said: "The regulations
not only force people to assist and promote activities contrary
to the historic teachings of their faith, whether Christian, Jewish
or Muslim, but also censor them from speaking freely about their