WAHEED ALLI made a heartfelt speech in the House of Lords about how Section 28 was morally indefensible. Those who want to keep the legislation, he said, need to understand that they are validating hatred against gay people, the same hate that drives people to discriminate against Jews and people of colour. Alli, young, very rich, close to Mandelson and Blair, a pioneer of dumbed down television, is the only openly gay peer in the Lords. He is also half Muslim and half Hindu.
I thought his arguments were absolutely right but that he either failed to understand or explain that those who are moving with such ferocity against the abolition of Section 28 include Muslims, Jews, black and Asian people of considerable influence. Lord Nazir Ahmed, a devout Muslim from Rotherham, and New Labour loyalist, expressed terrible anguish over this and was fortunately able to go on a parliamentary trip to Turkey on the day of the vote, which ended in a defeat for the Government.
History has repeatedly shown us that the experience of persecution makes people no less liable to inflict it on others. Hardly anyone wants to acknowledge that racism and Islamaphobia are common in the white gay community and (even more controversially), that homophobia is rampant among black and Asian Britons.
Alli should have brought this up in the House. He must know that his elevation was greeted with contemptible dismay by many of his own people. I remember a prominent Asian businessman who has given a huge amount of money to New Labour (because he, too, wants to be a Lord) saying to me that he thought Asians were being deliberately insulted by the Government who had promoted such a "dirty and sinful man, not representative of us and our culture".
Yes, that word "culture" again. It is remarkable how many black and Asian people actually do believe that homosexuality is a white "disease" which their young are picking up. This is a complete denial of historical truth. It was the British who first outlawed homosexuality in undivided India. Until then, erotic sculptures, Sufi poetry, miniature paintings, the Kama Sutra unselfconsciously celebrated gay sex. The French scholar, Alain Danielou, a Hindu convert and translator of this epic sex manual, spent his life proving to Indians that homosexuality was deep within their culture and not some occidental perversion. His book of photographs of sacred sculptures showing same sex people embracing, touching, and kissing is a masterpiece and he is thought to have persuaded Gandhi not to call for the destruction of such monuments.
Hijras, castrated men who dress up as women and have sex with other men, are a common sight across the subcontinent and they are often invited to weddings and naming ceremonies to entertain the crowds with their effeminate dancing.
Black homophobes are just as ignorant about homosexuality and seem never to have read the brilliant novelist, James Baldwin, whose books reveal how utterly homeless he felt as a black gay man in Sixties America. At university in Africa, I knew a number of black gay men who were inspired by James Baldwin, but who still had to deny their sexuality in order not to be physically attacked. …