Muslim And Jews Join Gay-Laws Protest

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 in April.

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 to marriage.

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 couples.

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 others.

“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 beliefs.”