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Muslims and LGBTQ people should stand together, not fight each other

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Watching angry protesters waving placards outside a Birmingham primary school brought it all back for Khakan Qureshi. A softly spoken gay Muslim in his early 40s, he vividly remembers Margaret Thatcher denouncing the fact that children were being taught they “have an inalienable right to be gay” and introducing section 28 – the toxic product of Tory homophobia and a hysterical media moral panic – to prevent the so-called promotion of homosexuality in schools. Now, in 2019, picketers – mostly, but not exclusively, from a Muslim background – are demanding that schools cease their LGBTQ-inclusive education. “I feel sad that I had to experience all that sort of mental angst all those years, being bullied, being picked on, being mocked,” he told me. “I just think that children should be allowed to be who they are, let us be who we are, let Muslims be who they are.”

Like other LGBTQ people who went to school before the repeal of section 28 in 2003, I too grew up in its shadow: I was never taught about LGBTQ issues, except when a teacher told a class that anal sex was bad for your health. The damage inflicted on LGBTQ people was incalculable: hearing homophobic language casually thrown around in the playground, absorbing the homophobia peddled by much of the media, fearful of rejection from family and friends, and no one to tell you you’re not alone, that there’s nothing wrong with you.

If you listen to the protesters, you’d think that the No Outsiders programme – designed by Andrew Moffat, assistant headteacher at Parkfield community school – was teaching young children about gay sex. In truth, it’s about simply letting them........

© The Guardian