MPs targeted over gay marriage vote

Wed, Feb 20, 2013, 00:00

Labour MPs who backed gay marriage in a controversial House of Commons vote last month have faced a campaign of internet intimidation and declarations by Muslim clerics that they are no longer Muslims.

Five MPs, Labour’s Sadiq Khan, Rushanara Ali, Shabana Mahmood and Anas Sarwar, along with Conservative colleague Sajid Javid, all supported the legislation which has been strongly pushed by Conservative prime minister David Cameron.

One Conservative Muslim MP, Rehman Chishti, voted against the legislation, which is deeply unpopular with mainstream Muslim organisations, such as the Muslim Council of Britain, let alone extremist groups. Two abstained.

One of the most extreme, Anjem Choudary, who previously led the now banned Al-Muhajiroum group, said Muslim MPs who had voted in favour had “apostasy” and declared war “on Allah and His Messenger by voting for gay marriages”.

“These MPs have allied themselves with parties that are responsible for the killing of Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere,” said Mr Choudary, who was filmed last week saying that Muslims should oppose the UK’s belief in democracy and individual human rights.

Explaining his decision, Mr Khan, the MP with the highest profile of the group, said he supported equality, but he was satisfied “that no church, mosque or faith group will be obliged to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies if they do not wish to”.

Facing threats

None of the MPs have spoken out publicly, but it is understood that three have faced threats.

In Mr Khan’s South London constituency in Tooting, police have been put on alert to respond extra quickly to any calls from his home.

The Metropolitan Police has also advised the 42-year-old politician, who is expected to be a full cabinet minister if Labour wins power in 2015, that he may require personal protection if the threats continue, or worsen.

Mr Khan is the only one of the MPs who voted for the legislation to be accused by a Muslim cleric – in his case, the Bradford-based Mufti Muhammed Aslam Naqshbandi Bandhalevi – of being an apostate – the worst accusation to be levelled at a Muslim believer.

Politicians in both the Conservatives and Labour parties are concerned about the impact that the legislation will have in strong Muslim districts, such as Birmingham in the West Midlands, or parts of South London, given that the issue has generated strong feelings within a conservative group in the population.

The moderate Muslim Council of Britain’s declaration that it was “appalled” that the Church of England and Church of Wales are to be expressly barred from holding gay marriage ceremonies, while others will have the freedom not to hold such ceremonies – which faiths opposed to gay marriage believe will be challenged in the courts.