However, when asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed that homosexuality should be legal in Britain, 18% said they agreed and 52% said they disagreed, compared with 5% among the public at large who disagreed. Almost half (47%) said they did not agree that it was acceptable for a gay person to become a teacher, compared with 14% of the general population.
A great deal will be made of this finding. Some of it from bone-headed pundits will be straightforward 'bash the muslims' stuff but there will be more considered discussion along the lines we've seen from Trevor Phillips - 'Muslims aren't integrating'. Now there are a couple of comments to make here - firstly the conservative Muslim position on homosexuality isn't really much different from that of many Christians and Jews. I'm pretty sure that a survey of African Christians in the UK would provide a very similar result.
The second point is that we forget just how far we - both as a society and as individuals - have changed on the issue of homosexuality. In my lifetime we've moved from a society where homosexuality was illegal to one where we welcome gay marriage and have begun to wrestle with the question of transgender and 'gender fluidity'. Many people are still uncomfortable with homosexuality - just the other day I was told of someone still estranged from his family because he 'came out' some thirty years ago. And let's remember that in the 1980s polls told us well over half of people questioned thought gay people shouldn't be employed as teachers.
It has taken decades for us - at least formally through our laws if not always socially - to recognise that homosexuality is perfectly normal. And for many of us the personal journey is just as important - we've moved from 'condemn the sin but love the sinner' to deciding that being gay isn't a sin at all. Not everyone has made that journey but I'm confident that the coming generations - regardless of their parents' faith or ethnicity - will make that journey to tolerance faster than we did.
In the meantime we need to understand the difficulties faced by gay people growing up in Muslim communities (or for that matter those conservative Jewish or Christian communities) and be prepared to support both communities and gay people. Here's a quote from a poignant article by a gay Muslim:
That's why so many gay British Muslims choose to stay in the closet. This leads to a secret double life with dark consequences, such as the gay Muslims living in straight marriages. I’ve seen countless examples of marriages built on a bed of lies, frustration and the unrelenting pressure to conform. It’s not just the closeted individual that suffers. There’s a knock-on effect for the next generation of children who end up finding out that their parents’ marriage isn’t at all what it seemed.
It's only a few decades since this was true for the English so if we start sounding off about how Islam is 'medieval' or prejudiced let's remember that we were just the same a short while ago (and plenty of us still are). Our first task is to help those who want to live an open, happy life not to attack their community or the faith of their parents.
I live in Bradford and have, on several occasions, questioned whether the Council's - and by inference, the City's - agenda and 'action plan' around equality and equal rights is too geared towards matters of race and race quality to the exclusion of other concerns, in particular gay rights. It's not that there's nothing done at all - there's plenty of great work going on - but that we seem too one-eyed on these issues. Perhaps it's time to change the emphasis a little - in the interests of those gay people struggling in the dark within orthodox faith communities in our city?