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Laura Keynes: Only bigots oppose gay marriage. But in BBC land they must be Christian not Muslim


According to a new poll, more than half of British Muslims want homosexuality criminalised.

Such findings come as no surprise. The real surprise is that it’s been reported by the media (although you’d have to search very hard to find the story anywhere on the BBC news website).

Just prior to the legalisation of same-sex marriage, when the issue was being debated in TV and radio studios up and down the country, producers of current affairs and debate programmes wanted to find opponents of same-sex marriage who would go on air and say why they disagreed with the proposed legislation.

Invariably, the speakers were Christian, with the debate framed in such a way as to make Christians and anyone who disagreed with same-sex marriage look like religious bigots. I was asked by one producer to debate the issue on a local BBC radio station, and when the producer understood that my arguments were purely secular – about the effect on children and the common good – and that I wasn’t going to say something along the lines of “It’s against God’s law” – I was dropped. That producer wanted a token bigot, preferably banging on about God and Christianity, just to really trash the image of Christians for the secular minded audience.

At the time I wondered why none of the people asked on to these programmes were Muslim, given what the Koran says about homosexuality. Why were news editors and producers only interested in Christian opposition to same-sex marriage? It was as if Muslims had absolutely no opinion on the issue.

Or was it something more deliberate than that? Were the producers and editors and these TV and radio programmes just really keen to preserve the image of Muslims for their audience, and keen not to associate the religion of Islam with opposition to same-sex marriage in the minds of the British public?

Goodness, it’s not even as if Christians want to go as far as the Muslims quoted in this poll. Most Christians would never want to see gay men and women imprisoned for their sexuality. Those who understand homosexuality as a sin would consider it a sin answerable to God rather than answerable in a court of law.

If producers and editors of TV and radio programmes wanted to find fundamentalist opposition to same-sex marriage when the issue was being debated live on air, why didn’t they go the Muslim community? If the findings of this poll are to be believed, they would have found plenty of speakers willing to make the religious argument.

Could it be that those who set the news agenda really want to hide from a politically inconvenient truth when selecting speakers from religious communities?

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Laura Keynes
Laura Keynes
Dr Keynes is a Cambridge-based academic, writer and critic with two very young children. She writes for Standpoint magazine, the Catholic Herald and The Tablet. Find her on twitter @LMKeynes.

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