Homophobia or Islamophobia: There is absolutely no place in Birmingham for intolerance and discrimination
You will no doubt have seen the continued coverage of intimidating protests regarding the teaching of Relationships and Sex Education at a small number of Birmingham schools.
You may also have seen reports overnight of attacks on mosques and Islamic centres in Birmingham.
I have to say that the Birmingham being portrayed in the media (mainstream and social) at the moment is not the Birmingham I know.
It amazes me in 2019 that this needs to be written or said, but let me make it clear: There is no place in this city for intolerance and discrimination.
This is a city built on tolerance and I’m proud of the fact that everyone is accepted in Birmingham regardless of race, religion, gender or sexuality.
As a city it is important that we call out discrimination and intolerance in any form and we will continue to do so. As my cabinet colleague John Cotton has said: Equality is the law of the land and a right for all, and people can’t pick and choose which parts of the 2010 Equality Act they support.
That’s why I condemn the mosque attacks and why next Monday I’ll be speaking at an event focussed on challenging hate and Islamophobia.
It’s also why I want to make it clear that there is no room in our city for homophobia.
The abuse directed towards staff at Parkfield Community School and more recently Anderton Park Primary School is simply unacceptable. It’s also absolutely wrong that the protests – centred on relationships lessons that teach children about LGBT rights – have been hijacked by people with a homophobic agenda who have no links to either school.
It’s one thing for parents to ask questions about elements of a school curriculum. It’s quite another for others to pounce on the situation as an excuse to peddle hatred and misinformation.
We know that activists from around the country have joined the protests at Parkfield and they are not helping the school and the parents resolve this sensitive issue.
We must be absolutely clear that there is no room in this process for intimidation or abuse and I would urge those using this issue to further their own agendas to back off.
Likewise, the simple message to anyone targeting our Muslim community is that your hatred and intolerance is not welcome in this city.
As we saw with last week’s tragic events in Christchurch, Islamophobia is a poison that cannot go unchallenged.
Birmingham is under an intense media spotlight at the moment and we have a duty to stand together, speaking up for all our communities.
That is exactly what we will do and the extremists will not win.