Guest post: Complaints received

Originally a comment by Your Name’s not Bruce? at Miscellany.

My alma mater (Western University, London Ontario, Canada) felt the need to do a bit of social media clean-up as a result of complaints received over a poster that, among other images, included one of two women in hijab about to kiss.

Western University posted the image on its Instagram account Tuesday to mark the international day against homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia. The poster was removed Wednesday after numerous complaints and a petition signed by more than 32,000 people requested the social media post to be removed.

(The International Day is officially a commemoration of the 1990 decision by WHO to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. The original decision was about homosexuals, and while bisexulaity does involve homosexual activity at least some of the time, the “Day” (instituted in 2004 as something specifically about homosexuality) now includes forced teaming, with “transphobia” having been tacked onto the commemoration since 2009. [As if there aren’t a million other days, weeks and months of the year for the “T”. Could we please have an hour or two where we are allowed to forget them?])

The result? Two “communities” in conflict.

The firestorm surrounding a Western University social media post that included two Muslim women wearing the hijab about to kiss presents an opportunity to start a dialogue around the “sensitive matter,” says a local leader with Pride London.“This is a great starting point of a conversation,” said Stephen D’Amelio, vice-president of Pride London, an organization that represents the city’s LGBTQ2-plus community. “I think this is important to embrace and educate and to learn alongside others.”

Perhaps a more polite form of “Educate yourself”?

“It should be made clear that this is not an attack on the LGBT-plus community, and the existence of queer Muslims is acknowledged,” the petition says. “This does not mean that the Muslim community should allow any or all elements of its religion to be used to propagate any notion one deems worthy.”

On Thursday, local Muslim leaders issued a statement that said their goal is “understanding and harmony.”

“We want to do our part to promote understanding and harmony among the diverse people who live on these lands and who share many common goals and values, even as we differ on many issues,” the statement said. “We unequivocally reject any hateful statement made toward any individual or group based on their religion, culture, ethnicity and/or sexual orientation.”

“I think we live in a world that is very reactionary and we are all expected to make sure we do the best we can at all times,” he said. “It’s a sensitive matter. We understand that it’s not a quick, easy answer.

“I think that is what Western and it’s faculty and students are trying to achieve.”

(I wouldn’t necessarily trust what they’re “trying to achieve” though, as this is the same Western University which, several years ago, posted signs on campus bathrooms which said “Western respects everyone’s right to choose a washroom appropriate for them. (and my favourite part) “Trust the person using this space belongs here.

Part of the University’s decision to pull the image in the face of criticism could be because we are approaching the first anniversary of the terrorist killing of four members of a London Muslim family. There’s always going to be opposition, offence and pushback against this sort of imagery from some Muslims; you can’t please everyone. The University might have decided that retaining the image would be a bad look.

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