Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Peter Tatchell victim of "lies and smears"

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has claimed he is a victim of "lies and smears" after complaining about a chapter in an academic text.

Tatchell was mentioned in 'Out Of Place', which contained a chapter on gender, sexuality and terrorism. He received an apology from Raw Nerve Books over passages which alleged he was racist and Islamophobic.

The chapter, authored by Jin Haritaworn, Tamsila Tauqir and Esra Erdem, claimed that Tatchell and gay rights organisation OutRage! were "part of the Islamophobia industry" and were involved in "racial politics". It also alleged Tatchell had equated "Muslims as Nazis", and said he had "collaborated with the extreme right" and "participated with several racist and fascist groups."
Rather than attack him, he should be given a peerage for his courage and persistent campaigning. He tried to arrest Mugabe on charges of torture and other human rights abuses. In 2006, New Statesman readers voted him sixth on their list of "Heroes of our time". He was named Campaigner of the Year in The Observer Ethical Awards 2009.

Tatchell, Green Party PPC in Oxford East received an apology from Raw Nerve Books, a non-profit publisher based at the University of York, which accepted the accusations could not be supported.

However, he has now been accused of censorship and that the three academics have been spreading untrue smears about him. In a statement, Tatchell said:
"The real censorship is by my critics. Some of them are posting entirely false allegations, often on closed lists that do not allow me to post my side of the story.

"Many of my detractors now claim that I forced the book to be withdrawn from sale and that I pressured the publishers to declare it out of print. Not so. I have not suppressed the book, Out of Place, or forced it out of print. The book was listed as out of print on the Raw Nerve Books website before I contacted the publishers and challenged the lies and falsehoods written about me. The book was not withdrawn on my account. It had already ceased to be available before I approached the publishers."

He also denied using libel laws, claiming this was "another lie".

A statement from Raw Nerve Books said: "One of the articles – ‘Gay Imperialism: Gender and Sexuality Discourse in the war on terror' by Jin Haritaworn, with Tamsila Tauqir and Esra Erdem – contains inaccuracies. While, like the rest of the book, it addresses important issues, the inaccuracies mean that the debate has been skewed and the issues obscured.

"The publishers apologise for inaccuracies in the article. The book was already out of print when these errors were brought to our attention. Raw Nerve unsuccessfully encouraged the editors of the book (and thereby the authors of the article) to refute or retract the errors.

"Given that factual errors remain in the book, the publishers – with great sadness – have no alternative but to refrain from republishing. The publishers do not wish to participate in silencing or censoring, but do wish to uphold scholarly and honest debate. If the issues of inaccuracy can be resolved, the publishers would be delighted to publish a new edition of the book. "

Academics are supposed to adhere to the highest standards of facts, truth and of evidence-based assertions, with proper footnoting and sourcing for what they write. The authors of the chapter that defames me did not do this. They made claims that are untrue and for which there is no evidence. They provided no footnotes or sources for their outrageous false allegations. They are guilty of poor research, shoddy scholarship and desertion of academic standards.

Jin Haritaworn, Tamsila Tauqir and Esra Erdem suggest that I am anti-Muslim. This is pure fiction. I have campaigned against fundamentalist Muslims (in the same way that I have campaigned against fundamentalist Christians), not against Muslim people in general. I have always made this distinction very clear.

The authors explicitly claim or implicitly insinuate the following:

Tatchell has “claimed the role of liberator and expert about Muslim gays and lesbians.” 'Not true. I have never made such a claim or adopted such a role.'

Tatchell is Islamophobic and is “part of the Islamophobia industry.” 'Not true. I have defended many Muslim victims of injustice and condemned anti-Muslim prejudice. Indeed, in 1998 I drafted a law to protect Muslims (and others) against discrimination, harsssment and hate crimes. It was, sadly, rejected by the government.'

The authors of the chapter and the book's editors did not respond to calls for comment by the time of publication. The authors are:
- Dr Jin Haritaworn of the LSE’s Gender Institute

- Tamsila Tauqir of the Safra Project: “a resource project working on issues relating to lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender women who identify as Muslim religiously and/or culturally (Muslim LBT women).”. She was awarded an MBE last year.

Esra Erdem Department of Economics, University of Oxford; Political Economy, Feminist Theory, Migration Studies

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