Muslims in lesbian hate campaign

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The Independent Online
A council youth worker who specialises in helping young Asian women has been driven out of her home by Muslim extremists who accuse her of spreading "lesbian propaganda".

The woman is under police protection in a different city after receiving death threats and having anti-lesbian graffiti daubed on her car.

A group calling itself the Muslim Awareness Campaign has distributed hundreds of leaflets to mosques and shops around the woman's home in Bradford, revealing her name and home and work telephone numbers. Posters have been put up in the streets accusing her of "brainwashing our Muslim sisters with lesbian propaganda".

The case has alarmed the woman's union, Unison, which is concerned that it may be a part of a wider pattern of attacks on youth workers by religious extremists.

The woman, who is herself Muslim, was first targeted by the MAC in February, when demands were made for her to be sacked by Bradford Metropolitan District Council. When the demands were not met, the group began its campaign of leafleting and abusive telephone calls.

Friends of the woman are concerned that police are reluctant to take action for fear of sparking unrest in the local community. Manningham, the area of the city where the woman lives, was the scene of two days of rioting in 1995. A report into the disturbances, published last November criticised the heavy-handed actions of police officers for contributing to the violence.

Friends say that the police have been given a series of telephone numbers used to make abusive calls to the woman, obtained by dialling 1471. Police have also been told that the woman's tormentors took an advertisement on the BBC's Ceefax pages to highlight some of their views. Yet four months after the intimidation began, no arrests have been made.

Sgt Roy Wensley, community liaison officer for Bradford police's Toller Lane division, which covers the area, said last week that an active investigation was still under way. "We are treating this hate campaign very seriously and our investigations are continuing."

Meanwhile the woman and her female partner have moved to another Yorkshire city, where they are being protected by police. Colleagues and supporters have formed a lobby group, Challenge Homophobic Injustice Now, to fight back against the MAC. A spokeswoman said: "The so-called MAC have condemned this worker because of her sexuality ... in order to sensationalise and attack the empowering work that is being done with young Asian women, both lesbian and heterosexual, throughout the city of Bradford."

Although the woman has been placed on special leave because of the intimidation, Bradford council has pledged to fight the MAC's attempts to put her out of a job. Bridget Maguire, chair of Bradford's Services to Young People Sub-Committee, said: "The council will not be intimidated by extremist groups into offering less of a service to some young people in their communities, and will continue to explore issues of sexuality with groups of young people when requested."