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Postpone East London Pride

Hugh Muir in the Guardian reports:

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. And it did seem that way in the East End of London, where communities were rightly outraged at the appearance of stickers proclaiming the area to be a “gay free zone”. Someone had to step up. Along came Raymond Berry.

He and a group of friends resolved to stage an East End Gay Pride event in Tower Hamlets – where the stickers appeared – an area that is 36% Muslim. They gained backing from gay and lesbian groups and set up a Facebook account to co-ordinate it all. All is set fair for Saturday 2 April. Or not, as it turns out.

For soon it became apparent from the Facebook account that some hovering around the project had sympathies, at least, with those unlovable Muslim-baiting street fighters in the English Defence League. More worrying still was the communication that emerged between Berry and his union, the RMT, to whom he apparently admitted past membership of the EDL and contemporaneous links to other unsavouries such as the Stop the Islamification Of Europe group (slogan: “Racism is the lowest form of stupidity! Islamophobia is the height of common sense”). Also the group No Sharia in Britain.

And so it was that on Tuesday afternoon – with many people, including us, seeking answers from Mr Berry – the official Facebook site announced that he is standing down from East End Gay Pride. But organisations such as Rainbow Hamlets – the LGBT forum for Tower Hamlets – and Imaan, the LGBT Muslim support group, worry about any further link between the parade and the EDL, despite assurances to the contrary. Both call for a complete change of leadership and for Pride London to work with the local community to rescue the initiative. Wouldn’t that make sense?

Theologically sanctioned hatred of gay people is a huge huge problem. Gay people are absolutely right to be utterly furious, not just about these posters, but about the parade of extremists linked to homophobic political parties, and hate preachers, which have appeared at countless public meetings in the borough.

We should not forget this event, which took place at the East London Mosque/London Muslim Centre, where Abdul Karim Hattin played “Spot the Fag”.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Frankly, gay people deserve an apology for the promotion of homophobia and of homophobic hate preachers in the East End. We should all be demanding that action is taken to confront and bring to the end, this culture of encouragement and endorsement of the basest hatred against utterly blameless people.

Shamefully, the concerns of gay people have been ignored. Leading politicians continue to embrace preachers who don’t just dislike homosexuality or think it a sin: but actually preach that God wants gays to be executed. The institutions in which they work continue to receive public funding. Some of them are treated as part of a “progressive coalition”. What an absolute disgrace.

However, any group containing at least one activist with links to the EDL, and worse still, the utterly lunatic conspiracist Stop the Islamisation of Europe, has nothing to offer to the fight. I know this from personal experience. I have stood in Trafalgar Square, in the company of Muslim friends who have devoted the last five years to fighting against antisemitism, homophobia and Islamist politics, and been told by SIOE’s Stephen Gash that my friends are liars, tricksters, taqqiah merchants.

Those involved with the EDL and SIOE are the enemies of the battle against Islamist extremism and theocratic anti-gay agitation.

Says Peter Tatchell:

Commenting on the planned East London Gay Pride march scheduled for 2 April, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said:

“OutRage! is not supporting East London Gay Pride, following the revelation of links between some of the organisers and the English Defence League (EDL). I have also withdrawn my personal support. We fear the march will be exploited and hijacked by the far right to create divisions and stir up intolerance against Muslim people,” he said.

“OutRage! opposes both homophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry. All forms of intolerance are wrong. The gay, Muslim, Jewish, Asian and black communities know the pain of prejudice and discrimination. We should stand together, united against hate. Let’s celebrate East London’s multicultural diversity. Don’t let bigotry divide us. Together, we can
defeat the hate-mongers.

“While defending the right of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) people to protest against homophobia and the ‘Gay Free Zone’ stickers, it would be best if the march was postponed until a later date and organised by a broad-based grassroots and community coalition, untainted by associations with the EDL.

“Muslim organisations and speakers should be invited to participate in the rescheduled East London Pride.

“Sadly, the East London Mosque and its London Muslim Centre must bear some responsibility for previously stoking homophobia. They have hosted anti-gay hate preachers such as Abdul Karim Hattin who delivered a presentation called ‘Spot The Fag’. See here:

http://hurryupharry.org/2010/03/05/the-video-someone-doesnt-want-you-to-see/

“Hattin is not the only homophobe who has been given a platform. So have anti-gay clerics Muhammad Alshareef, Abdullah Hakim Quick and Bilal Philips.

“These fundamentalist hate preachers fuel a culture of homophobia that first and foremost intimidates and threatens LGBTI Muslims. Our Muslim sisters and brothers must be defended against those who advocate harming them.

“We welcome the East London Mosque’s assurance that it will not give a platform to anti-gay speakers in the future. We urge them to establish a regular, permanent dialogue with LGBTI organisations, including Muslim ones, to foster solidarity between the LGBTI and Muslim communities and to combat both homophobia and anti-Muslim prejudice.

“The vast majority of British Muslims are not fundamentalist fanatics. They don’t support  hate preachers. Although most of them do not approve of homosexuality, they do not discriminate or harm LGBTI people. We must be very careful to distinguish between Muslim people in general and the extremist minority who oppose democracy and human rights and who want to establish a clerical dictatorship,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, the LGBTI human rights campaign organisation.