Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Between The EDL And The Religious Fundies: East End Gay Pride

In my most recent post I made clear my dislike, abhorrence even, of the English Defense League. As any long term reader will know one of my little "ticks" is my deep, near irrational, hatred for nationalism. Even just having the word "English" in the title is likely to put me off. There's little in their views or beliefs that I can find even remotely of interest.

And as most of you will know, I'm no fan of the religious especially those of a fundamentalist bent. If you base your beliefs on the irrational mutterings of just the one book then I'm afraid we're unlikely to get on. Especially if your beliefs include homophobia and other prejudices. It's just not my thing.

So you can imagine my moral confusion over the latest controversy: East End Gay Pride. It seemed simple enough. In February some stickers appeared declaring East London a "gay free zone". Some thought they were put there by Muslims, others by the EDL to show Muslims in a bad light. In any case it soon emerged a group was gathering to organise a pride event, supposedly to show that the LGBT community were here, queer and everyone better get used to it.

This group was, from the off, seen by many local LGBT groups as an EDL front, based mainly on Facebook postings. Many LGBT groups in the area, especially the more left wing ones, were aghast (mainly quite rightly really) that the EDL should be involved and were upset that a pride event might upset "community relations" (a concept that, to be honest, fills me with such a rage that I can barely begin to to express it in writing).

And eventually, in the last few days, things have descended to the point where the pro and anti camps have been arguing incessantly.

Today brought revelations from gay group Imaan that the principal organiser Raymond Berry had links to the EDL. Damning stuff, and he's quickly been removed from the official site for the April the 2nd event.

But this all leads me to the wonder: even if this event is totally organised by the EDL, something I don't believe and suspect some of the organisation is being done properly, it is clearly labelled as pride event, it's clearly labelled as being "non-political" (whether that's possible at an LGBT pride event is up for debate) and political signs are explicitly banned. So what is the issue?

The EDL obviously think, quite rightly too, that a gay pride event in the East End is one way to show up the homophobia of a great number (if not all) of Muslims in the area and no obvious political protest need be added to it. And instead of Muslims in the area, and their LGBT supporters, showing clearly this isn't the case by EMBRACING the event they are desperately trying to ensure it gets cancelled so as to avoid highlighting any controversy. They claim pride is meant to be about community cohesion and building links between groups. Where is this in the history books?

Pride is meant to be confrontational, in your face and argument worthy. It's meant to be about highlighting and combating homophobia. What possible reason could the local community have for not wanting this event, if handled correctly and not demonstrating Islamophobic tendencies in either discriminating against those involved or racist/insulting signs, other than homophobia? Absolutely, with the EDL involved, extreme caution must be used and concerns raised. But if the answers are "this is an LGBT pride event to show solidarity against the recent anti-gay stickers", then what's the problem??

So I have to say, with a little regret as I completely see where the local community and LGBT groups are coming from, "No to an EDL rally, YES to East End Gay Pride". I hope the LGBT community shows itself in force and makes sure this is a demonstration of hope over hate rather than just hate against another minority.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

1 comment:

Andy said...

I think it has been a tactical mistake for some groups to call for community meetings instead of a pride event, but PinkNews headlines notwithstanding others have recognised that there should still be a Pride event - whether the EEGP (as Imaan suggests) or a separate event. Where they all agree is that a Pride event should not be steered by individuals with an agenda of stirring up hatred against Muslims.

The question is how to rescue this event from a spirit of "us against them" (or, if this is not possible, perhaps what is needed is a new event that is firmly rooted in tolerance of both Muslims and LGB people from the outset).

Pride is good. But historically prides were there to fight the establishment. In recent years on the other hand, there has been a tendency for far-right groups in places like the Netherlands to appropriate the message of gay liberation to target other oppressed groups. So there is a very real danger to guard against here.