Alex Blaze

What if the Right Threw a Gay Pride? The Long East End Pride Story, Short

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 17, 2011 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Eastenders, England, fascist movements, islam, london, Muslims, pride, stickers, uk

East End is a neighborhood in London described by Wikipedia as "synonymous with poverty, overcrowding, disease and criminality." It has a large immigrant population, which, today in London, means lots of Muslims.

gayfreezone.jpgEarlier this year stickers (right) started appearing all over the neighborhood. There was some speculation about who did it (since it's awkward enough to be a white supremacist group trying to make Muslims look bad), the Muslim groups in East End put out statements decrying the stickers, and a teenager was arrested while carrying the stickers but was released without charge.

Earlier this month, an east London resident, Raymond Berry, announced that he wanted to have a pride march as "a direct response" to the stickers. The march's Facebook page was shut down over "bickering" and Berry banned political messaging and outside groups, like the English Defence League (a far-right group associated with the anti-gay, ultraconservative British National Party), the Socialist Workers Party, and Unite Against Fascism (a left-wing coalition of anti-racist groups that sprang up in 2003 to fight the BNP). I don't know what a pride without a political message would look like, but my guess is that pro-LGBT messages would have been considered inherently non-political.

Earlier this week, the UAF, Out East, Rainbow Hamlets, and other local LGBT groups wrote an open letter to the East End Gay Pride organizers asking them to cancel their pride march, citing not only the fact that left-wing groups were banned, but also the ties between the pride organizers and the EDL. Hatred from gays online poured down on the letter writers, accusing them of supporting Muslim homophobia and having "sour grapes" for not having thought of the idea first. It's the same sort of hatred liberal gays tend to have of the left in the US.

A day later, the gay Muslim group Imaan came out with a letter showing Raymond Berry claiming to have helped found the EDL but left the group over internal politics, despite his continued opposition to "Sharia law." Liberal gays like London Pride and Peter Tatchell pulled support for East End Gay Pride, Berry resigned, and, yesterday, East End Gay Pride was cancelled.

East End Gay Pride organizers released a statement saying that EDL is not a fascist organization but merely "patriotic" and decried other gay organizations' "copious amount of personal attacks."

I read a bit of LGBT news from outside the US and rarely post about it on Bilerico because we focus on American LGBT news, but this is such an interesting story on many levels.

First, we don't really know what the East End Gay Pride would have ended up looking like, if they would have actually been able to keep the racists from showing up with anti-Muslim signage and chants. Support was withdrawn because of who was organizing the whole thing and the people supporting it in general, not because of anything that was actually planned.

Second, we don't really know who put those stickers out there, although I wouldn't rule out the possibility that fundamentalist Muslims did it or that Islamophobic fascists did it to get attention. That's the entire point of a war - both sides need anger, tension, and violence to maintain their campaigns, and they both need people uninvolved in the conflict to subscribe to the narrative that two clearly-delineated sides are fighting against one another.

Third, can you imagine the Tea Party or whatever group organizing a gay pride in the US? I don't really think we're too far away from that, what with Fox News contributors and other wingnuts starting to take credit for advances against homophobia and saying that Muslims would be worse so we'd better be patriotic and join them.

And last: it actually is a good idea to get out of the gay ghettos when organizing pride marches and LGBT demonstrations. Too often we get locked into our own neighborhoods and then wonder why people outside of those neighborhoods aren't with us. I don't think anyone here was against East End having a gay pride at all, just against them having one organized by people with ties to fascist politics.

Perhaps, what with all the major cities' prides turning into huge, well-funded parties devoid of political messaging, neighborhoods should be organizing their own political marches that don't require much money to put together? There's still a need for such demonstrations that many prides aren't fulfilling.

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So, they cancelled the parade out of fear of offending the Muslim community with a perception of being affiliated with xenophobes. Fine.

I'm interested if they do actually pick it up again under a new organizer, whether said Muslim community they're seeking to stay on good graces with (too late imo-- this is an Abrahamic religion we're talking about) will be all florid and pleasant toward their gay hosts.

Or, instead of bitching about being linked to xenophobes, the gays will now be vilified for being degenerates linked to damnation and spiritual corruption. It's pretty much consensus by a large degree on most religious communities-- liberals just like to pretend that as long as they're not perverse, scheming Christians they can be "educated" and that it's not the gay accepting Muslims/insert patriarchal religion that are fringe, but rather the heterosexual supremacists.

My guess is they won't organize one for East End since they already have Pride London. If they did, I'd also guess that most people wouldn't say much - the issue wasn't offending Muslims by having a pride march in East End, but by having a pride march organized by white supremacists/neo-fascists.