gay-free zone

The planned march is in response to the appearance of homophobic stickers that have been posted up in Hackney and Tower Hamlets

Organisers of next month’s East End Gay Pride have said the event will go ahead despite one of them having links to the far-right English Defence League.

Raymond Berry resigned from the organisation earlier today after his links to the EDL were revealed by the gay Muslim group, Imaan.

East End Gay Pride was called last month in response to the appearance across east London, of homophobic stickers carrying Qur’anic quotes.

The remaining organisers of East End Gay Pride said: “It has come to light that Raymond has previously had dealings with the English Defence League, however he has assured us that he is no longer any part of the EDL group.

“The remaining members of the East End Gay Pride would like to state for the record that we do not support or condone anything that the EDL stand for.

“The team here at East End Gay Pride are going to carry on with organising East End Gay Pride without Raymond and working with the community to try and end ALL homophobia and prejudice within our community.”

East End Gay Pride has, in recent weeks, attracted support from the London Gay Pride organisation, Time Out magazine and prominent gay rights activists.

But local gay rights groups, Rainbow Hamlets, and Hackney Gay Pride organisers, Out East, distanced themselves from East End Gay Pride. In an open letter published Saturday, Out East accused EEGP of “stigmatising” Muslims and having links to the EDL.

Imaan, Rainbow Hamlets and Out East have now called on the remaining organisers of East End Gay Pride to resign and for London Pride to take over the event planned for 2 April.

Tawseef Khan, Chair of Imaan said: “There is no place in Islam for homophobic acts or crimes, as there is no place within our LGBT communities for intolerance of and prejudice against other groups – including against Muslims as a whole.

“In uniting as a community against these homophobic attacks, we must be vigilant against those who would seek to co-opt or manipulate our actions for other, less honest and constructive purposes.  The evidence of the political motivations of Raymond Berry, and his colleagues, cast a dark shadow on East End Gay Pride that can only be resolved by their removal from the event and for Pride to be restored to our communities, where it belongs.”

Update: 7.50am Wednesday 16 March 2011

Commenting on the planned East London Pride march scheduled for 2 April, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “OutRage! is not supporting East London 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’.

“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,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, the LGBTI human rights organisation.