Activists have delivered a significant victory against attempts to divide the Muslim and LGBT communities in east London.
It comes after Raymond Berry, along with three other people, claimed to be organising an LGBT pride march under the banner “East End Gay Pride”.
This followed the appearance of homophobic stickers across east London declaring it a “Gay free zone.”
Berry is a far-right activist with links to the racist English Defence League (EDL) and other far-right Islamophobic organisations.
A number of local campaigners from Out East, Rainbow Hamlets, Imaan, Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and Love Music Hate Homophobia raised concerns about the involvement of the EDL in the event.
EDL supporters joined the event’s Facebook group. Berry said that the EDL was supporting the event.
A petition asking organisers to clarify the role of the EDL, and demanding that the EDL be told publicly that it was not welcome, gained widespread support from LGBT organisations, trade unionists, and others across the borough.
Out East, the organisation that organised Hackney Pride last year, and activists in east London, published a press statement raising their concerns.
Correspondence then emerged from the RMT rail workers’ union, which is committed to opposing racism and all bigotry. It confirmed Berry’s links to racist and Islamophobic organisations.
In correspondence with the union about his union membership last September and October Berry refers to himself as one of the “original founding members” of the EDL. He claimed that he had left the organisation but had not changed his views.
“I wish to point out at this point that I still hold my firm beliefs with regard to Sharia Law and the continued Islamification of Britain,” he wrote. “I am still an active member of such organisations like Stop the Islamification Of Europe and No Sharia in Britain.
“There are also plans currently being kicked around between myself and other former members of the EDL to start new groups with similar aims.
“As I have pointed out, my leaving the EDL is solely related to personal differences of opinion I have with the new leadership structure.”
The other three organisers of the event are alleged to have similar links and sympathies to Berry. Muslim LGBT organisation Imaan said that it would publish a dossier showing that the other organisers have “right wing and fascistic associations.”
Within hours of Imaan’s statement, Berry resigned from the organising group.
A few hours later a statement appeared on the website for the event saying it was cancelled.
The exposure of attempts by racists to use such a serious issue to divide people is a victory.
LGBT activists – supported by the East London mosque, the mayor of Tower Hamlets and anti-fascist organisation UAF – rightly want to stand up to homophobia wherever it rears its head.
If this march had gone ahead, with racists at its core, it would have destroyed any chance of unity in the borough.
At the same time as a number of people were raising questions about the organisers, various articles appeared backing the event. A number of LGBT journalists including Johann Hari and Paul Burston supported the event and criticised those raising questions as being soft on Muslim homophobia.
The correct approach is to recognise that, in the context of David Cameron’s recent attack on multiculturalism and the long term rise of Islamophobia, we need unity to beat bigotry.
The next step in Tower Hamlets is the organisation of a Pride march that will oppose homophobia and seek to build genuine unity against all bigotry.
For background to the issues Fighting homophopia: Attacking one form of bigotry with another is a dead end