The gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has withdrawn his support for East London Gay Pride after reports that some of the organisers have links to the far-right English Defence League (EDL).
The EDL is an anti-Muslim group accused of inciting hatred and violence. Tatchell spoke out strongly today (16 March), insisting that the struggles against homophobia and Islamophobia must go hand in hand.
He called for East London Gay Pride to be postponed so that the event could be organised without an anti-Muslim agenda.
The EDL accuse Muslims as a whole of being homophobic. They are reported to have made links with gay campaigners in east London after extremist Muslims displayed homophobic stickers and posters in the area. Other Muslims have opposed the stickers and condemned homophobia.
Tatchell explained, “We fear the march will be exploited and hijacked by the far right to create divisions and stir up intolerance against Muslim people”.
The event will no longer be supported by Outrage, the organisation to which Tatchell belongs. He said that they oppose “both homophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry”.
Tatchell said that protests against the homophobic stickers should continue and the East London Gay Pride march should be “postponed until a later date and organised by a broad-based grassroots and community coalition, untainted by associations with the EDL”.
He went further, suggesting that "Muslim organisations and speakers should be invited to participate in the rescheduled East London Pride”.
“The vast majority of British Muslims are not fundamentalist fanatics,” insisted Tatchell, “Although most of them do not approve of homosexuality, they do not discriminate or harm LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex] people”.
He criticised the East London Mosque for having hosted homophobic speakers, but welcomed their assurance that they “will not give a platform to anti-gay speakers in the future”.
Tatchell made clear that he is not backing down in his opposition to homophobia amongst Muslim extremists. He argued that “fundamentalist hate preachers fuel a culture of homophobia that first and foremost intimidates and threatens LGBTI Muslims”.
Although his views have condemned by several religious groups, Tatchell, who is an atheist, has often made clear his support for religious people who are campaigning for equality. Last year, he received a standing ovation at the Greenbelt Christian festival.
Tatchell said, “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.”