New, hard evidence emerges, proving EDL and other right wing, anti-Muslim allegiances amongst the organisers of East End Gay Pride, 2 April 2011
Imaan, Europe’s largest support group for LGBTQI Muslims calls for removal of the organisers and for the event to be delivered by Pride London and local communities.
We have been following with careful interest the unfolding issues centred on the appearance, in the East End of London, of posters or stickers carrying de-contextualised quotes from the Qur’an with text and a logo calling for a “Gay Free Zone”.
We stand united with Muslim organisations, including the East London Mosque and the Association of British Muslims and with secular LGBT and non-LGBT community activists who have unanimously and unequivocally condemned the actions of whomever placed these stickers in our communities for the purpose of seeding fear and division.
Imaan understands better than most, the problems of homophobia within Muslim communities and has been working inside our communities since 1998 to address homophobia and its causes. We condemn unreservedly any and all acts of homophobia committed by Muslims or by any other sector of our society.
We join the call for a fully inclusive and community-led demonstration of unity in the face of these homophobic crimes. An event along the lines of a fully community-inclusive local Gay Pride event would be one such welcome response.
As the leading organisation working for the rights and support of LGBT Muslims, we have worked alongside local LGBT and interfaith organisations to try to engage with the organisers of what has become known as “East End Gay Pride”, to try to open dialogue with a view to securing a fully inclusive show of unity.
The organisers have not been willing to address community concerns during the course of several meetings and have declared themselves unconcerned with the views of local organisations who have worked tirelessly for community engagement and unity over many years.
A “Pride” event is nothing if not political: a supreme demonstration of communities coming together to celebrate their diversity and often in the face of negativity from the fringes of those communities. In that regard a “Pride” event must always confront prejudice and show those who hold prejudices that they are at the edges of society, standing increasingly alone. That is why the full participation of the rest of any community is essential. That is why the motivation behind a Pride event is its most essential attribute.
There has been concern that the organisers of this event have associations and sympathies with right wing anti-Muslim extremists, the EDL. That concern is laid out perfectly clearly at:
We have not regarded this as “proof” but rather as grounds for serious concern. We have asked the organisers to explain these details and to condemn, explicitly, the EDL and other right wing extremists and islamophobic philosophies. They have failed to do so.
We have now acquired evidence that Raymond Berry, the principal organiser of the event, faced a call for disciplinary measures (revocation of his membership) by officials of the RMT (Rail and Maritime Trades Union) because he was a public and vocal, leading member of the EDL (English Defence League) and promoted the EDL objectives and extremist politics.
In correspondence, in September 2010, with union officials, Mr. Berry claimed – in his own words – the following:
* That he was a founder member of the English Defence League, but had decided to cease his involvement following disagreements over changes in the EDL leadership.
* That in spite of this, he continued to hold firm beliefs with regard to Sharia law and the Islamification of Britain.
* That he remained an active member “of such organisations as” S.I.O.E. (Stop the Islamification of Europe) and N.S.B. (No Sharia in Britain)
* That he was working, with other disaffected members of the EDL to start new groups with similar objectives.
In October 2010, Mr Berry continued his correspondence with union officials making new assertions, some contradictory to his position in September:
* That he would not voluntarily cancel his RMT membership on the grounds of his EDL membership
* That he saw no reason why he should not hold membership of the RMT and of the EDL, in spite of his disagreement with some aspects of RMT politics – i.e. that he found the RMT to be more controversial than the EDL.
So we now understand that as of October 2010, Mr. Berry – a founder of the EDL – remained connected with the EDL and unrepentant. Indeed, he desires to start other groups with similar right-wing, anti-Muslim objectives as well as retaining active associations with existing right-wing, anti-Muslim groups (such as S.I.O.E.)
In light of all the evidence of Mr. Berry’s political involvements, the apparent associations of some of the other organisers and their collective contempt for our communities we can do nothing but conclude that their calling for “East End Gay Pride” is motivated primarily by their political desires to build groups and alliances founded on their anti-Muslim and anti-Islam bigotry and that East End Gay Pride is – in his terms – just a furtherance of Mr. Berry’s stated aims to create anti-Muslim political movements.
Imaan continues to believe that a truly inclusive community-led Pride March would be one of the best responses to these homophobic crimes. We call, as a minimum response, for Mr. Berry and the other organisers of the 2 April event to stand aside from East End Gay Pride and to remove themselves from any further publicity before and after the event, thereby freeing the LGBT and other communities from the taint of Mr. Berry’s political views and associations.
We call on the board of Pride London to take over the organisation of East End Gay Pride and to deliver a successful, politically safe and community-engaged event on 2 April or another appropriate date, using the tried and tested Gay Pride principals of community cohesion and celebration of our diversity.
If this cannot be achieved, if the integrity of the event cannot be salvaged, we call for all right-minded people to boycott the event; to show Mr. Berry that there is no place within LGBT Society for his brand of prejudice and fear-mongering – however much he might try to dress it in the outward appearance of an authentic community campaign such as Pride.
Tawseef Khan, Chairperson 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.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
Imaan has been given email exchanges between Raymond Berry and RMT officials, in which Mr. Berry makes the statements we have referred to. The source of the emails is firmly on the record and will stand by the correspondence, and its publication, if Mr. Berry should seek to deny the claims.
The emails forms a part of a dossier of evidence of right wing and fascistic associations amongst the organisers, which has been painstakingly collected by Imaan and other concerned community groups and will be part of a complete community publication expected to be ready for release on Thursday March 17.
Stop the Islamisation of Europe is a group, which has as its byline “Racism is the lowest form of stupidity! Islamophobia is the height of common sense!”
And a lead article at its website – http://sioeengland.wordpress.com/ – titled “The Trinity of Evil: Diversity, Political Correctness, Multiculturalism.”
Imaan has not, yet, been able to identify positively a group called “No Sharia in Britain”
Further details on Imaan can be found at http://www.imaan.org.uk
All press enquiries should be directed by email to Tawseef Khan: email@example.com or by calling 020 3393 5188 and leaving voicemail. We regret it is not possible to offer instant telephone contact in view of the unfunded and unsupported status of Imaan. Email and voicemail will be monitored and answered as quickly as possible.
Imaan has supported LGBTQI Muslim people, their families and friends, to explore issues of sexual orientation within Islam since 1998. It provides a safe space and support network to share individual experiences and institutional resources.
Imaan is the largest network for Muslim LGBTQI people in Europe.
Imaan promotes Islamic values of peace, social justice and tolerance in its work to build a world that is free from prejudice and discrimination against Muslims and LGBTQI people.
Imaan is an independent organisation run by volunteers and without external funding. In addition to international conferences, Imaan holds monthly meetings, provides a free, dedicated counseling service, represents members at asylum tribunal cases and speaks at external conferences.