The Peter Tatchell Foundation joined the anti-EDL protest in Tower Hamlets on Saturday. We called for unity between the LGBT and Muslim communities, in opposition to the far right English Defence League (EDL) and Islamist extremists.
“We received a mostly good response at the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) protest against the EDL. There were a handful of negative reactions but much more support, from both young and old Muslim people. This refutes the EDL propaganda that all Muslims are homophobic and extremist. It shows that mutual solidarity between the LGBT and Muslim communities is possible. Most Muslims reject hate preachers, jihadists and apologists for terrorism,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights advocacy organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation (PTF).
He attended last Saturday’s anti-EDL rally with other members and supporters of the PTF.
The PTF placards included: “Gays & Muslims Unite. Fight All Hate” and “Speak Out Against EDL / BNP & Islamist Extremists”.
“A few Muslims out of hundreds made disparaging homophobic comments or asked us to take down our placards. But otherwise the responses were either indiscernible or supportive,” added Mr Tatchell.
Ejel Khan, a gay Muslim who was part of the PTF contingent, said:
“The feedback was very supportive and encouraging. I expected more negative reactions but we didn’t get them.
“When challenged by a group of Muslim youths, I explained that the Quran isn’t harshly anti-gay and doesn’t state any punishments for homosexuality. After a discussion, there seemed to be mutual understanding. We parted on friendly terms. They shook my hand and said goodbye,” said Mr Khan.
“The aim of our presence was to defend the Muslim community in Tower Hamlets against the EDL, challenge all hate-mongers and foster solidarity,” added Mr Tatchell.
“LGBT and Muslim people have a similar experience of prejudice, discrimination and violence. Some people are both LGBT and Muslim. They often suffer double victimisation.
“It is in the interests of Muslim and LGBT people to work together to defend equality for everyone and to oppose both the EDL and the Islamists who preach hate and oppose human rights.
“Although we supported the UAF demonstration, we have some differences with them. They refuse to oppose the EDL’s political mirror image, the far right Islamist extremists who endorse terrorist attacks on civilians and who oppose the rights of women, Jews, LGBT people and Muslims who don’t confirm their hard-line interpretation of Islam. These religious extremists espouse a form of clerical fascism. They are as bad as – or worse than – the EDL.
“The failure of many anti-fascists and left-wingers to speak out against extreme Islamist fundamentalists has created a political vacuum, which the EDL is seeking to exploit and manipulate.
“To be credible, we need to oppose all extremists, including the Islamist far right who preach hate and want to establish a religious dictatorship. Only in this way can we offer a principled alternative to the EDL: condemning Islamist extremists without demonising the whole Muslim population.
“That’s why we carried these particular placards. Many people at the protest agreed with us. We received more support this time, compared to when we attended the anti-EDL march in 2011. This is progress,” concluded Mr Tatchell.