Friday, September 23, 2011

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Monday, March 14, 2011

London’s East End Pride should be cancelled, gay campaigners say


Next month’s East End Gay Pride should be cancelled because it will cause “community tension”, it has been claimed.

Some local gay campaigners say the march, in east London, will cause tensions between gay people and Muslims.

The march, to be held on April 2nd, has been organised by six friends as a response to anti-gay stickers plastered around the East End.

But opponents say it is an “emotional reaction” which “risks antagonising and scapegoating” Muslims.

They have also accused organisers of having “close links” to the English Defence League because some have Facebook friends who appear to be involved in the far-right group.

Read the letter here

The organisers have expressly barred political groups such as Unite Against Fascism, the English Defence League and the Socialist Workers Party from having a visible presence in the march.

Although the parade has been backed by local police and Tower Hamlets council, some local campaigners are calling for it to be cancelled.

An open letter signed by Out East chair Thierry Schaffauser and Terry Stewart of the Hackney Community Engagement Board claims that the Pride march may “divide our communities” or be used “to oppress other marginalised groups”.

Out East organises Hackney Pride and the letter has also been signed by Denis Fernando of Unite Against Fascism and the Greater London Association of Trade Union Councils.

It says: “We believe that the most appropriate response to the stickers is to liaise with Muslim communities and others to create bridges and communicate with each other.

“We want both homophobia and Islamophobia addressed as a collective problem and not feed one against the other, we do not recognise these as distinct categories.

“We will refuse any attempt to divide our communities or take the risk that an LGBTQ event is used to oppress other marginalised groups, in particular LGBTQ Muslims who will be the most affected by this rising antagonism.”

In response, the organisers of East End Gay Pride said in a statement: “We can 100 per cent confirm that the EDL [English Defence League] or the SWP [Socialist Workers Party] have absolutely nothing to do with this event in any way, shape or form.

“This is wholly a non-political demonstration and purely a high visibility demonstration of the East End gay community. This is not an anti-Muslim march. This is not an anti-anything march. We have stated this over and over again, here and on our website. We simply want to say: ‘Hang on. You’re wrong. The East End is NOT a gay-free zone’.”

East End Pride has also received support from the organisers of Pride London.

In an opinion for PinkNews.co.uk today, chair Paul Birrell wrote: “The organisers of the event should be applauded for this fun and timely reminder of the East End’s LGBT community, not showered with abuse for simply wanting to show, well, a bit of Pride.

“The idea that being out and proud is somehow an assault on someone else’s views is used time and again by hostile governments to ban Pride.

“That some within London’s own LGBT community should use this argument – in what looks suspiciously like a case of sour grapes at not having thought of the idea first – is a source of shame.”

It has been suggested that the anti-gay stickers, which warn gay people to “fear Allah”, have been posted by the English Defence League to stir up tension between LGBT and Muslims.

PinkNews.co.uk reported on Friday that an Asian man had been arrested and released without charge after being found with the stickers in his possession.

Last month, the Muslim Council of Britain and the East London Mosque condemned the homophobic stickers.

Football Association accepts gay rights charter


The Football Association and other sports bodies have signed a government charter for gay rights.

The charter calls on sports to stamp out homophobia and transphobia and ensure everyone is welcome.

Other signatories include the Lawn Tennis Association, the England and Wales Cricket Board, the Rugby Football League, the Rugby Football Union and the Olympics organising committee.

Alex Horne, general secretary of the FA, said: “The FA and its stakeholders have worked hard over the years in providing football for all and ensuring that football stadia are open to everyone and are both family and LGB and T friendly.

“We’ve seen real progress over the last 20 years when it comes to tackling racism and that’s something football should be proud of. We remain committed to our long-term goal of removing all forms of discrimination, such as homophobia, out of the game.”

Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone urged other sports groups and individuals to sign the charter.

She said: “Sport should be about what you can do, not who you are. But too many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people feel that the sports field is not somewhere they can be themselves, and that prejudice and discrimination will mean their sexuality is always talked about more than their ability with a ball, bat or racket.

“Homophobia and transphobia has no place in sport and I’m delighted that so many sporting bodies are backing our campaign to stamp it out at all levels, from local parks to Olympic stadiums.”

This month, Swedish footballer Anton Hysen, the son of former Liverpool player Glenn Hysen, announced he is gay.

The UK has had just one openly gay top-level footballer. Justin Fashanu, who killed himself in 1998, suffered taunts and bullying over his sexuality.

Last year, the FA cancelled the premiere of an anti-homophobia video it had produced. Officials said they had more to do on the film, although they said it would be shown to match stewards as a training and education tool.

Other sports are better represented. England cricketer Steven Davies and Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas are openly gay.

Comment: Why are gay people trying to ban East End Pride?


Paul Birrell, the chair of Pride London, argues that the organisers of East End Pride should be congratulated for showing that East London is out and proud.

East End Gay Pride, the first Pride event focused on the East End of London, is set for April 2nd. This follows a spate of homophobic literature being plastered around the East End and the event is the brainchild of a group of friends from the area.

In a sad reminder of the prejudice that Prides face throughout the world, the event has been denounced as confrontational, with the organisers facing a flurry of baseless and deeply personal abuse.

I had thought that the idea of Pride being too confrontational had long died: London’s long-running annual Pride event is nowadays one of the UK’s largest outdoor events and attracts participants and spectators from throughout London’s many different communities.

However, it seems that once that concept transfers out of gay-friendly central London, then a different logic is applied and such openness is deemed to be in some way unacceptable. This is nonsense. The East End of London has a long history of drag clubs and gay boozers and was even – briefly – home to London’s Pride event.

The organisers of the event should be applauded for this fun and timely reminder of the East End’s LGBT community, not showered with abuse for simply wanting to show, well, a bit of Pride.

Perhaps one of the most bizarre rumours floating around is that Pride is being used as a front for the far right. Leaving aside the admitted similarity in appearance between the far right and quite a few gay men – it’s the boots and cropped hair – the idea that the far right has decided to re-brand itself with a bit of Kylie and some rainbow flags is laughable.

The idea that being out and proud is somehow an assault on someone else’s views is used time and again by hostile governments to ban Pride – I’ve seen this argument used to force the LGBT community off the streets and into parks, away from public view. That some within London’s own LGBT community should use this argument – in what looks suspiciously like a case of sour grapes at not having thought of the idea first – is a source of shame.

Pride London has offered to help East End Gay Pride navigate its way through the Byzantine regulations on outdoor events. We’re genuinely pleased that the organisers are bringing pride – and, I’m sure, lots of fun – to the East End.

The open letter to the organisers of East End Gay Pride


The open letter from Out East to the organisers of East End Pride

As a result of the recent homophobic stickers that appeared in Shoreditch, Stoke Newington and broader East London, you have decided to organise a Pride March event on the 2nd April. Out East, with other local LGBTQ community groups, has great concerns about this demonstration and we have decided neither to participate in the event nor to call our supporters to be part of it, and we think it important to express the reasons why.

Firstly, it is not clear who is behind the stickers and the police are still investigating that issue. However, what is clear is that the message of the stickers identifies Islam as the cause for this hate. There have been allegations that it is an attempt from far right groups to stigmatise Muslim people. Whether this is true or not, what will remain in people’s minds is that Muslim people as a whole group are the cause for homophobia. It may not be the intention of East End Gay Pride to endorse this message but having a short term response and an emotional reaction to these stickers risks antagonising and scapegoating Muslim communities. Out East refuses that LGBTQ rights or pride demonstrations are used to promote islamophobia even if not intentionally. Furthermore the council, the mayor, the East London Mosque and the interfaith community worked with local LGBTQ people to take a stand against homophobia and support the police. Neither yourselves or the majority of the media have highlighted this approach, leaving the wrong impression that the east end is actually in danger of becoming a ‘gay-free zone’.

Secondly, we have serious concerns about the close links that this event and some of its organisers have with the English Defence League. This ranges from one organiser stating they are supporting the event on the Facebook group, to inviting Facebook members with EDL logos as their profiles to participate, and some organisers having EDL friends on their profiles*. This has been further compounded by the fact that East End Gay Pride has banned anti-fascist group UAF from attending the event. In addition to this, East End Gay Pride organisers have made it clear that they don’t want the event to be political.

On the contrary, we believe that our response to homophobia can only be a political response and must therefore include all political groups who are working against all discrimination. Taking this political position automatically excludes far right groups who preach a message of exclusion and East End Gay Pride should make it clear that such groups, including the EDL, are not welcome at this event. Instead, the organisers of East End Gay Pride prefer to say that everyone is welcome as long as they don’t bring any political sign or banner. It is clear from comments made on Facebook and responses to articles referring to East End Gay Pride that EDL members will be tolerated if they carry no specifically political signage. If nothing is clearly done to prevent EDL individuals taking part in East End Gay Pride we have great concerns regarding the safety of all the participants, including LGBTQ people themselves who have been repeatedly the target of the far right.

*(Latte Labour blog, containing screen grabs of EDL presence http://lattelabour.blogspot.com/2011/03/east-end-gay-pride-update.html)

In addition, Out East believes that our response to homophobia must be political because homophobia is a system which is present everywhere and not only a hate feeling from particular groups or individuals. Homophobia is not caused only by one particular group but is part of broader society and has political roots. It is easy to portray other minorities (even unintentionally) as the cause of homophobia rather than, for example, questioning the lack of means to fight discrimination in a period of cuts in public services. Instead, we want to highlight the intersection between sexuality, gender, race and class oppression. Homophobia is fed by political practices and ideologies which in turn encourage individuals to commit discriminatory acts.

Thirdly, we believe that the most appropriate response to the stickers is to liaise with Muslim communities and others to create bridges and communicate with each other. We want both homophobia and islamophobia addressed as a collective problem and not feed one against the other, we do not recognise these as distinct categories. We will refuse any attempt to divide our communities or take the risk that an LGBTQ event is used to oppress other marginalised groups, in particular LGBTQ Muslims who will be the most affected by this rising antagonism.

We cannot disconnect this particular event from the more general trend in western countries to use LGBTQ liberation campaigns and feminism as a way to stigmatise migrants and Islam as a monolithic culture or Muslim people as uncivilised, barbaric terrorists or hateful invaders.

We applaud the work of Rainbow Hamlets, the Tower Hamlets LGBT Forum to which we belong. It is building meaningful open dialogue between all communities, so that each addresses issues of homophobia, transphobia, islamaphobia and racism in their own midsts. We, in common with Rainbow Hamlets, would like public meetings to happen in East London where LGBTQ and Muslim communities come together and discuss the issues of homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia and racism and how we can all fight together against all discrimination. We welcome working with the local councils in East London to facilitate the organisation of these public meetings by providing safe spaces in which to meet and link all of our groups and organisations together.

For all the reasons above, we call on you and the organisations supporting this event to cancel it with a view to working with the local communities of the East End to ensure active, inclusive responses are made to homophobia, which do not inadvertently contribute to community tensions.

We encourage all other groups who agree with us to co-sign this letter and those already involved to reconsider their support.

On behalf of Out East,

Thierry Schaffauser, Chair.

Terry Stewart, Hackney Community Engagement Board.

[Denis Fernando of Unite Against Fascism and the Greater London Association of Trade Union Councils have also given their support to the letter]

US state department official resigns after calling Bradley Manning’s treatment “stupid”


US state department spokesman PJ Crowley has tendered his resignation after he called the treatment of Bradley Manning, the solider accused of leaking secret cables to Wikileaks as “stupid.”

Private Manning, whose Facebook profile lists him as being gay, is being held in solitary confiement on suicide watch at the Quantico marine base in Virginia. He is kept shackled at all times.

Mr Crowley made the remarks at an event held at MIT- the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

When asked about Wikileaks and the “torturing [of] a prisoner in a military brig,” he said: “I spent 26 years in the air force.

“What is happening to Manning is ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid, and I don’t know why the DoD [Department of Defense] is doing it. Nevertheless, Manning is in the right place.”

Mr Manning resigned after the comments were made public in a blog by the BBC’s Philippa Thomas who was in the audience. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she accepted Mr Crowley’s resignation “with regret”. She said that he had always been “motivated by a deep devotion to public policy and public diplomacy”.

A report by Amnesty International said that Private Manning has been held for “for 23 hours a day in a sparsely furnished solitary cell and deprived of a pillow, sheets, and personal possessions since July 2010″. He is forced to undress on a daily basis and is said to be in an almost permanent state of undress in order to prevent him from committing suicide.