London Pride — Not!

My guess is this: at the very least, some local gay group would plan a rally outside the biggest local fundamentalist church. The participants might not raid the church, as happened at St. Patrick’s in 1989, but there would certainly be a big, loud, boisterous display of strength and of defiance. There would be gay guys dressed as Jesus Christ and as the pope; there would be signs aplenty saying things like “Keep your Bible off my body.” Some of it might go too far.  But no self-respecting gay person would call a peaceful demonstration under such circumstances anti-Christian. They’d recognize it as a warning: This is our neighborhood, too. We won’t let you push us out.

So is that what happened in London in response to the Koran stickers? Not exactly. First, the major gay-rights groups in the area chose not to do anything. So an ad hoc gay group, apparently put together by a few friends and calling itself East End Gay Pride, proposed a gay-pride event for April 2nd.  They invited the major gay groups to join them in organizing it.  They were rebuffed, so they went ahead on their own. The event they planned, it should be said, was decidedly tame in conception. It wouldn’t be a protest rally outside a mosque, but a march through public streets. There would be no signs criticizing Islam or answering back the Koran, and certainly nobody would dress up as Muhammed. The organizers weren’t out to challenge Muslims -- on the contrary, they wanted to put on a congenial display, as if to say, “Hey, we’re here. We’re harmless. We believe in coexistence. We respect you and your religion. We’re your neighbors. Let up on us, OK?”

Nonetheless, their plans were immediately attacked by other local gay organizations, principally two groups called OutEast and Rainbow Hamlets, plus the gay Muslim group Imaan. These groups complained that such a march threatened to exacerbate tensions between gays and Muslims. They also suggested that the march was a front for the English Defense League (EDL),  an organization established in 2009 after British troops were publicly harassed by Muslims in Luton, and routinely labeled “far-right” because it opposes sharia law and the Islamization of England. The attacks were relentless and vicious.  On March 15, Imaan revealed that one of the march’s organizers, Raymond Berry, was indeed an EDL member -- whereupon the organizers called off the march.

They explained:

We have found it extremely difficult to deal with the copious amount of personal attacks that are coming mostly from Terry Stewart of OutEast and Jack Gilbert and Rebecca Shaw of Rainbow Hamlets. These individuals have been attacking EEGP from the very beginning, even though OutEast and Rainbow Hamlets, along with Imaan and several other "community groups," were invited to help create the event from day one….The entire EEGP team had nothing but good intentions for this event from the off set. We planned to make it a fun march with no hatred being shown. We even planned on a bigger event next year, dropping the word "gay" from the name and making it a festival for the entire community to show how diverse and tolerant we all are. With the help of Terry Stewart of OutEast and Jack Gilbert and Rebecca Shaw of Rainbow Hamlets, this now looks impossible.

On March 16, the British gay-news website Pink News reported the news. Several hundred readers posted comments. Most of those who chose to comment (and given that this was Pink News, one has to assume that most of them were gay) took the opportunity not to speak up about the virulent hatred for gays preached by Islam but to slam the march’s organizers as racists and Islamophobes.