During the anti-fascist mobilisations in Tower Hamlets on Saturday 3 September, veteran LGBT activist Peter Tatchell had a placard which read, on one side, “gays and Muslims unite: stop the EDL”, and “no the EDL and far-right Islamists: against ALL hate” on the other.
Just before the rally started breaking up, a young Muslim man began arguing with Tatchell — why was he dividing the movement by bringing gay rights issues to an anti-fascist demo? “Gays can’t be Muslims. God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. It even says so in the Christian bible.”
A small group of young, manly Asian, men gathered round and a heated argument ensued. An older black woman backed Tatchell up, arguing “He’s one of us, he’s come out in support of us, we should support his rights.” The gist of Tatchell’s argument was: “It’s ok for you to not agree with me — I’m not a Muslim, but I respect your rights. You don’t have to agree with me, but you should accept my right to be here.”
One of the young men who stood with Tatchell argued against the EDL’s “LGBT rights” agenda, dismissing it as ludicrous hypocrisy. When I asked where the black and Asian gay community were, he replied “LGBT people in the black community are too scared to come to these demos.” Tatchell added “There are organisations for Muslim LGBTs, but they’re largely social networking organisations with no political agenda.”
The Hackney Rainbow Alliance is organising East London Pride later this year; Tatchell and others have been pushing to have the march down Whitechapel Road and Brick Lane, passing some of the pubs where large numbers of homophobic attacks have been reported. However, members of the “far left” in the Alliance have been pushing to keep the march away from “controversial” areas with large Muslim populations.
The left and LGBT movement should be confronting homophobia wherever it exists, even within communities also facing racist attacks from the far-right.
We have a special duty to support LGBT activists within minority communities; LGBT politics should never be sidelined.