The Safra Project has been working on issues affecting Queer Muslims for over a decade. This work includes making the areas in which we live safer for all. Our approach in doing this work seeks to avoid adding to the alienation and further deprivation faced by many in our communities because of ethnic, cultural, class or other material factors.
As many of us are residents and members of East End communities we are also dismayed by the homophobic sticker campaign and what we view as the subversion of our Muslim beliefs to instil fear and mistrust amongst communities. This is echoed by further members of the local Muslim community such as the East London Mosque and the Association of British Muslims.
We are similarly opposed to the ‘East End Gay Pride’ march as a response to the sticker campaign which we believe only compounds the problem, particularly for us as Muslims that are Queer, as it fuels what has now become a virulently Islamophobic climate for us to live in. Unfortunately, the claim by the East End Gay Pride march organisers that they are not being anti-Muslim is insufficient to stop their effective complicity in fuelling the various stereotyped ideas about Muslims. It also undermines the important work that our organisation and others are involved in around issues of gender, sexuality and Islam (www.safraproject.org/sgi-intro.htm).
Moreover, we are particularly concerned that the march organisers’ have refused to disassociate themselves from the far-right organisation English Defence League (EDL) especially as it seems that anti-fascist supporters have been told they will not be welcome at the march. This not only disregards the history of embedded racism that our communities have suffered in the area and more generally but also, as Queer Muslims, we feel that there are more productive ways to address the concerns that the East End Gay Pride march organisers have raised. For example by getting involved with the important cross-community projects that are ongoing in East London (http://www.onesocietymanycultures.org).
Therefore, we, as Queer Muslims who are most likely to suffer the fall out of this march, ask:
•The organisers to cancel this march on all of our communities, neighbours and families in East London.
•The local Queer people in the East End of London to engage with the wider local community in collaboration to better understand and work productively on all forms of prejudice.
•For everyone to voice their opposition to overt and covert racism and Islamophobia especially in the name of gay rights. All forms of prejudice must be understood in their overlapping ways and to ignore this lived reality, particularly that of Queer Muslims, is to avoid engaging with underlying issues of social, economic and political injustice and disadvantage (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jun/02/gay-lesbian-islamophobia).
If the march continues it does so without the support of our organisation and with little regard for the complex work that we as Queer Muslims do in Britain.
Safra Project Board
An open letter to East End Gay Pride by Onni
Mayor of Tower Hamlets and community leaders come together to condemn homophobia