This is a report from the progressive World People’s Resistance Movement (Britain) on the annual Al Quds Day demonstration in London. As you can see, it was a fairly secular affair, with little religious fundamentalism or anti-Semitism in evidence.
Lurid predictions of the march being dominated by overtly homophobic, anti-women and anti-Semitic groups like Hizb ut Tahir and Muslims Against the Crusades were proved false, as neither group had a visible presence. The Muslim Association of Britain, who were listed as one of the organizers, didn’t appear either, though even if they had, their presence (and even that of Hizb) would have proven little as both have been regular attenders at anti-war demos for years.
The demo was mainly (80%) Shia – not surprising as Khomeini initiated the idea 30 years ago. Hizbullah flags and Hamas flags were in evidence but – again contrary to the expectations of the demo’s critics, only two or three Iranian flags (there were actually more Lebanese flags). This is about the same as you would get at any anti-war demo.
There were a few people hawking pictures of Khomeini, and I saw a couple of people holding them but the chant “We are all Hezbollah” was eclipsed by the more secular “We are all Palestinians.” There was the occasional Allah Akbar, but most slogans were of the “Free free Palestine” variety.
As for the gender issue, I saw a number of Asian women not wearing any head covering (and plenty of white women too) and only two wearing the Niqab. I mention this only as a measure of fundamentalism or lack of. Men and women marched together, which is ironic given that I can remember being at various demos (gay rights, womens’ rights and anti-nuclear) in which there was a degree of segregation introduced by feminists.
One man leading the chanting with a megaphone was wearing a Rolling Stones tee-shirt – hardly Taliban material! And a woman who was wearing a headscarf wore a tee shirt with the slogan “Live to Love” on it; again probably not the sort of thing the moral police in Tehran would have liked!
As for anti-Semitism, there were more Jewish people on the Al Quds demo than on the pathetically small counter demonstration (about 30) which included fascists, Zionists and, sadly, the Iranian Green Movement.