I got a hit from Sarajevo a day or so ago and having not reported on anything beyond the supposed Palin phenomena of late, I thought I should check out the local news in Sarajevo to see what might be up. Here’s what I found out:
Sarajevo is planning a 3-day Pride festival at the end of September, Sept. 24-27. It is the first ever Pride festival in Bosnia’s history. It is also taking place during Ramadan.
(Black Laundry/Kvisa Shchora Gay Pride Tel Aviv. Protest of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Unattributed.)
Several posters appeared throughout the streets of Sarajevo this past week with the simple slogan:
“Death to Gays”
All though police quickly took them down, they have no list of suspects. Worse the posters keep showing up, making the police antsy about violence at Pride itself.
Many believe the posters were linked to two imams comments about the prohibition against homosexuality in Islam:
We will not grab them by the neck on the street, but we have to say: This is immoral . . . a promotion of ideas that are in violation with religion
– Seid Smajkic, an imam from the southern city of Mostar (Dnevni AvazDaily News)
The specific reference to violence against gay people participating in Pride is no less disturbing because Smajick’s comments say they won’t act them out. Why bring up physical violence at all? Clearly his comments and the statement on the posters make it clear that violent queer bashing is on people’s minds. (At least one listserv I saw while researching was engaging in jokes about how GLBTQ people would be beaten during Pride – no, I will not link there; the listserv had comments from Christians, Muslims, and people who did not identify.)
Sulejman Bulgari, the other Imam, condemned homosexuality this past week on national television, reminding Bosnia’s 85% Muslim population that it was their religious duty to turn away from same-sex desire and gay people.
The head of the Islamic community in Bosnia has neither condemned the comments of the two Imams nor the festival itself. His silence has been taken by some as a tacit agreement with the Imams and by others as the only way he can support the right to Pride.
This has not stopped members of the Main Muslim Party, the Party of Democratic Action, from also condemning the event:
We respect freedom and tolerance, but the festival is a kind of provocation since it is taking place during Ramadan – Amir Zukic(Dnevni Avaz)
Zukic was joined by members of the Social Democrats, a non-Muslim political party, who are equally opposed to the event:
It is unnatural, sick and deviant behaviour – Rajko Vasic
Svetlana Djurkovic of Bosnia Q, a queer rights NGO that also helped deal with tensions surrounding the premiere of a queer film set in Bosnia in 2005, said that there were many faiths represented in the planning committee, including Muslims. She also said that they had received tons of positive feedback about holding the event from the community as well as straight allies.
This anti-gay sentiment has been expressed in many Pride events throughout the world this past Pride season. Sentiments have come from both religious and non-religious groups and has not been exclusive to Muslim countries. Here in the U.S. the largest battle on gay rights is shaping up in California spearheaded by Mormons and I have already done a post on Christian churches and organizations that support the gay community. This post should in no way make anyone believe that homophobia is exclusive to any group, religious or otherwise b/c it is not.
The Bosnia Gay Pride festival is supported by Bosnia Q, Queer BiH and Bosnia mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation among others. It will include a parade, film festival, book fair, and other events over its 3-day schedule.
My thoughts and prayers are with you for a safe and happy Pride.