World News

Gay festival during Ramadan angers Bosnia Muslims

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Plans to hold Bosnia’s first gay festival during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan were denounced by the Muslim community on Thursday as an affront to religious feelings.

As in most of the Balkans, there is little tolerance for homosexuality in Bosnia, where for many it remains a taboo.

“Such an event dangerously threatens our religious feelings. It is not appropriate to hold it during the Ramadan,” said Ezher Beganovic, a journalist with the Islamic magazine Saff.

Beganovic has spearheaded a debate about next month’s four-day festival. He said in an article this week that the “festival of homosexuality”, which is regarded as a sin and disease in Islam, could cloud the holy month of Ramadan and promt angry reactions from believers.

Organisers said the festival was planned a year ago without aiming to provoke.

“This is the festival of arts and culture and there are many believers in our population as well,” said Svetlana Djurkovic, who heads the “Q Association” promoting the rights of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual population.

“It coincided with Ramadan unintentionally.”

Sarajevo, a symbol of multi-ethnic co-existence and tolerance before the 1992-95 Bosnian war, is now predominantly Muslim.

One academic argued that the lack of sexual tolerance has contributed to the region’s violent past.

“The lack of sexual freedom has made people in the region very prone to war mongering and crimes,” philosophy professor Ugo Vlaisavljevic told a weekly newspaper.

Djurkovic said the reaction to a gay festival would have been the same, not matter when it was held.

“This is a traditional society in which most people still do not accept the existence of different sexualities or identities,” she added.

Slovenia is the only former Yugoslave republic to legalise registered same-sex partnerships, while no other allows gay marriages and most have no laws protecting sexual minorities from discrimination.