© Tristan Billet on Unsplash

One critic of the imam said his views were “fascist garbage.”

An imam in Bosnia has attracted criticism after he praised coronavirus for cancelling Sarajevo’s second Pride march, after organisers cancelled it due to the virus.

“We emphasize that we are postponing the march due to the epidemiological situation, but we draw attention to a number of problems that are the reality of the organization of LGBTQI public events,” the Pride’s organisers said in a statement.

In a Facebook post on Thursday (6 August), Muhamed ef. Velic, the imam of the Ferhadija mosque in Sarajevo, wrote that “in every misfortune and tragedy there is a grain of happiness, goodness and beauty” following the announcement of the Pride’s cancellation.

He added: “Thanks to Allah for everything. Let dear Allah gift that corona and gay parade never return to our city and the state!”

His post attracted a lot of supportive comments, although some criticised his comments.

A spokesperson for the Islamic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina failed to condemn the comments, saying that they were unaware of them. “We don’t have any reaction, you will have to ask for that from his superior,” Muhamed Jusic said, adding their position was that homosexuality went against their beliefs, but believers should refrain from violence.

However, one prominent critic, Senad Pecanin, a former lawyer and journalist wrote that the imam’s views were “fascist garbage.”

And speaking to Fair Planet, activist Branko Ćulibrk said: “It is horrible that Effendi Velić puts the current situation with the coronavirus and the cancellation of the gay pride on the same level, because this is about the struggle for human rights that citizens cannot simply have, but must fight for.”

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a European country not well-known for having good LGBTQ+ rights for its citizens. Last year, Sarajevo, its capital, hosted its first Pride parade, but the event had to be guarded by police, and a poll found 58% of people were against the event going ahead.

Samra Cosovic-Hajdarevic, the Deputy of the Party of Democratic Action called the march a “terrible” idea aimed at “destroying the state and its people.” She then added that LGBTQ people should be “isolated and moved as far as possible from our children and society.”

However, parts of the country could become more LGBTQ+-friendly, as the government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina started a consultation that could mean the government starts recognising same-sex relationships.

The country is divided up in two self-governing entities, and only the Federation is considering the move. The more conservative Republika Srpska, which covers less than the Federation, is not considering it.

The Federation agreed to hold the consultation after demands from same-sex couples who had gotten married or registered abroad. Currently, neither region offers recognition of same-sex couples.

If it goes ahead with affording same-sex couples recognition, Bosnia and Herzegovina would be a trailblazer among the Balkan states, with none of its immediate neighbours offering these rights. Nearby countries like Serbia and Croatia even have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.