Muslim Mayor's Gay Rights Drive Fights Homophobia In Conservative Amsterdam Suburb
Ahmed Marcouch, the Muslim mayor of Slotervaart, an uncharacteristically conservative suburb of Amsterdam, is fighting back against a long-lived trend of homophobia in that town by inviting Amsterdam's annual gay pride parade to march right down main street, as it were. According to AFP:
Slotervaart's population is mainly of immigrant origin, many of the Muslim faith, like Moroccan-born Marcouch himself who came to the Netherlands in 1979 at age 10. The suburb has recently been in the news for homophobic incidents, with gays being called names, spat on and generally bothered.
The community grew particularly restless over gay men using Slotervaart's De Oeverlanden public park as a place to meet and have sex, a practice known as "cruising".
Following Marcouch breaking the ice, the town has now instituted further plans to accept previously persecuted gay community, such as with the opening of a gay culture center, AFP reports. However, Marcouch's actions have also drawn strong rebukes, namely from local religious leaders such as Mohamed Adardour of the el-Oumma mosque and the local Roman Catholic parish.