In just one evening Swedish artist Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin achieved what the United Nations has tried for years to accomplish: reconcile the divisive belligerence between Christians and Muslims in the Balkans. Her "Ecce Homo" exhibition, portraying Jesus Christ as a transvestite surrounded by LGBT people (in a modern version of "The Last Supper"), united radical Serbian Christians and Muslims in a mass protest against the "insulting of Jesus."
Over 2,000 riot police, some with dogs, guarded Belgrade's Center for Cultural Decontamination, where the exhibit took a place. Metal fences separated the visitors of the "blasphemous" exhibition from the noisy groups of ultranationalists and religious radicals who sang church songs while waving wooden crosses in the air. But this was nothing new for Serbia, a country that has been in a well-documented state of mind (and state of siege) over the last 20 years. Art was caged in.
"This is not art or freedom of speech; it is consciously and clearly insulting believers and faith," pronounced the Serbian Islamic community in a statement, adding, "Muslims feel hurt with desecration of Jesus, the same as when it's done to the image of blessed Muhammad." Meanwhile, Patriarch Irinej, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, requested that Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić ban the exhibit and the "parade of shame." Though Mr. Dačić could not ban the exhibition (that would be an obvious act of censorship) but feared religious protests similar to those happening throughout the Muslim world, he found an ideal alternative: He banned the parade.
But this is not first time that he has acted so cowardly. In 2009 he admitted his political impotency to protect Serbian citizens from anti-gay hooligans who (allegedly) had planned to kill participants in the Pride parade by firing stones from slingshots from the windows of nearby buildings. "Just imagine that we saw a caricature of Muhammad as a gay man," Dačić said, justifying his decision to Serbian journalists as a way to prevent the bloodshed on Belgrade's streets.
Is it possible that a man whose political party, the Social Party of Serbia (SPS), which ignored the ruthless execution of thousands of Balkan Muslims in the 1990s, has suddenly become sensitive to the delicate feelings of the minority group of local believers willing to demolish their own city in the name of their religious sensitivities? Of course not! Knowing what he's like, I would say that he saw this as a great chance to bow deeply to Serbia's highest clergyman, who honored him with a " White Angel" medal after he banned the Pride parade in 2011. A few years earlier the same medal was awarded to Serbian Bishop Pahomije, who was accused of pedophilia with a 13-year-old boy in 2002.
The homophobic tradition continues in 2012. But this year, the old contingent of Christian homophobes enlisted new friends from the Serbian Islamic community. Is this union a new anti-gay religion?
"This is a shame!" said the patriarch. "This is terrible! This is a scandal! I really do not know what else I could say. It is a shame that someone tarnishes his own city, state, faith... What else needs to happen to us so that the authorities react?"
Some gay leaders publicly spread religious hatred, and this helped Dačić make his decision without any second thoughts.
"I plead with the believers who cannot stand my hatred toward God to delete themselves from my Facebook, because I am of those who believe that all churches, mosques, and temples should be torn down, the first being those that have the highest cultural value and are several hundred years old," wrote Predrag Azdejković, the leader of Gay and Lesbian Info Center, on his Facebook page. Members of the group "500,000 Serbs Against Gay Parade" requested that Azdejković be prosecuted for his statement. Azdejković recieved open death threats on the group's Facebook wall after a provocative status update. Milos Ricardo Kacanski suggests an old Turkish method of killing, "impalement," which causes a slow, painful death for the victim.
In March 2012 Sima Vladičić was sentenced by the High Court in Belgrade to three months in prison and two years of probation because he threatened the LGBT population through the Facebook group "500,000 Serbs Against the Gay Parade."
The patriarch and his friend the prime minister play with fire by inflaming (sexual) intolerance in a nation where, according to a YUCOM survey, as much as 21 percent of respondents "do not want to socialize with LGBT population."
In Belgrade hooligans wearing masks and carrying baseball bats demolished a gym popular among local gays. "It is true that our facilities are popular among members of the gay community," said Laurent Dusen, the owner of the gym, "but if Mr. Dačić said that your country has not capitulated to bullies, how do you qualify this event?" (Dusen invested over €100,000 in the gym.) Conspiracy theorists argue that such attacks are orchestrated by "foreign agents" in order to provoke a stormy reaction against Serbia by the EU.
I'm afraid that homophobic graffiti on the walls of schools is not the worst thing that happens to Serbs who are struggling with their own sexual frustrations. I am afraid that an era of anti-homosexual terrorism is on the rise. Serbian police are currently trying to identify a father who sent them an anonymous phone threat warning them that he would walk into the Pride parade "wrapped by dynamite" to hug his lesbian daughter, so that all his problems would be solved. But nothing -- neither bans nor dynamite -- will kill the Serbian reality.
Amid the eternal battle between traditional sexuality and sexual liberation, there remains an inescapable truth: Serbian men of all social structures widely enjoy same-sex love. All you have to do is visit Serbia's most viewed gay websites, Gay-Serbia.com and Gay-Romeo.com, and you will find an army of Balkan men seeking "relaxation" with same-sex partners. Many of them are family men whom you would never suspect of harboring homosexual or bisexual attractions. But in a country where you can lose not only your reputation but even your head if someone merely suspects that you are a "faggot," it is best to "stay in the closet."
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