Turkish Community Associations join German pride festivals

Signalling solidarity and allying against discrimination

Turkish community associations have joined gay pride marches in Stuttgart and Hamburg, in a bid to broach questions surrounding sexuality and to demonstrate their openness to diversity. The Federal Chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD), Gökay Sofuoglu, noted with regard to ongoing difficulties faced by the LGBT+ community that “as an association taking a stand against discrimination of any kind, we cannot close our eyes to this”.((http://www.swr.de/landesschau-aktuell/bw/csd-in-stuttgart-tuerkische-gemeinde-bricht-mit-tabu/-/id=1622/did=17791268/nid=1622/tvsne5/))

Sofuoglu, speaking in the context of the Stuttgart gay pride, noted that there had been some resistance to the decision to participate. Such resistance had also been felt by the chairwoman of the Hamburg Turkish Community association, Nebahat Güçlü: In previous years, Güçlü had failed to overcome her fellow board members’ reservations about joining the local pride march.((https://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/hamburg/CSD-Veranstalter-Parade-wird-politischer,csd640.html))

This year, however, the Hamburg community released a statement on its website arguing that “the vindication of equal rights for minorities is a concern for all of us. This includes the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons. We are conscious of the fact that as a managing committee in our community we are taking an important but also provocative step that could also trigger negative reactions. Nevertheless, we deem it important and right to stand against all kinds of discriminations in our society and we also face up to the discussion within our organisations”.((http://www.tghamburg.de/news/?nid=149))

That the Turkish community’s participation in local pride festivals is more forthcoming this year must perhaps also be seen in relation to the spate recent attacks more or less straightforwardly motivated by Islamic radicalism, including Omar Mateen’s shooting at the LGBT Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016. After this event, Muslim organisations elsewhere have also taken a conscious decision to join pride marches in order to demonstrate their solidarity and open-mindedness.((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/06/28/muslim-community-joins-regina-pride-parade-1st-time/))

The ambivalence of Islamic associations

As Euro-Islam reported at the time, the initial reaction of explicitly Islamic associations in Germany remained muted.((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/06/20/muted-reaction-of-german-muslim-leaders-to-orlando-touches-upon-uncomfortable-issues-of-homophobia-and-media-discourses/)) Since then, Ayman Mazyek, prolific chairman of one of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), has stated in a public speech that when any person irrespective of race, religion, or sexual orientation were attacked, the Muslim community would “rally to their protection”, “defend freedom” and “protect the dignity of the human being and therefore our own dignity”.((http://zentralrat.de/27631.php))

Yet the difficult contortions that underlie Mazyek’s view were on ample display in an interview published ten days before the shooting at Pulse: when stating his view on homosexuality, Mazyek asserted that “I am a citizen of this country and the chairman of a German religious community. For me the Basic Law is decisive. I don’t accept homosexuality personally and religiously. But at the same time I stand up against homophobia, as a Muslim.”((http://www.volksstimme.de/sachsen-anhalt/islam-mazyek-abschottung-weg-der-angsthasen))

To be sure, such a statement is not substantially different from the disconnect between, for instance, contemporary Catholic teachings on homosexuality on the one hand and the Church’s stance on the worth of the dignity of the human individual on the other hand. It does elucidate, however, why participation in a gay pride march might still be one step to far for many explicitly Islamic associations.