Oslo’s annual gay pride parade followed a route through the city’s largely Muslim district of Grønland this year, but it didn’t provoke any conflicts as some feared. Thousands turned out to watch the peaceful promotion of gay rights.
Last year’s parade (Fotoglif photo at right) went along the traditional route in the heart of downtown, but organizers this year pointedly opted to steer the annual event through an area that has been depicted as intolerant. Last winter, the Grønland district was the focus of reports over its alleged “Muslim morality police” that has harassed gays, women not considered to be properly dressed and others.
Some feared a gay pride parade through Grønland would spark conflicts or even violence, but that didn’t happen.
“This is fine for me,” one local resident, Shaban Hussein, told newspaper Aftenposten. “Everyone should have their rights.” Added another: “I’m Muslim and don’t accept homosexuality, but we live in an open society here.”
As transvestites came face to face with women wearing head scarves and long robes, there were few if any hostile confrontations.
“We wanted to show that Grønland isn’t just known for its morality police,” said top city politician Stian Berger Røsland of the Conservative Party. He led Saturday’s parade, and noted that the peaceful atmosphere “showed the real Grønland.”
An estimated 5,000 specators gathered to watch the colorful parade, but this year most of its participants opted for conventional summer clothing and not the flamboyant costumes of years past. Two of Norway’s most well-known gay rights pioneers, Kim Friele and Wenche Lowzow, wore traditional Norwegian folk costumes known as the bunad, and were hailed for their 60-year-long effort to promote gay rights.
“I think it’s great that the parade went through Grønland,” Friele told Aftenposten. “Not to provoke people, but because it’s a neighbourhood that’s also a part of Oslo.
“We must not forget that we’ve spent 40 years trying to get the state church to be more tolerant as well,” she added, noting that it wasn’t easy being gay in ethnic Norwegian neighbourhoods in earlier decades either. She claimed that Muslim gays “are where we were 60 years ago.”