After organisers were forced to cancel the second Pride march in Bosnia, Muhamed Velic, a well known imam has drawn the ire of critics after declaring the cancellation “a grain of happiness” in the age of coronavirus.

“The media informs us that the homosexual parade in Sarajevo has been postponed due to the coronavirus,” Velic, who has close to 75,000 followers, wrote on Facebook.

“In every misfortune and tragedy there is also a grain of happiness, goodness and beauty.

“Thank Allah for everything. May dear Allah grant so that the crown and gay parade will never return to our city and country!” he added.

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 The comments have resulted in widespread public backlash. The spiritual leader of Muslims in Bosnia, The Office Of The Grand Mufti, moved quickly to distance itself from Velic following the comments.

Speaking with Radio Free Europe Muhamed Jusic, an adviser to the Grand Mufti, made it clear that, “This is (Velic’s) personal position and it is not the position of the entire Islamic community” 

While the countries record on LGBTQI issues may be poor, with same-sex partnerships still not legally recognised. In April of this year the government of one of Bosnia’s two entities, the Federation, appointed a working group to draft legislation that would regulate the rights of same-sex couples. This year’s Pride March in the country’s capital city Sarajevo was to be the second such event.

Organisers of the event, in a statement released last week said, We emphasise 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 organisation of LGBTQI public events.”

Both LGBTQI individuals and activists have shared in an often violent history of oppression and push back from Bosnian and Herzegovina society, meaning both the cancelation of this year’s Pride March and the comments Muhamed Veli have surely landed as heavy blows.

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