Serbia’s prime minister on Thursday said an art show featuring controversial images of Jesus was a “provocation” that contributed to the ban on Belgrade’s gay parade.
The exhibition “Ecce homo” by Swedish artist Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin, organized as part of Belgrade Pride Week, features photographs portraying Jesus among homosexuals, transsexual people and people with AIDS.
Ivica Dacic told the Beta news agency that the art show, which opened Wednesday under heavy police protection, was “a clear provocation that contributed a great deal to the ban on the pride” parade.
The prime minister also drew a comparison between the art exhibit and the US-made anti-Muslim film “Innocence of Muslims”, which sparked deadly protests across the Islamic world.
“Just imagine that we saw a caricature of Mohammed as a gay man,” he said, recalling the protests following the release of a crudely made trailer for the film.
“This is not about freedom of expression, this is a direct provocation that can destabilize relations within the country,” Dacic said, stressing that “no one has the right to make fun of religious feelings”.
Serbian authorities announced Wednesday that the gay pride march has been banned, for the second consecutive year, again citing security concerns after extremist groups issued threats.
After the ban was announced, gay pride organisers said they would hold an “indoor” gathering on Saturday, when the march would have been held.
“We demand the auhtorities reveal what kind of threats were the reason for the ban,” organiser Goran Miletic said.
He insisted that the activists would keep on preparations for a pride parade to be held next year.
“Pride is not a circus that will leave this city, and we are staying here, this is where we live,” Miletic said.
In 2010, Serbia held its first gay pride parade in a decade but violent riots followed. More than 150 people, mostly police officers, were wounded in clashes between security forces and ultra-nationalists and hooligans.