A football tournament played in Holland yesterday pitted a gay team against a Muslim team in a bid to promote tolerance.
Frank Van Dalen, chairman of a collection of Dutch gay groups said: “There is tension between the gay and Muslim communities and a lot of this tension comes from ignorance.” Watching the game from the sidelines he commented “We want to show we can live with each other.”
Though the Dutch are proud of their liberal attitude on issues such as gay marriage, the murder of Pim Fortuyn, an openly gay and anti-immigration public figure brought homophobia firmly into the public debate. A survey published last week showed that 40% of gay people polled feared that aggression towards them was on the rise. Homophobic attitudes have been blamed on the growing Dutch immigrant community, in particular on Muslims who make up 6% of the country’s population.
Rotterdam council official Imad el Kaka, noted that discrimination from Muslims towards gay members of their community was intense. “Family structure is so incredibly important for those with a Muslim background. They want to switch off their homosexual feelings so as to not undermine the family structure.” He expressed his concern that “Many people believe it is a sickness, a Western sickness that can be cured by turning away from Western society.”
Gilbert Isabella, a Labour politician from Utrecht, spoke of his fear that: “Discrimination, intolerance and aggression … are increasing, particularly in schools.” He drew on his own experiences to tell a conference formed to debate inter-community tolerance that many Muslim youths were homophobic and unwilling to have a gay friend.
Back on the pitch, and after a dramatic battle, the score: 4-0 to the Muslim team.
Van Dalen walking back to the changing rooms to congratulate the teams said: “It’s not about winning and losing. It’s about having fun together.”