Saturday, January 05, 2008

Disco in Berlin, Germany caters to gays from Muslim countries


The New York Times, on January 1 2008, ran an article by Nicholas Kulish about homosexuals and Islam in Europe, specifically “Gay Muslims Pack a Dance Floor of their Own,” here. (may require registration or subscription). The article described monthly club night known as “Gayhane” at a disco called SO36 in the Kreuzberg area of Berlin, Germany. The article has a spectacular color picture from the dance floor. The men were said to be of Turkish or Arab background.

I had written about a news story on closeted gay life in Saudi Arabia in April, here.
Of course, this story about gay life among Muslims in Europe stands in stark relief to multiple accounts about despair and disaffection among male Muslims in Europe (particularly reported by Bruce Bawer, author of “A Place at the Table,” in his more recent book “While Europe Slept”). Muslim immigrants in Europe (and Britain) face considerable social pressure to honor ties to their home countries and to send money back home. That is less true in the United States. Christiane Amanpour has reported a lot on this issue on CNN.

I visited Berlin in May 1999 and visited several bars, which resembled bars and discos in the U.S. The largest one was the Connection, which I don’t believe is open now. I met a graduate student from the University of Birmingham in Britain who had been born in Leipzig and “escaped” to Britain while East Germany was still under Communism, and grown up essentially as a “Brit.” I’ve also met people born as Muslims who grew up in the West away from Islam, sometimes raised in other faiths (like Catholic). The Connection Disco had a “basement” in which an “museum” replication of the concentration camps was presented, a concept that might offend many visitors.

In Amsterdam, the bar that I remember well is the Soho (I also visited it in 1999), much like a US disco, with a lounge area visited by a most friendly cat who would sit in people’s laps. (I remember that the Ninth Circle in New York City used to have a “bar cat”). There is a Homomonument at Westermarkt in Amsterdam. This link describes memorials to gay victims of the Holocaust.

Picture: Atlanta Pride Parade from 2004.

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