Europe’s anti-immigrant parties are becoming more gay-friendly

Europe’s anti-immigrant parties are becoming more gay-friendly

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AMID a sea of rainbow flags, Sebastian Tynkkynen sings along to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and waves a pro-gay placard. “Christians, don’t hate us. Islam, don’t kill us” reads his sign. Like many others at an LGBT pride parade in Kokkola, a small town in Finland, Mr Tynkkynen is proud to be bisexual. Unlike most of them, he is also proud to be anti-immigrant.

Mr Tynkkynen (pictured) represents the nationalist Finns Party (formerly the “True Finns”) on the city council of nearby Oulu. He also used to lead the party’s national youth wing. Last year a court fined him €300 ($350) for inciting hatred after he wrote a Facebook post that said: “The fewer Muslims in Finland, the better.”

Mr Tynkkynen’s gay-friendly Islamophobia is not unusual. Nationalist and anti-immigrant parties in Europe’s more socially liberal countries are trying to shed their old reputation for gay-bashing. Partly, this is because they are genuinely less homophobic than they used to be. Partly, it is because voters are. But also, it gives them a handy excuse for bashing Muslims.

It started with Pim Fortuyn, a Dutch politician who was exceptionally open both about his sexuality (he once described the taste of semen on television) and his belief that Muslims would make the Netherlands less tolerant of people like himself. (He was murdered in 2002 by a non-Muslim animal-rights activist.) Today, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) has a lesbian leader in the Bundestag and its own gay wing, the Alternative Homosexuals. The openly gay Florian Philippot was the vice-president of France’s National Front until last year. He has now left the party to set up an outfit even more extreme. Paula Bieler, gender-equality spokesperson of the xenophobic Sweden Democrats, says homophobes “are not welcome in our party”.

Dropping the worst of their own anti-gay tendencies allows nationalists to project themselves as the true guardians of tolerance. They argue that Muslims represent the biggest threat to LGBT safety on Europe’s streets, and that only those prepared to curb their numbers truly have gay people’s best interests at heart. “We are the only party worried about the Islamisation of Finland,” says Mr Tynkkynen.

Sam van Rooy, a spokesman for the Flemish nationalist Vlaams Belang, declares that his party is Belgium’s most gay-friendly. “All other parties are willing to import thousands of Muslims who have very violent ideas against being gay or transgender,” he shudders.

Many gay people are wary of the populist right’s overtures. “The LGBT people convinced by this are usually wealthy gay white men. For now they are a minority, but [they] are very vocal and can cause a lot of harm,” says Viima Lampinen, the chairperson of Seta, Finland’s largest LGBT organisation. Sceptics also see it as a selective embrace. Populist parties talk endlessly about the Islamic threat to gay people but rarely bother to champion other gay issues, such as gay marriage.



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