Former MP for the Dutch Green party (GroenLinks) Tofik Dibi (34) announced in an interview with newspaper de Volkskrant that he is homosexual. By doing so, he has become the most well-known openly gay Muslim in the Netherlands. According to Dino Suhonic and Döne Fil, he is an important role model.
In the interview, Mr Dibi made it known that he had been struggling with his sexual orientation for years. Dibi: “I didn't know how to be Muslim and gay.” Now, he is convinced it will not make him less of a Muslim.
He describes his process towards self-acceptance more comprehensively in his recently published book Djinn. In Islamic tradition, a djinn is a supernatural being that can take possession of a person, but from which one also can be liberated. This is how he perceived his homosexuality for a long time - as something that can go away again.
In his book, Dibi makes it clear that his political ideals stood in the way of his coming out for a long time. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, he decided to become an advocate for the multicultural Netherlands. He thought he would not be able to play that role if it was known that he was attracted to men, as no one with a foreign background would listen to him anymore.
He did fight for equal rights for LGBTs and also received emails about this from homosexual Muslims, who assumed he was like-minded. “I could not be a mirror for them, but I could defend their freedom.” Dibi writes that it almost felt like the ultimate disguise. “I told myself people would think: how can someone so progressive, who thinks homosexuality if fine, keep his own homosexuality a secret? He probably isn't gay then.”
But it also felt like betrayal. “Yes, because the opposite idea was also kept alive by me: if he is afraid to say it, it has to be something terrible. This bothered me for a long time. I thought that was a horrible thing to do.”
Lesbian Muslim woman Döne Fil, project leader at COC Netherlands and co-initiator of the Turkish boat at the Canal Parade, underlines the importance of Dibi's coming out in newspaper Trouw. According to Fil it gives people who are still in the closet hope and recognition.
Dino Suhonic of Stichting Maruf – Muslim and gay himself – is also happy about his coming out. In Trouw he says: “This is wonderful. And it will create upheaval.” According to Suhonic, a well-known Dutch person like Dibi can help change things because he is part of the establishment. “This makes it hit home harder for Muslims,” Suhonic thinks.
Suhonic also thinks that this celebrity could also have a downside. He is wary of the treats Dibi may receive from fanatics. Those reactions may be harder and more biting than those Suhonic himself got, precisely because Dibi is so well-known. “In my case they can think: Who is he anyway? With him, it will be like: You are one of our own, how dare you!”.