Like everyone else, I’m thinking about the mass shooting at the Orlando club, and I can’t put any words together. There’s hurt, there’s anger, there’s confusion – I will never understand, and I hope I never understand, why and how anyone can take another person’s life, let alone the lives of over 50 people. May God grant them all eternal Peace, may God be their Companion, aameen. For their families and friends and other loved ones, I can’t … I can’t think of what consoling words to share with them. I’m heartbroken that they have lost people they loved. I wish them strength and peace as they cope with these unbearable losses. God be with them, too, aameen.
There are several major issues that are deeply connected to this massacre. I wish I had the time to go into a lot of detail about each one, but I want to at least introduce them here. Maybe I’ll discuss them each in more detail another time, inshaAllah.
- The murderer, Omar Mateen, beat up his (ex-)wife. (He was physically, emotionally, and psychologically abusive.) This is relevant, this is important, and this matters. Way too many mass murders are committed by men with a history of violence against women, and we as a society continue to ignore the horror of domestic violence. We continue to be lenient with men who abuse their wives, girlfriends, fiancees, and other family members or other women. We continue to excuse them, finding justifications for the abuse and finding reasons to blame the women who are being abused. It sounds fairly simple to me to catch abusers so we can limit the number of crimes they can commit further.Patriarchy and homophobia are very much connected. Homophobia is a form of patriarchy.
- Omar Mateen was a frequent visitor to the club where he shot over 50 people; he also had a profile on a dating website for gay men.
Relevant story: A friend and I were talking about this, and when the man’s domestic abuse history came up, my friend said that her ex, who was extremely abusive, was probably abusive because it was his way of “owning” his masculinity – to make up for the fact that he had had sex with men before. She she wouldn’t be surprised if this guy was either gay, had at least once been involved in homosexual activities, or otherwise had some connection to this club. And then today, I read that this man was a regular at this club.So the man was most likely gay himself. In way too many communities, especially South Asian, Middle Eastern, Arab, and/or Muslim ones, because the popular idea remains that homosexuality is “haraam,” that it’s not right, many families (not all! many!) will do everything in their power to deny individuals their own sexuality, their own identity. This often includes forced marriages.Just a few months ago, a friend of mine in India asked me if I knew any Indian gay guys because he has a gay friend whose family is forcing him to marry because of his homosexual identity. Heartbreaking. Devastating.We don’t know if Omar Mateen was gay or not, but we do know that he attended this gay club where he shot people. There’s nothing surprising about gay men who deny their orientation, or who resent themselves for being gay, will kill other gay individuals. Later on some time, I’ll explain how this works, but for now, know that his happens, and it’s basically something like this: He was gay, he hated himself because of the rejection that comes with being gay in so much of the world but especially in Muslim and/or Afghan ones (he was Afghan and he was Muslim), so he struggled with his identity, with his existence, knowing that he is not only not-welcomed as who he is but is in danger for being who he is. To make matters worse, he then had to get married and have kids in order to prove that he was “man enough” (because God forbid a man be anything but a “man”!). He possibly resented anyone who could be openly themselves when he could not be, and his response to that was to attack them.
This is also why his father’s claim that Mateen saw a gay couple kissing in front of him and his wife and kids and that he later saw another gay couple kissing in the bathroom – his outward response of disgust to these gay couples is powerful: On the one hand, he has to prove that he’s not gay, but on the other, it hurts him on all levels that they can be openly themselves but he has to be married to a heterosexual woman as a non-heterosexual man.
- EDIT: Now that we know the shooter was gay himself, we must especially now start talking abt the murderous homophobia that is so real and alive in our communities, funnily enough in the name of Islam. We don’t get to dismiss the massacre as irrelevant to Islam, to Muslims, just because this means he killed “his own.” He was not a bad Muslim or not a Muslim for being gay. I was once told of a story where a gay Muslim was burned alive in Minnesota, left alone, with no one investigating the matter and no imaam coming forward to do his janaaza because you can’t perform janaaza prayers on non-heterosexual Muslims!!! This is infuriating! So, yes, the mainstream religious opinion on homosexuality has *everything* to do with the rejection of, hatred towards, and violence against the Muslim and non-Muslim LGBTQ community.
- This one’s to Muslims: You can’t condemn the murders that this man commuted while simultaneously condemning homosexuality. What happened was a homophobic crime. I wish, I wish I could say that your opinion about homosexuality is irrelevant and no one cares what you think, but it turns out, we can’t really ignore your condemnation of homosexuality anymore; we can’t ignore your opinions of homosexuality and homosexuals as disgusting, un-Islamic, haraam, condemnable, etc. These opinions can and have led to violence against individuals who identify as such, and we cannot continue to live in a world where we begin our condolences with “I disagree with their lifestyle, but …”The fact is, other people’s lifestyles aren’t yours to agree or disagree with. No one’s asking you to be gay yourself; no one’s asking you to marry a gay person. But they, like you and me, deserve to live a life of dignity, respect, recognition, love. They, like you and me, deserve to love and be loved. They, like you and me, have a right to companionship if they want it – with whomever they want.Also, imagine what it would be like to hear, in a condemnation of an Islamophobic attack, “I disagree with Islam / with Muslims’ religious beliefs, but I don’t support the violence against Muslims.” Why is that qualification even necessary? In fact, what an empty way to “support” a community. Go to hell with that “support.” Try saying a prayer of sending good thoughts to these victims and their families and loved ones without empty disclaimers like “I don’t support their lifestyle, but …” You might surprise yourself by how unnecessary that beginning statement even is.Also, there are gay Muslims in this world, too — all over this world, everywhere, in every country, maybe even every town. Your ignorance of them and your denial of them does not make them go away. They are not a problem; you are the problem for thinking that any group of people can be denied a right to life and existence and dignity just because you “don’t agree with their lifestyle” (and stop, STOP using “lifestyle” when talking about queer people!). As Muslims, as Muslims in the West in particular, we cannot demand justice for ourselves as Muslims (as Muslims alone, regarding of our sexualities) while simulations denying those same rights to people whose sexual orientation is not ours. That’s not how justice works. That’s not how solidarity works.
You can’t tell a group of people or an individual that you “disagree” with their being who they are, with their identity, but support their right to … what, exactly is it that you’re supporting again? Can they live peacefully and safely? Can they marry who they want? Can they have equal access to the spaces you have access to? Can they be welcome in mainstream communities – in mosques, in your home, in public bathrooms (!!), anywhere else you as a heterosexual are privileged to be in? If this isn’t what you’re supporting by supporting them, what exactly ARE you supporting with regards to the LGBTQ discussion? That they can’t be murdered by some random bro Abdallah? Well, yeah, of course they can’t be murdered; of course they deserve safety like you and I do. Why are you even saying that out loud?You simply can’t condemn an essential, integral part of a person’s identity, of their being, and say nonsense that begins with “but.” I get that you’re trying really hard not to be called out on your homophobia and you think you’re being progressive, but you’re in some cases actually worse than those who openly condemn and attack LGBTQ+ communities.
- In case it’s not already clear: I unconditionally, unapologetically support and value all humans who identify as LGBTIQ+ (don’t worry – I value the heterosexuals, too, so long as they’re not being bigots). I have Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, and other religious friends who are LGBTQ+, and I hurt with and for them today. (I would support them regardless of whether I had any friends belonging to this community. It’s to say that I’ve close friends who are in pain today, and I can’t imagine not valuing their lives. I just can’t.)
- If you insist that Islam and homosexuality are “incompatible” or that a person can’t be a Muslim or identify as an LGBTIQ, and if you insist on “hating the sin, not the sinner,” FYI: Some interpretations of Islam condemn homosexuality, but that doesn’t mean “Islam” condemns homosexuality. That same interpretation of Islam that condemns homosexuality also totally allows for sex slaves / female concubines, multiple wives, and *forced* child marriages. Let’s be consistent and not just take the parts that we only think are right, okay? How do you condemn their existence while denying they can be attacked, harmed, killed? How do you deny someone’s worth for who they are –LGBTQ — but at the same time think you can accept them as humans? That is in fact IF you believe they’re humans at all. How do you believe on the one hand that they are living a life that “God” disapproves of while thinking they’re not in hell once they’re dead? (This is for those Muslims saying its haraam to be gay but still praying for the victims & still believing they’re in a better place.) We are God’s vicegerents on earth; we have to fight for justice FOR ALL, we have to stand with the oppressed and against oppression. HOW does one fight for justice for a people they don’t believe have a right to live? That they believe are sinning merely by existing? I continue to wonder why it is that Islam suddenly becomes SO relevant to us when it comes to “condemning homosexuality” – when you’re dealing with real humans – but we don’t at all condemn things like domestic violence, rape, assault, theft, murders generally – things that have devastating impacts on society.
- Here are some resources to enlighten you – please read/watch:
-Scott Kugle’s books (Homosexuality in Islam: Critical Reflection on Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims, and Living Out Islam: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims) & articles on the subject (here’s an intro of the first book: http://www.safraproject.org/…/ssalhk-homosexuality…)
– an interview with Kugle: http://religiondispatches.org/coming-out-twice-sexuality…/
– for something challenging Kugle’s argument(s), check out Joseph Massad’s book Islam in Liberalism (see at least ch. 3 on this)
– Samar Habib’s books: Female Homosexuality in the Middle East: Histories and Representations (Routledge Research in Gender and Society); Islam and Homosexuality(2 Volumes Set); Arabo-Islamic Texts on Female Homosexuality, 850 – 1780 A.D.
– Kathryn Babayan and Afsaneh Najmabadi’s edited volume Islamicate Sexualities: Translations across Temporal Geographies of Desire (Harvard Middle Eastern Monographs)
– an awesome tumblr: http://iamnotharaam.tumblr.com/ (great resources listed here: http://iamnotharaam.tumblr.com/Resources)
– Film/documentary: A Jihad for Love
– Rudolf Pell Gaudio’s Allah Made Us: Sexual Outlaws in an Islamic African City
– the chapters on Islam/Muslims in the book Sexualities in World Politics: How LGBTQ claims shape International Relations (Interventions), edited by Manuela Picq and Markus Thiel
– the ch on Islam in the book Struggling in Good Faith: LGBTQI Inclusion from 13 American Religious Perspectives
– Helie and Hoodfar’s Sexuality in Muslim Contexts: Restrictions and Resistance (two chapters: Shuchu Karim’s “‘Living Sexalities”: Non-hetero Female Sexuality in Urban Middle-Class Bangladesh”; and Anissa Helie’s “Risky rights? Gender equality and sexual diversity in Muslim contexts.” (Here’s a review of the book: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/…/book-review-sexuality-in…/)-More another time. Peace!