Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Thoughts About Orlando

It's been a long time since I've posted here, partly because I've been so busy in my current role as president of Affirmation, and also partly because all of my writing energy has been going into Affirmation.org and other venues. This recent assault, however, has raised some issues that I need to process a bit, and this seems the best place to do it.

So, first of all, how do we process the fact that the person who carried out this crime was a Muslim?

A Wikipedia article on "LGBT in Islam" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_in_Islam) says that: "The traditional schools of Islamic law based on Quranic verses and hadithat consider homosexual acts a punishable crime and a sin," and that "in Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen, homosexual activity carries the death penalty."

A right wing group called "The United West" released this video of a Muslim cleric in Orlando justifying the death penalty for homosexuals:


The story was also covered on ABC:


To say this is deeply upsetting to me is the understatement of the year. Though I don't know how to contextualize Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar. Is he condemned as an extremist by the majority of Muslims? (He seems to see himself as mainstream.)

Pink News offered a ray of hope in this report that a prominent Saudi Muslim cleric is making the case that the death penalty should not be applied to homosexuals:


Neither Dr. Al-Ouda's reasoning (homosexuals are sinners and will be condemned by Allah in the next life) nor the context (which very much suggests that this cleric is the exception that proves the rule) are super reassuring. Though I've gotten used to living with people who think I'm going to hell. I can live with them so long as they're not eager to subject me to the death penalty.

Right-wing denunciations of "Muslim violence" don't reassure me either. They don't make me feel safe. For one thing, I've seen in social media a number of belligerent assertions that the fact that Omar Mateen attacked an LGBT bar was irrelevant. The only thing that is important to know about this attack, they assert, is that he was an I.S. supporter attacking Americans.

Do you understand, I want to ask these folks, that one reason I.S. hates you so much is because you tolerate us. Do you not get that you cannot disentangle virulent homophobia from these folks' anti-American motives? Or is it that you're not inclined to look at their homophobia because you're so compromised by it yourselves that you're not, after all, really committed to an America that is safe for LGBT folks in any event? Right now I'm more nervous about you guys than I am about them, because you have far more power to hurt me.

Some reports describe the perpetrator, Omar Mateen, as mentally or emotionally unstable:


Now, recent reports suggest that he was actually gay and internally conflicted about being gay:



And there, I think, is the rub.

This is the reason why Muslim homophobia -- why, in fact, any homophobia, be it Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or Mormon -- is deeply disturbing. It is not necessarily that it will inspire adherents of a particular religion to murder LGBT people. (Though, apparently, it can do that.) It is that it so profoundly distorts our view of ourselves as LGBT people to the point of this kind of insanity.

I knew something was wrong the first time I read Mateen's father's report that his son had seen two men kiss in public before the shooting and that it made him "very angry." I knew that that kind of anger, the kind that would inspire him to go on this kind of a murderous rampage, comes from somewhere far deeper and more terrifying than run of the mill hatred.

Mateen's motive, I realized, was not to kill gays, but to kill the gay within himself. Mateen pulled the trigger, again and again and again. But it was a homophobic culture (that included cultural elements from his father's Afghani Muslim culture) that aimed the gun.