Jihadist homophobia… and ours

The commentators on the carnage in Orlando debate whether it is more connected to jihad or to homophobia. This exercise is pointless and damaging. A certain Islam is homophobic, period. And when the massacre is blamed on the easy weapons trade in the US, it is easy to argue that the attackers in Paris had not bought their machine guns overseas, nor did the Palestinian terrorists in Tel Aviv.

The gay community has suffered awfully, and Obama has been right to assure it of the entire nation’s support. At the same time, it is a pity that in the occasion of his strong speech the US president failed to extend his oratory beyond the word “terrorism” (already difficult for him) and “hate crime” and with courage spell out the word “Muslim” or “Islam.”

This story, unfortunately, presents no mystery, if not the instinct of a human heart turning into a monster, an executioner of innocent youngsters meeting for a drink: but this it will always remain obscure in the centuries, and in the deepest texts about the subjects of history, theatre, literature.

The slaughter carried out by Omar Mateen — the mere mention of his name is repulsive because this slaughter is exactly what the murderer and ISIS wished for — is both Islamist and homophobic, there is no contradiction.

Of course many Muslims are not homophobic, and many homophobes are not Muslims. The former (non-homophobic Muslims) need to be embraced, encouraged, and above all they must be required to act and communicate their vision, which is not the Islam of the anti-gay hatred, to their brother.

The latter, even if they have not fired a shot, should not feel above such a tragedy affecting so many human beings: the homophobes in our society do not recognize the basic issue that brings discrimination and violence: that gays have the same rights as we, we are equals. Perhaps, for our homophobes it is time to understand the desperation of the families of the victims, and also their partners’. Aren’t they equal to the “straight” young boys and girls? Indeed, they experience cruel prejudice every day, despite the democratic principle of equality that is supposed to protect them.

The map of attacks on gay people in Italy highlights that beatings and killings are a common fact. The latest cities included in the list of violence spread from north to south: Monza, Genoa, Taranto, Comiso… The root causes are not simply the stadium-shouts, as the ideological origin is clear and lies in our history, the Judeo-Christian one.

The weight of tradition is strong, and can switch from nostalgia for the patriarchal family to violence. It happens all the time, especially when the identification of the gay community comes together with the damages of “modernity”. With a commentary on Informazione Corretta (Correct Information), Angelo Pezzana reminded yesterday how the incitement to kill gay people is far more widespread than one may think, to the extent that it may be expressed almost unconsciously.

But as far as Islam is concerned, homophobia is much more institutionalized: the attack is quite explicit, and not only in the ISIS case. ISIS throws homosexuals from the roofs, sending out the pictures of such crimes to display loyalty to the Sharia law. There are many countries ruled by Sharia which hold the death penalty for homosexuals in their legal systems, and willingly practice it.

The images of hanged individuals dangling from cranes in Iran are known to everyone, numbering in the thousands. Islamic countries with the death penalty for gays include Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and Turkmenistan (only males). They equate gay sexuality to adultery, which is punished by stoning to death.

In many other Muslim-majority countries, homosexuality is illegal and entails a prison and whipping sentence, and in some cases (Iraq, for instance) the intervention of death squads. Life for homosexuals is impossible in almost all of these countries, and they frequently try to run away. For instance, it is very common to flee from the Palestinian Autonomy to Israel.

The “surahs” of the Quran and the “hadiths” are explicit in condemning homosexuality and imposing punishment. They explain that “if every woman has a demon, then a handsome young man has 17,” and compare the “children of Lot” to the worst criminals, liable to terrible punishments.

Turkey, Lebanon, and nearly twenty other Islamic majority countries (among them, Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and some African countries like Chad or Burkina Faso) have a greater tendency to accept modernity. They do not consider homosexuality a crime and discuss their traditional prejudice, still very alive.

Therefore, there are various fronts where “enlightened” people have to fight homophobia: the first is the fatal battle against the monster wielding automatic weapons and the executioner’s axe; the second is also very hard to fight. It uses beating, whipping, prison, and even death to repress homosexuality under the political cover of a sovereign state; the third is our ideological internal front against prejudice: we have seen how it can bring Christians and Jews to irrational, fatal violence against our own gay pride parades, or in our downtown pubs. To defend gay people from all these kinds of violence, is part of defending democratic society.

This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale ( 14 June, 2016)

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.
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