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Orlando massacre: The progressive left and Islamist apologia

Homophobia and dogmatism in mainstream Islam allow the more insidious extremism to grow; they must be overcome

In the wake of the horrific massacre of 50 people at a gay bar in Orlando, I am increasingly finding myself between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, I am hearing Donald Trump’s worrying statements on the attack that feed into his overall generalization of all those who could be even loosely defined as Muslim as potential terrorist threats, whence his plan to ban Muslims from the United States.

But, on the other hand, I am also hearing worrying declarations, emanating from the so-called progressive left, that, not only do these attacks have nothing to with Islam (factually incorrect, since countries strictly following sharia law regularly execute homosexuals), but it is actually right-wing Christians who should be blamed. This latter position is exemplified in one tweet by Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT & AIDS Project:

Strangio is part of this growing segment of the left that does serious damage to the credibility of the left in general when it appears to be fully willing to ignore any kind of atrocity related to “Islam,” for fear of being labelled “Islamophobic.”

Strangio either does not realize or does not want to realize that 200 attempts at passing anti-LGBT bills can in no way be equated to the murder of 50 innocent lives by a self-avowed Islamist terrorist.

It bears repeating that, despite all the criticism that is due to them, it was not the Christian right that murdered 50 people in Orlando; it was an Islamist extremist who, in murdering gay people for being gay, has followed the example of numerous Muslim countries that persecute and execute gay people.

Strangio is quick to deflect attention from the actual culprit of these attacks and from the disease of homophobia that is rampant throughout the Muslim-world (even among those termed “moderate”), and to somehow place the blame on the Christian right for their 200 attempts at passing anti-LGBT bills. It would, however, have been more appropriate, given the circumstances, to fully condemn the “Muslim right.”

If, indeed, one needed more proof (beyond PEW polls on views on homosexuality throughout the Muslim-world, or first-hand accounts of LGBT-people in Muslim countries, or execution statistics of gay people in certain Muslim countries), consider that, just slightly more than two months ago, a Muslim scholar speaking in relation to homosexuality at a mosque in Orlando declared: “Death is the sentence. We know. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about this. Death is the sentence.”

There is a major problem and disease in mainstream (without even discussing extremist) Islam and ignoring this reality does no one any good. It certainly does no good to sexual minorities or free-thinkers living in Muslim countries, societies, and communities, many of whom face harassment, violence, and death on a daily basis. It will not do to make excuses and deflect away from the actual problem as did the journalist Shaun King on his Facebook page when he appeared to criticize some media outlets for calling the Orlando massacre the most deadly mass shooting in US history (instead, he cited the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890).

Certainly, it is well within King’s right to call out what he perceives as a factual error on the part of certain media outlets. But one should also note that one of his earliest reactions to the shootings was indeed to call it “the deadliest mass shooting in American history.” Unsurprisingly, and perhaps unconsciously, the moment the media picked up on the shooter’s religion, King, like many others, opted to deflect the attention by any means possible. For King, it was bringing up a massacre from 1890 and for Strangio it was blaming the Christian right.

Nevertheless, the dire problem of homophobia and dogmatism in mainstream Islam, which allows safe spaces for more insidious extremism to grow, must be tackled head-on and firmly.

About the Author
Adi S. Bharat is a student of literature, society, and politics, whose research interests include twentieth and twenty-first century French literature, far-right politics in France, and religious and ethnic minorities in France.
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