On the Orlando Mass Shooting – and a note to Muslims who condemn homosexuality

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.)
  6. 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.
  7. HaqHere 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!

9 thoughts on “On the Orlando Mass Shooting – and a note to Muslims who condemn homosexuality

  1. I can’t imagine why anyone would do this. This is the worst hate crime against LGBT people in all of American and probably world history. Everything about this makes the world worse. How anyone could think this is a good thing or this is Islamic?

    Make me sick to my stomach. Now dozens of families are devastated and young lives are ruined.


    • ❤ I just … I just can't believe anyone can be capable of this much hate, this much violence. And then to commit that violence in the name of a Creator that created everything and everyone?! HOW even!! This world is in such danger it's hopeless.


  2. Orbala, I am a huge fan of your writings and usually agree with most of what you say. But in this case, I think you’re a bit off the mark. Lecturing Muslims on their opinions on homosexuality while those opinions are still in the mainstream of Islam is not going to be constructive to winning them over. I’m NOT talking about violence (that should not even need to be said), but just about whether or not they approve/agree with homosexuality. I mean, if people just chose to believe whatever they want despite what their religion says, then what’s the point of religion (not saying this is MY view, but I think this a valid question)? Sure, we can and should challenge those mainstream interpretations, but with the realization that we do not have the weight of moral authority (i.e. centuries of tradition and an overwhelming weight of scholarship) behind us. As a liberal Muslim, the most I can do is to say, ‘God knows best, it’s not my place to judge’, or ‘I don’t know enough to have a firm stance’. I do not want to reject homosexuality as I believe in personal freedom, but I cannot embrace it either while still accepting that Islam has some validity/relevance in my life. This goes for some of the other troubling issues you mentioned as well, btw. Maybe Islam needs a reformation to completely remove those things, but it hasn’t happened yet. I feel that getting people to say “I disagree with that behavior but I respect their right to choose for themselves (again, not even touching the ‘supporting violence’ part, as that is extremely easy to refute)” would be a HUGE step forward. Most conservative Muslims don’t even think in those ‘live and let live’ terms (that does not mean that they are all horrible people, btw). In the same vein, I’ve seen plenty of anti-Islam people, and I would be perfectly happy if they said a similar thing about Muslims. You cannot police people’s opinions about, or right to disagree with, something. But you can try to get them to see how it’s in everyone’s best interest, in a society, to allow people the freedom to choose. Because if today I’m against something, tomorrow it might be me who’s being repressed (this is infinitely harder in Muslim-majority societies, especially one-sect majority). Sorry if this post was a bit rambling, hope I conveyed the gist of what I wanted to. Would love to hear your thoughts.


    • 1. Anti-homosexuality positions are not divine; if we’re going to be homophobic, we have no right to attribute our homophobia to GOD – you can attribute it to humans’ impositions on God’s words and God, but not to God.
      2. Some Muslims are hesitant to acknowledge that saying nonsense like “hate the SIN, not the sinner” is actually very homophobic (or queer-phobic), very dangerous, very harmful, very oppressive, very exclusionary to those who identify as queer, and their reason is that, supposedly, “Islam” supports their stance to stand against the existence and inclusion of LGBTQ+ communities. Uh. No. Attributing our phobias to God doesn’t make the phobia any less of a phobia.
      3. The same “texts” (not the Qur’an – the Qur’an actually doesn’t condemn homosexuality; that homophobia is read into the Qur’an, and it’s borrowed from other traditions and is not inherent to the Qur’an) that are used by many Muslims to claim “Islam” is against queerness must acknowledge the following, too:

      That same textual tradition says it’s ok to have slaves, its ok for men to have multiple wives AND infinite sex slaves (way to find a loophole for the whole “no sex outside of marriage” business) – it’s not allowed, unless you’re a man), that gay people are to be killed, that people (only free people, not slaves) who leave Islam are to be killed, that it’s ok for men to beat up their wives & use the Qur’an to justify that claim, that women are too stupid to be leaders or hold positions of authority, that men can marry non-Muslims but women cant because we’re stupid, that there will be more women in hell because we menstruate & are disobedient & ungrateful towards our husbands, that we must have sex with our husbands no matter where we are and how we’re feeling or we go to hell and invite the wrath of the Angels for not having sex with our husbands when they demand it, that women can’t travel alone, that forced child marriage is totally allowed, and so on.

      We can’t ignore – better, reform, oppose – those parts of the tradition we’re invoking and presenting falsely as “divine” or “from God” or “Islamic” and then hold on so tightly to only the anti-homosexuality stance of that same tradition.

      How did slavery end? People had to fight for it to end. How has the popular opinion on child marriage changed (not entirely and not universally but in many Muslim communities)? People had to challenge the status quo; people had to challenge the traditional position of the unanimous legal position that little girls can be married, with or without their consent but especially without their consent. And so on with all the other issues. Similarly, in many communities today, the dominant position on LGBTQ+ identity is welcoming, inclusive, respectful towards LGBTQ+ individuals – only because people had to fight for justice for this community.

      This stuff doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Just because it’s the status quo or because some traditional texts historically support bigotry does *not* make it right. What’s right and wrong is always changing, and we have to be open to the fact that our traditions are not always moral or ethical or right and that they have a bunch of problematic points that must be fought against. The popular stance on homosexuality is one of those.

      For future commenters (and to those whose comments are not being published): Yeah, I’m not tolerating any more of this nonsense. You may not comment any further on this subject in this space. Claiming that just because a bunch of “scholars” you like support your views – that are exclusionary, oppressive, violent (which, by the way, they even do support the murder of homosexuals) – does not make it a) God’s position, and b) any less homo/queer-phobic. So in the interest of *real* humans with *real experiences* with the kind of views that you’re being allowed to (mis)present as “Islamic” because “hate the sin not the sinner,” I will not be allowing any more comments that are exclusionary like this. This is exhausting; your views are oppressive, and not recognizing them as oppressive yourself does not make them any less oppressive. So no more of this. And I don’t apologize for not allowing you to espouse those views, that hate, that rejection, that exclusion *in God’s name* in this space. That doesn’t mean you take your hate elsewhere. Please, please don’t take that hate and that exclusionary opinion anywhere else, either. Think about it, evaluate it, be critical of it, and challenge yourself to be respectful, to be open-minded. Ask yourself if your phobia is indeed founded on some religious teaching or if it’s just familiar territory. Ask yourself why you don’t as openly stand against real problems like violence against women, child abuse, etc. that all religions agree are wrong but you are so despicably vocal only about homosexuality. Ask yourself why you don’t mock, hate, condemn, and shame rapists, etc. when all religions are against these crimes and sins, but you mock non-heterosexual men. Ask yourself why are you so selective in what you believe your religion allows and doesn’t allow. And then effing change your opinion and become a decent human and recognize the oppression of LGBTQ+ communities and support their struggles for equal spaces, equal recognition, equal rights.


      Liked by 1 person

  3. Salam alekoum- First of all, thank you for writing this! I remember waking up to such tragic news – perhaps the only potentially positive outcome of the Orlando shooting was the he increased awareness of the Queer Muslim community – a community that many did not know existed (or care to acknowledge) prior to the horrific terrorist attack. It’s important to remember that hate, prejudice and extremism have and still do exist in many societies (including our own here in the US, a fact often forgotten). However for all of this hatred, there are many people from all religions, cultures and countries who stand up against it. At least that’s what I try to remind myself of on daily because it’s sometimes difficult to not become overwhelmed by such cruelty and negativity. You’re right- the “hate the sin but love the sinner” argument is equally homophobic, demeaning and condescending.

    I’m looking forwards to reading more of your posts (off to bed for now)!


  4. Pingback: Can Muslims Respect Female Scholars Of Islam? – Today's News

  5. Pingback: the homophobic activism of (muslim/other) academics need to end asap. | Freedom from the Forbidden

  6. Pingback: Same-Sex Intimacy / Homosexuality in Islam: A Summary of Ch. 5 of Kecia’s Ali’s Sexual Ethics & Islam | What the Patriarchy?! – Freedom from the Forbidden

You're welcome to share your thoughts - but I don't accept bigotry and don't publish all comments <3

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s