On Sunday I got up before dawn, as is common during Ramadan, to have a small meal and pray. Although I don’t often turn on the news that early, I did that morning — and was greeted by the news of the terror drama unfolding at the Pulse in Orlando, Fla.
And immediately, as I’m sure so many others in my community did, I found myself praying once again, “Please, God, don’t let it be a Muslim.”
Once again, my prayer wasn’t answered; once again, I’m writing with a heavy heart further enraged today because so many are trying to blame a madman’s rage on my faith in order to avoid their own possible complicity in the tragic events.
It was terrorism. It was a act of terror by a Muslim who was a clearly deranged person who struck out at a marginalized group of Americans whom he hated more than he loved life — whom he hated more than he loved Islam.
It was an act of terrorism by an American against another marginalized community — one that’s been for too long victimized by other Americans.
“… I woke up to the news that 50 of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters in Orlando were massacred in what President Obama called, ‘the most deadly shooting in American history,’ ” Raymond Braun, an LGBTQ community activist, posted on social media. “This came on the heels of a bathroom being bombed earlier this week in protest of transgender people having the right to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. That could have been me in that club. That could have been my best friend in that restroom.”
To my mind, the guilty party isn’t just one person — or a religion. It’s our inability to know each other.
Yet, for too many the answer is far too easy — just say “radical Islamic terrorism.”
Just say the words and erase the history of Stonewall Inn, of Matthew Shepard — of discriminatory legislation that denies Americans the use bathrooms of their gender identity.
Pretend that there’s no complicity between politicians and the firearms industry in providing weapons to the marketplace whose sole purpose is, as retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal said, “to kill people.”
The killer was Omar Mateen, American, outsider, bullying-victim, violent wife abuser, hater, psychopath. His backup was a community of haters who have spent years painting targets on the backs of fellow Americans.
Indeed, following Orlando, I found that social media comments within the LGBTQ community included perspectives, understanding and inclusion rarely seen in many corners of our Public Square:
“Seeing lots of Muslim leaders condemning violence. Not seeing any Republican leaders condemning homophobia.”
“I refuse to let this story be about ISIS — the gunman was an American, raised on American anti-LGBT hate with access to American guns!”
“It is my duty as a Muslim to care about marginalized LGBTQIA people and issues affecting, them like violence and suicide”
“Now we get to watch politicians blame “immigrants” for the logical conclusions of their own domestic policies and hateful rhetoric”
The attack on the Pulse wasn’t an attack on a club. It was an attack against a sanctuary — just as at Stonewall Inn in 1969:
“Gay bars are therapy for people who can’t afford therapy; temples for people who lost their religion, or whose religion lost them; vacations for people who can’t go on vacation; homes for folk without families; sanctuaries against aggression,” Richard Kim wrote in The Nation. “They take sound and fabric and flesh from the ordinary world, and under cover of darkness and the influence of alcohol or drugs, transform it all into something that scrapes up against utopia.“
It was an act of hate: It was no more “Islamic terrorism” than terrorist acts by Christians are acts of “Christian terrorism” — than terrorist acts by Jews are acts of “Jewish terrorism.”
Today, we need to be suspicious of those hypocrites who call for prayers after having spent years demonizing LGBTQ people, painting targets on their backs and denying them sanctuary and equal rights. We must avoid being seduced by those hypocrites who’d try to exploit innocent LGBTQ people and use them as pawns to promote their political agenda.
“I’m even more upset that the news is investigating possible ties to Isis. This is not Isis, this is not terrorism,”joannacifredo posted. “This is about politicians demonizing a whole group of people, encouraging acts of violence with hate speech. Make no mistake this did not happen in the middle of Pride month by coincidence. This was calculated and it continues to happen because of the inaction of Congress, who refuse to pass any reasonable gun reforms. My prayers go out to the victims and their families.”
In the end we may never know what drove Mateen to commit his barbarous attack of terrorism. Was he a homophobe or a closeted, self-loathing gay man striking out of the darkness with evil in his heart, was he a conspiracist and confabulist (he once claimed membership in both Hezbollah and al-Qaida — groups that actually hate each other) or was he a lone-wolf Muslim terrorist.
In the end we must avoid being seduced by Mateen’s shout-out to ISIS that may simply have been a desperate way to justify his homicidal impulse — to give meaning to a criminal act of terrorism.
It might be too easy a way out.
As Braun noted: “Our community — and our world — needs all the love we can get. There is so much trying to divide us, to split us apart, right now … Please hug someone you love today. Please be kind to people. I genuinely believe that love conquers hate, and always will. Love you.”
Today, as we mourn, we must realize there is no easy path. We’re in this together, privileged and marginalized, cisgendered and LGBTQIA peoples, Muslims, non-Muslims — there are no separate paths, no easy way out.