Today’s guest post is a submission from Nico Lang, a regular NPS contributor. An intern at Interfaith Youth Core and a senior at DePaul University, Lang co-founded the Queer Intercollegiate Alliance and is head of campus outreach for the Secular Humanist Alliance of Chicago. His previous writing for NPS includes “Talking the ‘Hereafter’ With Atheists and Believer,” as well as posts on his personal journey as a queer agnostic interested in interfaith work, about Park51 and the state of American dialogue and on the ramifications of “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.”
When looking back over the year that was 2010, I am constantly bombarded with this phrase from media analysts, news commentators and interests on all sides of the spectrum. As just about anyone with a television knows, anti-Muslim and anti-gay hate were notable presences in the final half of our calendar year. “Bullying” became the buzzword du jour, as the media scrambled to respond to an epidemic of LGBT suicides, most notably epitomized by the Tyler Clementi scandal.
However, rather than seeing bullying as uniquely targeting the queer community and queer youth, shouldn’t we also be using it to describe what’s happening to American Muslims? For me, this year showed that homophobia and Islamophobia are not so thinly divided, that hate binds us all.
In the Muslim case, we started out the year by drawing blasphemous depictions of the Prophet of Islam. Then Fox News told us “they were building a Mosque on Ground Zero,” and even that “liberal elite” New York Times scrambledto interview people who felt like that gosh darned “Mosque” didn’t belong there. Now, Newt Gingrich wants to make America safe from Shariah law and, by extension, from Muslims.
Ask yourself: Is this not bullying?
Of course, it is. This was the year of mid-term elections so bullying and demonizing minorities once again became incredibly profitable for the Right, notably the Pam Gellers and Tea Partiers of America. Islamophobia wasn’t just spreading across the country. Groups with an interest reanointing Islam the Supreme Evil had to be spreading it.
Gays understand this phenomenon well, especially those that lived through the 2004 elections. When a right-wing group wants to drum up support for their platform, that wily homosexual agenda acts as a simple scapegoat. Although linking Tinkie Winkie’s purse to 9/11 and the downfall of America may a relic of the past, the industry of homophobia is alive and well. Just ask Tony Perkins, the American Family Association or Sarah Palin’s daughter.
Although FBI data showed that actual hate crimes are decreasing, gays still remain the most retaliated againstminority group in the country, joined by Jews and, yes, Muslims. Analysts warn that gay rights victories may increase the amount of anti-gay violence across America, just as increased Muslim visibility after Park51 led to unspeakable acts of hate. After events like stabbing of a Muslim cab driver in New York, many Muslims stated that they had never been so scared to live in America.
Gallup data further proved that their fear is justified. A majority of Americans now hold an unfavorable view of Islam, and more than a quarter identify as extremely prejudiced against the religion.
At a time when a majority of Americans likewise still believe that homosexuality is a sin, activists like Sherry Wolf believe that our struggles make gays and Muslims natural allies. Although we surely cannot excuse the anti-gay policies of fundamentalist Islamic countries like Iran, this in no way represents all or even most Muslims, and Wolf states that we must look past these divides to find common ground. Doing so is crucially important for “any oppressed people, whether…black, LGBT [or] immigrant” to fight for equality for all.
Last Spring, a dialogue between notable Chicago Muslims, like Hind Makki of the Interfaith Youth Core, and members of the Secular Humanist Alliance of Chicago (SHAC) proved that we can find the common language to be able to articulate our shared struggles. Discussing the Everybody Draw Muhammad Day controversy, the event’s Muslims and LGBTQA members of SHAC found that our perspectives were motivated by the same thing: a need to feel safe and secure in our communities.
Recently, Hind Makki put it even more succinctly. Recently, Makki devised a Twitter hash tag around the topic of “Gays and Muslims Have a Lot in Common,” and the response in the affirmative has been incredible.
As a queer activist and intern at Interfaith Youth Core, I find commonality in the struggles of Muslim allies like Hind, who chooses to wear the headscarf at a time when one simple expression of her core identity is sadly unpopular. Although choosing to lead my life as an out queer man led to some harassment and hatred, I can only imagine what life is like for Hind’s queer co-religionists.
Whether Muslim, queer or queer and Muslim, all of us just want to be true to our selves and to be respected for exactly who those people are. We want to live in a society where we aren’t wedge issues, where we have the ability to create the homes, the families and the communities we so badly want.
What this year has shown us is that we must work together to build them.
Nico Lang is the Communications Intern for Interfaith Youth Core and a Senior in International Studies at DePaul University. Nico just started up DePaul’s first film club, the DePaul A.V. Club, and represents the lone agnostic among 2010-2011′s Vincent and Louise House residents, who represent DePaul’s Catholic intentional living and social justice community. He is also the co-founder of the Queer Intercollegiate Alliance, an initiative between Chicago’s LGBT campus groups; a writer for the DePaulia newspaper; and head of Campus Outreach for the Secular Humanist Alliance of Chicago. Occassionally, Nico sleeps.