To witness the world of beauty and oneness around the funeral of the people’s champ, Muhammad Ali, last week and less than 48 hours later wake up to the horrific mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida – the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history – by a man named Omar Mateen … well, words are insufficient to express how so very awful, sad and horrible this all is.
It’s so very Pollyanna of me to say so, but I just don’t get why it’s so difficult for people to be, well, nice. Why can’t humans be nice to each other no matter how we choose to live? We don’t have to respect/like the way each other lives, loves or each other’s belief systems, but we darn well better respect each other’s right to choice, right to live however we want (as long as others aren’t harmed by that living) and the beauty of humanity in general.
Is that so hard?
The facts, thus far, are these: The shooter was 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who was living in Port St. Lucie, Fl. He has a firearm license and received a security officer license in both 2011 and 2013. He didn’t have a criminal record. At 2 a.m., Mateen, carrying a handgun and an assault-style weapon, opened fire in Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., killing at least 50 people and wounding at least 53 others.
Law enforcement are saying the shooting was “well planned” and “organized.” Orlando sheriff Jerry Demings called the shooting “a domestic terror incident,” and the FBI said they were investigating whether the suspect acted as “a lone wolf” or had any ties to terror groups abroad. Also, Mir Seddique, Mateen’s father, told NBC News, that his son got angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami a couple of months ago and that his horrific reaction did not stem from religion, but from his hatred of gays.
However, in the three-hour standoff with law enforcement, Mateen called 911 shortly before the attack to pledge allegiance to ISIS and mentioned the Boston Marathon bombers, according to a U.S. official.
The Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity issued a statement, saying:
There is no religious justification or precedent in Islam for mass shootings targeting any population, regardless of identity, nor is there justification in American law or values. This tragedy is a reminder of the terrible harm that can result from the wide availability of guns and explosives. The proliferation of guns facilitates acts of violence by individuals whose own values conflict with those of most Muslims and most Americans which hold human life to be sacred. With that in mind, we call for a renewal of the national conversation around strengthening gun control.
This tragedy cannot be neatly categorized as a fight between the LGBTQ community and the Muslim community. As LGBTQ Muslims, we know that there are many of us who are living at the intersections of LGBTQ identities and Islam. At moments like this, we are doubly affected. We reject attempts to perpetuate hatred against our LGBTQ communities as well as our Muslim communities. We ask all Americans to resist the forces of division and hatred, and to stand against homophobia as well as against Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry. Let us remember that the actions of a single individual cannot speak for all Muslims. Let us also remember that there are many straight Muslims who have been strong allies to the Muslim LGBTQ community. We see the beauty in our cultures and our faith traditions, and we have experienced love, acceptance and support from many in our Muslim communities.
Over on AlterNet, Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum founder Darakshan Raja reminded us that “Homophobia, transphobia and patriarchy kills on a daily basis. All of us must do better to show up for the LGBTQI/gender non-conforming communities and end this violence. Simultaneously, we need to be careful of the narrative around the shooter. Islamophobia won’t fight homophobia/transphobia, especially when these systems are interconnected.”
The statements are pouring in, from CAIR National, the Madina Institute USA, ADAMs Center, ISNA and other national organizations. Do check out this press conference held by CAIR National. As much as one might disdain statements of solidarity and condemnation, I feel they are needed on a national and international stage. But, it would do good to also remember the frank words of writer Michael Muhammad Knight, who said this in a Facebook update:
I am not interested in reading condolences or condemnations from Muslim leaders who are homophobic every other day of the year and who, after advocating “cure the gay” therapy, claiming that “porn turns you gay,” and refusing to call trans women by their names, want to imagine that they have not contributed to the perception of LGBT people as deserving of violence.
Not listening to the shuyukh who think of themselves as benevolent forces for saying, “Sure you can be a Muslim and gay; after all, there are Muslims who are liars, Muslims who are bank robbers, etc.” At the same time, let’s resist the myth of “the West” as this happy safe gaytopia, in which hatred and violence are imagined as coming from somewhere outside, some evil cloud of Muslim Others. This was a thoroughly American act.
It’s long past time for all of us to take hard look at ourselves as individuals, leaders and organizations. For a community that has been marginalized and oppressed and target, especially in the past year, how is the Muslim community standing up for other marginalized, oppressed and targeted communities? We don’t all need to have the same beliefs. But on one thing we need to be united: violence is violence. And violence is wrong. Period. And, the actions of one person does not represent an entire community.
Said Altmuslim founder Shahed Amanullah:
In the days after 9/11, the LGBT community was one of the earliest defenders of American Muslim rights. They have since been steadfast defenders of Muslims in today’s climate of hostility, and I’m happy to say Muslim communities have been increasingly returning the favor. In the face of what happened in Orlando, a strong message needs to be sent at this time to the LGBT community that their Muslim neighbors value them and will defend their safety, rights, and participation in our society. Anything less will give ammunition to the increasing voices of hate toward both the LGBT and Muslim communities.
Journalist Wajahat Ali, in a Facebook update, added:
I believe this a moment for straight Muslims to aggressively and sincerely assert their solidarity with the LGBT community, not for sake of politics, talking points and expedient alliances, but around shared values and visions of creating an America where no one is hazed, victimized, brutalized or murdered simply for “being.”
Their struggle for freedoms and equality is our struggle is the American struggle. Period. We should denounce the draconian and unnecessary anti-LGBT legislation that is being introducing in several states around the country just like LGBT members have routinely denounced Trump’s anti Muslim bigotry and the anti-Sharia legislation for years. This is what it means to be American.
My friend Paul Raushenbush, with whom I worked with during my years at Beliefnet, is the senior vice president of engagement at Auburn Seminary and former religion editor at Huffington Post. He offered this eloquent perspective:
… We have a love crisis in our country. Our heart isn’t beating right. Our arteries clogged with clots of distrust and hate. The devil smiles as tears scald, burn, and slice. Queer lives are vanquished and points are scored. We have a love crisis in this country. It is a scarce commodity.
How hard it is to follow the mandate of love today, how corrosive and tempting the call of fear and hate and revenge. But on this day, as hard as it is, I will cling to the mandate to love because I have no other choice. I will trust, as Martin Luther King, Jr. did that love has a redemptive power. I will love because Jesus tells me to love my enemies.
It will not bring the pulse back to the lives of those who have died. But I will love so that I might resuscitate the pulse of our country. I will love as an act of defiance as a queer man, that we will not be silenced. I will love in honor of all those throughout history who have loved and felt silenced and alone. I will love my Muslim neighbors who feel vulnerable, I will love those who would do my friends and neighbors harm. I will love until my own pulse stops, with the prayer that my love might be more powerful than death.
Today I mourn and honor the lives of those who have died with my pulsing heart beating an insistence of love.
At this time we have a few things we can do as a community:
The Orlando area are calling for blood donations. Go and donate blood, if you are in the area. I’m not a doctor, but I think you should still be able to do so while fasting, or try and go after breaking fast.
Donate to this LaunchGood campaign, started by Ali Kurnaz, to help the victims and their families of the Pulse nightclub shooting. According to the campaign literature: “All fundraising proceeds will help with the immediate, short-term needs of the grieving families. No amount of money will bring back the loved ones. But we do hope to lessen their burden in some way.”
Show support. Any way you can. As always, pray for guidance, forgiveness, clarity and peace for humanity.