Islam’s Homophobic Teachings Cannot Be Ignored as a Factor in the Orlando Mass Shooting

Hiba Krisht posted a series on Facebook asking us not to ignore the part Islamic teachings on homosexuality played in the horrific shooting at the Pulse. LGBTQIA Muslims and ex-Muslims all too often get erased, their struggles ignored, as we try to counter Islamophobic bigotry. It’s important that we recognize the dangers and challenges they face, even as we rightly point out that Muslims at large shouldn’t be attacked for the actions of a few.

This is not impossible. We manage not to target Christians for bigotry even as we argue against toxic ideas and teachings within Christianity. Finding the way to thread this needle starts with listening to the voices of LGBTQIA Muslims and ex-Muslims.

Hiba has given me permssion to collect and post her series here. Please add her blog to your regular rotation.

June 12 at 9:48am

Dissent against anti-Muslim bigotry is encouraged and required, as is dissent against all bigotry.

But do not in your dissent erase the plight of those who suffer from homophobia in Muslim communities.

If it’s unfair for the average Muslim to have to shoulder the burden of this publically, it’s also unfair for the suffering queer Muslim or ex-Muslim to have to shoulder it silently.

June 12 at 10:15am

IT IS NOT GOOD OR USEFUL TO ANYONE TO PRETEND THERE IS NOT AN ACTIVELY FOSTERED CULTURE OF HOMOPHOBIA IN MUSLIM COMMUNITIES, DRIVEN BY MUSLIM CULTURAL VALUES. OBSCURING TRUTH IS NOT A SOLUTION. THIS DOES MORE HARM THAN GOOD.
I’m about to lose it. Too many. Too many posts in my feed like this. I can’t. I can’t.

June 12 at 11:21am

Suddenly thinking about the way the Orlando shooting would have been *celebrated* once heard about it in the community I grew up in. And all the things I’d hear the victims gleefully called while I had to keep my mouth shut about it.

Cause I’ve seen their reactions to news of american shootings and lgbt people killed too many times before to not know how it’s playing out.

Just some perspective on hate. *deep shrug*

Hiba Bint Zeinab shared DEARBORN AREA COMMUNITY MEMBERS’s photo.

June 12 at 4:52pm

And the flipside. Every Muslim – presenting person in America, including those victimized by homophobia in their communities, will have to watch out because of shit like this.

Image is a set of tweets from Adam Lionsbane (@WWCrusade). Top tweet reads "19500 ford Rd Dearborn Michigan. Largest muslim mosque in USA. #CrusadeAmericaCleanagain." Bottom tweet reads, "We must execute the Muslim scum! Full on eradication! Genetic weapons unleashed,the filth shall be erased! Rise up #Crusaders."

June 13 at 9:47am

Apparently virulent homophobia and a penchant for gun violence are uniquely American things and I never fucking knew.

But then again I am being slowly taught that All Modern Sin Comes From White Folks and Brown Folks Have No Blame Er I Mean Agency.

June 13 at 10:57am

I just want everyone denying that Omar Mateen’s religion could have had something critical to do with this to consider that their words are being read by queer Muslims and ex-Muslims who have already swallowed a thousand instances of erasure of a real force of oppression in their lives in the last day alone, and who are not able to say damn shit about it without outing themselves. Folks who grew up with a culture of virulent homophobia actively fostered in their homes, schools, and mosques. Folks who have been beaten, dehumanized, and disowned by their Muslim families for failing to adhere to gender roles and for their sexuality. People who’ve grown up hearing their community leaders and reading religious texts denouncing them and deeming them worthy of violence and execution, people including immigrants and the children of immigrants who hail from and summer in countries where gay sex is a capital offense and they can be arrested and tortured or worse for any suspected homosexual activity.

Y’all have no fucking idea and it’s making us damn sick.

June 13 at 4:33pm

Someone on a thread asked “what can allies do” type question re: the problem of modern Muslim homophobia and I guess I’ll paste my response. I wish we had real answers but here tis:

Its a broader issue than what allies can do I think. Since the news unfolded the scope of the problem has seemed to me to far transcend what happens on American soil.

I agree with people on my end who have been saying that the battle to humanize the bodies of women and queer people needs to be taking place in Kabul and Karachi and Khartoum and Baghdad and Beirut and Benghazi concurrently with this one, and not just by the English-and-French- speaking bourgeois and elite citizen of the Muslim world, the one like me and everyone else having this out on Facebook and in the media, but in Arabic and Farsi and Urdu and Pashto etc. That the metropolitan battle against Islamophobia in the west ties hand in hand with local battles against our own vicious honor codes condemning sexual and gender “deviants”. That’s our problem and we need to step the fuck up. We also need to be critical of the very critical theory subsuming our struggles for freedom and equality under some western colonialist agenda, critical of the heroes we find in our Edward Saids and Joseph Massads when they are insufficient to address the totality of our local shame and pain and our deeply complex political realities. Especially when we know we need only turn to Arabic speaking twitter and the aljazeera arabic Facebook page to see thousands gleefully celebrating the deaths of lgbt people while calling them slurs it makes me tremble to even consider translating. The scale and ubiquity of the problem is is in a very real sense only ours to access, and this only ours to be dealt with.

Another part of it is good self-examination here in America, cleaning house. The American Muslim community collective is understandably deeply protective of its own insularity, given how often and unjustly it is put under assault. But too long has unjust victimization provided cover for the rampant human rights abuses within the community itself. Things you don’t know about unless you’re part of secret groups full of Americans and Canadians from widely varying Muslim communities living deeply closeted double lives they can’t risk their communities knowing about. The American Muslim community collective today needs to learn to react with critical self-examination instead of knee jerk move to disavowal (eg “this is not the true Islam!” while mosque loudspeakers continue to condemn homosexuality as a mortal sin, and “this is a western conspiracy to make Islam look bad!” while lgbt youth tolerate domestic violence and shaming from their families whose spokespersons say these things). There is too much moving of goalposts, too much willingness to shed all responsibility and put it all on the other factors (which are important and also need addressing).

But it’s a thing deeply rooted in our fundamental stances on gender and sexuality, in the mainstream Muslim conception of family structure and sexual permissiveness and normative community structure. The attempt to divorce discourse from violence does not address those, but instead (and this is definitely reflected in the shooter’s father’s sentiments) divorce the notion of sexual deviance from that of worldly punishment. When they still largely advocate that homosexual lifestyles are fundamentally sinful while providing the caveat that it’s a matter for god to deal with in the next life rather than one of vigilante justice, the basic problem of linking human and moral worth to sexuality persists. The stated disavowal for vigilante justice doesn’t remove the deep stigma and shame, the urge to disown and dehumanize and denounce people viewed as sexually deviant in cultures where sexual misconduct is one of the worst sins imaginable. This is a very cursory characterization of the problem, but just meant to describe how much of an internal issue there is.

For allies, I know it’s difficult and I know it’s super hard to point out the right things without also risking inadvertent racialization of an already heavily racialized group. It’s just as fucked for those of us inside of it tho, especially those who are queer and from Muslim backgrounds (I’d say Muslim-presenting instead of Muslim here because we receive bigoted anti-Muslim hate even when we’re atheists long disowned by our communities due to our names, languages, ethnic backgrounds). It seems like there is always some measure or another of tradeoff we have to juggle and it FUCKING SUCKS.

But. Some things to consider: in insular communities of any sort, those who dissent are liable to be the most silenced and invisible– so awareness that you may not be getting the whole picture is key. Minorities within minorities (eg silenced, suffering queer folks, dissenting women, apostates) do not have public advocacy the way Muslims against Anti-Muslim bigotry do. And the unfortunate, heart wrenching truth is that epidemics of silent abuse and violence under misogynistic, homophobic ideals (eg honor violence, FGM, forced purity culture, hijab et al) actually *flourish* under the same protectiveness trying to shield Muslim communities from bigotry, and this is definitely something powerful families or community leaders rely on. A hesitation to examine or condemn is itself proving to be achingly, damningly harmful.

And I’m not sure what the solution is beyond trying to raise awareness among the allies that may be inadvertently enabling this.

Thinking about it, thinking about it though.

June 14 at 6:11am

Just want to clarify that when I talk about Muslim homophobia, I ain’t talking about a necessarily political Islamist affiliation, or the ideology of a deeply devout practioner of the faith, what you’d call a ‘fundamentalist’. I’m talking about mainstream, normalized bigotry. I’m talking about a widespread notion that lgbt folks are gender and sexual deviants, a normalized disgust and intolerance of them that bears into tenets of faith, yes, and into politics, yes, but that is not by any means limited to any of that, that floats deep and wide and heavy in the community and culture, such that we all know a hundred non-practicing Muslims or meh-sometimes Muslims who don’t care overmuch about rites or politics, who don’t have qualms over the fact that they fornicate, and who perhaps hang out at bars themselves, but who harbor a deep, hostile aversion to queer folks that very much has to do with how gender and sexuality and the family structure were always talked about in their mosques and homes. Heck, my little brother is one of those folks–I don’t even know if he properly believes in Islam anymore, but he’s sure as hell retained the misogyny and homophobia of his Muslim upbringing.

There does not need to be an overt, conscious adherence to the practical tenets of a particular strain of Islam or the ideals of a particular political Islamist group for Muslim homophobia to persist.

June 14 at 7:54am

I don’t understand how there can be question about whether there was Muslim influence. It’s so very basic.

We either do or do not concede that if one is homophobic, being immersed in a culture of homophobia likely influences those homophobic ideals.

If we do not, we can’t talk about the Christian right or anti-lgbt bills anymore here either. But those denying that Mateen’s religion likely has anything to do with it are basically saying it is a widespread culture of American homophobia (among other lovely bits of USian experience) responsible. If we claim that, then we concede that surroundings matter in influencing bigotries.

If we do concede that, then we must acknowledge that Omar Mateen was part of more than one community, and in key aspects of his life closer to one community than another. And as per the above, any community steeped in homophobia that he is part of would likely influence his homophobia.

Then, we either do or do not concede that modern mainstream Muslim culture is steeped in homophobia. This does not require any individual to be aligned with a political Islamist ideology or to be a fundamentalist or to even really be practicing, or to not be struggling with the faith or even, I’ll say, have any faith at all– examining Mateen’s patterns of practice and his understanding of political Islamist ideology is a red herring to the question of whether he was influenced by surrounding Muslim homophobia. He no more needs to be scrupulous than someone raised in a conservative Christian community in the bible belt needs to go to church for their homophobia to be influenced by their culture. In the case of Islam, socialized homophobia need only involve the civil aspects of Muslim tradition being strongly heteronormative, establishing a gender binary, and opposed to any sexual conduct not within the confines of a nuclear heterosexual family as a matter of moral normativity. The details are where it gets most ugly to be sure, but we need only concede the above. And we either do or we do not.

If we do not, then damn. We’re deeply ignorant or in denial aren’t we?

If we do, then we are forced to conclude that Mateen was likely influenced by Muslim homophobia as well as American homophobia and perhaps American authoritarianism/fascism.

And remember, those of us clamoring to make sure the Muslim influence isn’t deliberately denied or obscured are really trying to do exactly what the rest of you are: fix shit before it gets worse. The key claim isn’t LET’S BLAME ISLAM. The key claim is “there is a real and urgent problem with homophobia in modern Muslim communities that needs to be addressed and PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING IN SILENCE because of it.”

And I don’t believe I have to say it but since someone “pointed out” that this can’t be much of a problem because the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not commit mass murder, here’s another analogy cause y’all can’t seem to see the double standards without direct comparisons:

Most men in America did not commit mass murder a la Elliott Rodger either, yet we know he was driven by a deep and common misogyny. The difference is that there isn’t consistent outright denial from liberal factions that misogyny is a deeply rooted problem in American culture that needs addressing in the same way there is avoidance of acknowledging any rampant problem within Muslim American communities. Muslims aren’t committing mass murder every day, but they *are* shaming denouncing disowning beating confining their children for being gender and sexual “deviants” every day and it’s a damn epidemic outsiders don’t see and even something like THIS isn’t getting people to pay damn attention.

June 14 at 9:17am

This was in response to someone expressing exasperation that people seem to think Mateen ought to have been particularly practicing for his homophobia to be influenced by his religion, “Like, do they think homophobic Christians aren’t having premarital sex and are tithing 10%?”

I have some thoughts on that line of thinking. This is mostly conjecture, but I wonder:

It seems the initial thought or interpretation when someone cites Islam as an influence in an act of violence is that it must have to do with political Islamism or fundamentalism.

And it’s hard for them to conceptualize of potential Muslim danger, for lack of a better word, being rooted in cultural attitudes about civil matters rather than something meta about Islam vs Some Other, some kind of essentialist mission or purpose in the name OF Islam.

I feel like what I have been trying to say for years is that the deepest, most ubiquitous, and most pressing Muslim danger is not what most would characterize as terrorism or political Islamism, but something more akin to how people understand misogyny or racism in the west, threading through actual communities in a thousand instances of injustice and private violence. That most of it and the most endemic of it is from within. And by endemic i mean this: i would not claim that mainstream Muslim communities are steeped in authoritarianism/fascism the same way I say they are with homophobia. Many of them surely are (including the one I grew up with), and for those that are it is deeply binding thru jurisprudence and more. But it’s not a mainstream problem. The common, deep bigotries that cause FGM and purity culture (hijab version) and a culture of homophobia and deep tolerance for domestic violence against women and children and everything honor-specific that fucks everyone’s lives up … that’s where the greatest danger of Islam lies in my view. And it’s always what I think of first.

But westerners, they think of terrorism and fundamentalism first I think. And so when someone decries a problem as of particularly Muslim influence, if it doesn’t fit the terrorist Islamist model it might seem blatantly false. The irony is that it’s their own urge to be critical of this Islamic terrorism thing as a caricature of Muslim culture that creates a projected false dichotomy.

Just a theory tho.

June 14 at 9:42am  

Gosh I really can’t let this go. So someone “didn’t see the point in specifying” religious influence on homophobia, since we know its homophobia that needs addressing, citing the fact that Muslims are being scapegoated by the right and they shouldnt risk adding to that. This is what i was gonna respond before i couldn’t for logistical reasons. I got salty. I AM salty:

Not seeing the point in specification sounds like how the All Lives Matter folks don’t see a point in focusing on black lives (thx again Kaveh)

We’re trying to tell you that there is a Muslim – specific problem with homophobia (oh among all sorts of other nasty things you have the privilege of not having to think about) that NEEDS to be addressed and that is consistently glossed over and obscured. If you think that there is some overarching way of remedying homophobia across cultures and creeds WITHOUT addressing the particulars of its manifestations in certain social structures and communities, without an explicit push for Muslim communities to clean house and examine their own deep bigotries, then you are sorely unacquainted with the nature of the problem and are ill – equipped to judge whether it needs addressing. There is no way to do lgbt activism in Muslim communities without a Muslim – specific approach. If you cannot bring yourself to support this then at least lend us your silence instead of contributing to the thousands of voices erasing a real force of oppression in the lives of people already invisible and caught up in deep double lives in insular communities– the same communities always shielded from criticism by the most clueless wellmeaning outsiders. If you think the most marginalized of the most marginalized deserves to be thrown under the bus in order to protect a broader community from any much-needed scrutiny because they are marginalized, I don’t know what to say to you.

I wonder if you just don’t believe that women and queer folks suffer massively in mainstream Muslim communities or if you think the one epidemic you do see– anti-Muslim bigotry– is a cause that has primacy over every other epidemic festering beneath the surface.

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Islam’s Homophobic Teachings Cannot Be Ignored as a Factor in the Orlando Mass Shooting