A man called Omar Mateen entered a gay club and massacred 49 people because of their sexual orientation.
Omar Mateen had been investigated by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 and reports said he pledged his allegiance to Daesh, or the so-called Islamic State.
His father said that the act “had nothing to do with religion, and that he got angry when he witnessed a gay couple kiss in front of his family.”
His wife, Sitora Yusifiy, said that Mateen was mentally unstable and would beat her, she claimed that he was bipolar and used steroids. His allegiance to Daesh seems to be baseless, and in 2013, he told his friends he had family connections to al-Qaeda and that he was a member of Hezbollah, the Shia group fighting Daesh in Lebanon and Syria. Obama said that the attack appeared to be “an example of the kind of homegrown extremism that all of us have been concerned about”. There are no direct links between him and IS.
Many people rushed to write on social media that now Muslims, Arabs, or really, people looking “oriental” will face repercussions from this attack. This is true, but this is erasure of homophobia. It is important to note that this attack will lead to more violence and essentialism, but to quickly speak about one’s own oppression is running away from the subject of homophobia. To say such things as: “In the Middle East, we have everyday a 9/11” brings nothing to the debate. To rush and claim that the attack doesn’t represent Islam is to put the homophobia quickly under a carpet. It’s denying a reality: homophobia and extreme rejection of non-heterosexuals is extreme in the region, the Arab-Muslim world.
This early “but we’re oppressed too” is erasure of homophobia. I am not saying that Muslims should apologise, as many Muslims accept LGBT people, and many Muslims are LGBT themselves. White Americans also don’t have to apologise for the Charleston church massacre, when a white man killed black Americans, because they were black. But we cannot ignore the many posts on social media praising the massacre such as this “caricature” that received over 3000 likes in just two days.
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It is written: “the faggot shouldn’t be killed by bullets but be thrown from the highest place in town”. 3000 people “liked” this post and thought it was a good joke. And of course some commentors criticized the drawer. No community is completely homogenous. I have personally heard half a dozen comments not completely condemning the attack, sometimes people showed content.
The polls done at PEW research in 2013 on homosexuality are still prevalent today. They found that religiosity and opinions have a strong relationships. In other words there is less tolerance for homosexuality in more religious countries.
Some countries are unique such as Brazil or Russia, Brazil is religious but has a relatively high acceptance of 60%. Russia has a very low score on religiosity but where only 16% think homosexuality should be accepted by society. Russia might have a very low score because of patriarchal nationalism, where the land, the father, the mother, and the traditional family must be sacred. (Study)
Omar Mateen was American of Afghan heritage. Here‘s what Fariba Nawa, an American woman of Afghan descent said about homophobia in Afghan American homes.
Most Afghans are almost too tolerant. The homophobes and radicals exist but we refuse to acknowledge them. We look the other way; don’t ask, don’t tell. If Mateen had won an award, we would have claimed him as ours. But now that he’s a mass murderer, he is viewed as an outsider. Disowning him and many others like him allows us to shun the responsibility of confronting our demons.
In many Afghan American homes, homophobia is normal. If a son or daughter is gay, it’s a well-kept secret, one that could ruin the family name if it’s revealed.
Several of my friends are gay but scared to come out — they fear dishonoring their families or being beaten or ostracized by them. One of my high school friends in Fremont was hospitalized after a group of Afghan American men found out he was gay. I never saw my friend again.
Omar Mateen seemed to be gay himself, he visited the club called Pulse several times before the massacre and a had gay app on his phone. A former classmate believed he was gay but didn’t come out. Mateen was a G4S security guard and selfies of him with the NYPD (New York Police Department) shirts appeared online. If Omar Mateen was raised up differently, had another context, felt accepted within his own community, he may have acted differently. If he wasn’t so stuck between patriarchy and community religion pressure and himself. Omar Mateen may have been different. An oppressor, especially those who want to erase what he hates, shouldn’t be talked to, but the context should be understood. LGBT people don’t have to talk to people who want to erase them or to the people who are silent regarding homophobia if they don’t want to.
Muslims of USA and the world don’t need to condemn the attacks, they already did it, they don’t need to claim #notInMyName and feed the imperialist and orientalist essentialism. But they need to discuss homophobia and find a way to beat it down.
And most importantly we need to call this attack an attack on LGBT, the worst attack since WW2. We cannot claim this is an attack on freedom ONLY and downplay the homophobia.
Owen Jones, a gay English journalist said it better on Guardian newspaper.
This isn’t about LGBT people taking ownership of the pain and anguish. […] But this was a deliberate attack on a LGBT venue and LGBT people. […] Omar Mateen could have chosen many clubs, full of people laughing and living, but he chose a LGBT venue. This was homophobia as well as terrorism. It is not enough to simply condemn violence: we have to understand what it is and why it happened.
Read more here: The Muslim Silence on Gay Rights: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/13/opinion/the-muslim-silence-on-gay-rights.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0