On Sunday, June 12, 2016 at 2:00 AM, gunman Omar Mateen entered Pulse, a gay nightclub, armed with an AR-15, a handgun and multiple rounds of ammunition. His attack killed 49 people and wounded at least 53, making it the deadliest mass-shooting in U.S. history. Pundits and mainstream media are quick to highlight the shooter’s Muslim background, painting the story as the worst U.S. terror attack since 9/11 and adding fuel to the fire that is anti-Muslim sentiment and islamophobia in the states. Framing the attack as a terrorist attack, with the word terrorist overwhelmingly being synonymous with “Muslim” in mainstream media, has also put into question and led to many assumptions about Muslims’ views of the LGBTQ community. Muslims are, once again, expected to condemn this attack and denounce terrorism—something that is not expected from other communities. However, more meaningful and impactful work can be done: Standing in solidarity with and being an ally to the LGBTQ community, which has consistently fought against injustices to the Muslim community.
What does it mean to be an ‘ally’?
An ally is someone who lends support to a person or group of people. In this case, the LGBT community suffered a vicious attack, and within that group, the Latino community was represented, undocumented immigrants were represented, and people of color were represented among others. Because the shooter came from a Muslim background, the Muslim community was in the spotlight throughout this tragedy as well. Islamic jurisprudence considers homosexuality a sin, but Islamic jurisprudence also demands respect and ethical treatment of others regardless of their sexual orientation. In fact, when someone is the target of hate or violence, it is our duty as Muslims to speak out against it. Here are some ways you can be an ally without compromising your religious beliefs:
1. Understand Your Religion
There is an abundance of misinformation in the media and among Muslims and non-Muslims as to the connection between religion and the treatment of LGBTQ individuals. In Islam, the specific sexual act is what is at question, and even then it is left between that person and God. Among other forbidden acts is lying, gossiping, exposing sins of others, and violent and unethical treatment of people. With that in mind, you can and should always stand up for those in the LGBT community who are mistreated. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) lived a life aimed at spreading a message of peace, love and respect, something Muslims try to emulate in their daily lives.
“None of you have faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself” - Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
2. Understand the Struggles of the LGBTQ Community
Framing the incident as a “terrorist attack” erases an important fact that needs to be addressed: This attack was a hate crime directed towards the LGBTQ community. Much like the Muslim community, the LGBTQ community is one that regularly faces discrimination, bigotry, and systematic oppression. According to the FBI, a hate crime is “a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias.” The latest collection of hate crime statistics collected by the FBI shows that in 2014, 20.3% of hate crimes were motivated by bias against sexual orientation or gender identity, and 16.1% of anti-religious hate crimes were motivated specifically by anti-Muslim bias. While it’s true that many hate crimes often go unreported, current statistics can still give us conclusive evidence regarding hostility towards the two minority groups. Further, both groups face discriminatory laws that put the groups in great danger. While Muslims face surveillance for their religious activities and community involvements, LGBTQ members face laws that prohibit cities from passing LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinances. Rather than letting such tragedies create apathy or division between two minority groups—a trend commonly seen between oppressed groups—we can recognize that injustice against one minority is a threat to all minorities in the long run.
3. Grassroots Work
A representative is someone elected to office to act and speak on behalf of those from the representative’s area. The fact of the matter is that Muslims and LGBTQ exist in every state, and their interests deserve the same respect and representation as other groups. Oftentimes, you will find that representatives in or running for office who spread anti-Muslim bigotry and advocate for discriminatory laws against Muslims are the same ones who hold homophobic views and pass or vote for anti-LGBTQ laws. Grassroots work requires political activism from the people, resulting in bottom-up decision making rather than the more traditional top-down decision making. It also makes sure that our representatives are being held accountable for their actions and rhetoric. Taking the time to research a candidate for office, at any level, ensures that your vote is going towards the candidate who will best reflect your interests. The best way to help your Muslim community while also standing in solidarity with the LGBTQ community is to vote for that candidate and spread the message that participating in the political process is paramount to reclaiming our current broken political environment. No longer will fear be the driving force of politics--instead, we will see rational and effective policy proposals at the forefront of political discourse.
4. Solidarity Events
Ramadan is a month of peace, reflection and mindfulness. After the Pulse shooting, hundreds of people in Orlando lined up to donate blood, and Muslim groups and individuals also rallied to donate blood or assist those waiting in line for up to seven hours. Another way to show solidarity is to host a solidarity iftar for the victims and their family members, as the Center for Muslim Life at Duke University is doing. Their event begins with opening statements, leading to a group prayer (where people can choose to pray or respectfully observe), dinner to break fast, and concluding with open mic and reflections. Uniting in the face of tragedy is a great way to dismantle the forces that benefit from the separation of minority groups.
Emerge USA signed a statement to show unity with the LGBTQ community. Join us as we stand together with 65 LGBTQ and American Muslim organizations united against fear, hate, and violence. By standing together, hand in hand, across every faith, we send a powerful message to those who seek to divide us: Love is stronger than hate and hope will defeat fear.
LIKE & SHARE if you agree: Love conquers hate.