Tragic news was reported that more than 50 US citizens have been killed, and many more injured at a gay nightclub in Orlando, USA. The attack was an Islamist-inspired self-starter terrorism and can only be regarded as a deliberate attack on the LGBT community. This comes as a great shock but unfortunately as no surprise, as homophobic tensions and ideas continue to become legitimised in Western society.
The dehumanisation of the ‘other’ – in this case the homosexual community – will lend itself to violent attacks as we have seen in Orlando. These ideas may not cause the acts of violence, but they psychologically allow the justification of forms of bigotry and/or violence because of the internally justified belief that they are not worthy of the same rights as others.
In a recent survey conducted in the UK that polled British Muslims, it was revealed that nearly ½ advocated for the idea that homosexuality should be criminalised. This does not just mean that they believe that homosexuality is a sin, but to actually go as far as to advocate the removal of their civil rights. Criminalising a community just because of who they are, and just for who they may love. As shocking as these results were, the consequent reaction from Muslim communities (of which I am a part of) was even more devastating.
Instead of discussing the need to tackle such divisive and dehumanising ideas, the general reaction was one of questioning the methodology of the poll, or apologising for such beliefs under coddling it as “conservative belief”.
The most insidious response I saw was the apologia for such dehumanisation, claiming that it is just “non-violent belief” and that it could not possibly harm society.
Within Muslim communities this increasing dehumanisation of the LGBT community correlates with the increasing influence of Islamist movements. Islamist movements manipulate the Islamic faith to campaign for a political system that will render the rights of ‘the other’ – i.e. one who does not subscribe to their hard-line interpretation of their faith. These Islamist movements – who do not take kindly to the LGBT community – commonly prescribe harsh sentences for homosexuals, including in many cases the death penalty.
Islamist movements have manipulated political and theological discourse to begin legitimising homophobia on an industrial scale. They have omitted facts such as the Ottoman Empire decriminalising homosexuality in 1858, and have instead twisted historical events to justify their homophobic position. One of the greatest achievements they have had in Western society is to increasingly fool many on the political left, thus further legitimising such homophobic views.
Islamists have commonly utilised the “victimhood narrative” to lure a new regressive stand of leftist politicians to stand by their corner. The regressive left are pacified with such responses that they just prescribe to “different” types of values, and just have a different culture. The regressive left’s fixation of siding with an oppressed minority has meant that they have abandoned the plight of the minorities within a minority – such as the gay Muslims who face discrimination on an unimaginable scale.
Islamic theologians who promote the universality of human rights and dignify the LGBT community must be amplified in modern discourse. Unfortunately, this marriage of Islamist and regressive left has spearheaded the greatest attacks upon these aforementioned Islamic theologians. Haras Rafiq, the Managing Director of the Quilliam Foundation and ex-head of the Sufi Muslim Council was invited to speak at an interfaith LGBT+ rights event at Warwick University. Mr. Rafiq was met with protests from the local LGBT ‘Pride’ university society, stating their complete boycott because of Rafiq’s apparent “Islamophobia”.
Haras’ full speech can be found here:
He basically proclaimed that homophobia is unjustifiable in Islam, and Islam is about placing the dignity of good people above all else.
It was at this conference (that the LGBT society had boycotted) where two young Muslim students who identified as Gay and Trans thanked me for the conference because they felt abandoned by both their Muslim community and student LGBT community. It was at this point I realised just how far the regressive left and Islamists have entrenched homophobia at the expense of good people just trying to live a happy life. Preaching homophobia will always either lead to bigotry, or at worst lead to such tragic attacks such as the one in Orlando.
The recent attacks in Orlando must serve as a wake-up call to Western society to challenge against any dehumanising homophobic ideas that exist. We must together challenge these ideas and intellectually bankrupt them of any relevance in the discussion of faith and human rights. The left must begin to place our ideals of social justice over the shackles of moral relativism, and the Islamists must begin to adopt a universal framework to human rights. Dehumanisation of ‘the other’ is vile in whatever context it is in, and we have done much to destroy these ideas in the discussion of race, gender and religious freedoms – let’s continue in the context of LGBT rights. There is nothing more insidious than to hate, hit or kill people just for who they love, we owe it to all the victims of homophobia to challenge it.
Haydar is a blogger, an activist and founder of the #Right2Debate movement