The horrific killings at a gay club in Orlando by a Muslim man who reportedly swore loyalty to the Islamic State set off immediate condemnation from many Muslims — and debate about whether Muslim communities need to be more welcoming of gay people.
Popular U.S. playwright and journalist Wajahat Ali sparked debate on his Facebook page Sunday when he bemoaned the murders and called for his fellow Muslims to speak out:
I hope we empower and uplift our LGBT Muslim brothers and sisters, who often suffer in silence and have been ostracized and demonized by multiple communities in America for their sexuality, religion and ethnicity. They are at the cultural fault lines — blasted for being both gay and Muslim in an America that often uses them as pawns for an absolutist cultural war. This is a moment to call out ignorance that creates an atmosphere which tolerates and breeds hate. … I believe this is a moment for us straight Muslims to aggressively and sincerely assert our 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 and is the American struggle. Period. We should denounce the draconian and unnecessary anti LGBT legislation that is being introduced in several states around the country just like LGBT members have routinely denounced Trump’s anti Muslim bigotry and anti Sharia legislation for years. This is what it means to be American.
More than 2,600 people liked the post by the progressive writer.
Ali was lauded by many for condemning the violence, but many of the comments on his post that triggered the most interaction noted that Islam — like several other faiths — rejects the acceptance of gay relationships.
“I don’t think true empathy and sympathy requires one to shed one’s own personal moral beliefs,” wrote one. Multiple people made similar comments.
In the Pew Research Center’s major study of American religions in 2014, Muslims were split on homosexuality. The poll found that 45 percent of American Muslims thought homosexuality should be accepted and 47 percent thought it should be discouraged.
That means Muslims are less accepting of homosexuality than most religious groups in the study — 66 percent of mainline Protestants, 70 percent of Catholics, and more than 80 percent of Jews and Buddhists say gay relationships should be accepted. But it puts Muslims ahead of evangelical Christians and Mormons, just 36 percent of whom say homosexuality is acceptable.
On Facebook on Sunday, some Muslim commenters called for their community to address homophobia in the wake of the tragedy in Orlando.
“An apology from the boy’s father or ‘condemnation’ from CAIR and other Muslim groups is not good enough. All our cultures need to raise our children to be tolerant and accepting. Father needs to own up to the homophobia ingrained in our culture — as do all those Christians calling it ‘an act of god.’”
Others compared the topic to other areas in which people disagree.
“Muslims have non Muslim friends that drink, right? Friends who eat pork, like going to rock concerts (I go to many), and so on. So people’s lifestyle choices, sexual orientation, etc is what makes this country, our community so diverse and accepting. That is the beauty of America. I can go drink iced tea with lemon while my friends drink a glass of wine. To each [its] own, let God judge, not us.”
Fawzia Mirza, a Pakistani Canadian comedian who is Muslim and lesbian, tweeted her “mixed” feelings:
— Fawzia Mirza (@thefawz) June 12, 2016
The D.C.-based Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, which runs workshops for LGBT Muslims, asked Sunday that people not “rush” to blame any person or group aside from the shooter himself. The shooting should not be framed as a conflict between the gay and Muslim communities, the group wrote:
It is also not lost on us that this horrific tragedy occurred during LGBTQ Pride month, which this year coincides with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, typically a period of peace and intense self-reflection. It pains us to see that these periods of joy, celebration, and peace have been marred so violently with such horror.
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. …
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.
Julie Zauzmer contributed to this report.