The death toll in the Orlando massacre has dropped from 50 to 49, as they mistakenly included the shooter himself in the toll of victims. But that still makes it substantially higher than the deadliest mass shooting in America up to now: the 32 killed in 2007 at Virginia Tech by Seung-hui Cho. In Orlando 53 more were wounded, some of them critically, so more deaths are expected, along with many of the injured who will never again have normal lives.
There’s no solution I can think of to the growing problem of terrorist attacks in the U.S., exacerbated by some imams’ declaration that killing infidels is more meritorious during Ramadan than at other times. The military option, to bomb ISIS and its allies out of existence, won’t work, for there is widespread sympathy for Islamists’ mission, if not their acts, throughout the Muslim world. More vigorous surveillance in the U.S. is an obvious thing to do, but it can’t do much against “lone wolf” killers, and it involves profiling (see below). Asking or urging Muslims throughout the world change their ideology is a nonstarter, since much of the motivation for attacks in the U.S. comes from imams and organizations elsewhere in the world, and demonization of gays is widespread throughout the Muslim world (see the 2003 Pew survey on the world’s Muslims, one of whose results I show below):
Those who claim that Christianity is just as homophobic as Islam should adduce data comparable to that above, remembering to survey all Christians, not just fundamentalist ones. And don’t forget the laws. In a very nice new piece at the Spectator, “Homophobia is now met with the same silence given to anti-Semitism,” Nick Cohen says this:
Given that every Muslim-majority country in the Middle East has anti-gay laws, that along with Islamic State, Iran executes gays, and that homosexuality and cross-dressing are punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, Western LGBT people have reason to be frightened that there will soon be police officers outside gay clubs as well as synagogues. At the very least, they are entitled to ask for a frank discussion of murderous homophobia.
. . . To take the example of Britain, to stick with my country, liberal Muslims, receive astonishingly little support, while Muslim homophobes are knighted . Anyone who takes on Christian or Jewish homophobia, meanwhile, will be accused of militant atheism or anti-Semitism by the religious, and with tampering with the natural order by anti-gay conservatives.
Most people do not want the trouble. They shy away, and look for the exit. Hardly anyone has noticed, but as gay people become targets, not just conservatives but the pseudo-left is giving signs it wants to abandon them, as it has already abandoned Jews and Muslim liberals.
Finally, while American Muslim organizations are issuing condemnations of the shootings in Orlando, which is great, it’s not America where the impetus to kill originates. By and large, it’s not American Muslims who need to affirm their opposition to violent Islamism.
Before I list a few questions these shootings raise (and I have no answers to them), I want to mention one thing that upsets me. The first reaction of an empathic person is that we have lost 50 people, and each of those has a network of friends and relatives who will suffer unbearable pain. Most of us have experienced such losses. Now multiply that amount of suffering by fifty, and then again by the average number of friends and loved ones of each of the dead. It’s unfathomable, and worsened because there is no good answer to the inevitable “why him/her?” question. Yet all too often I’ve seen the very first reaction of Muslims is to worry that this will lead to their further demonization in America. That may well happen, and I’ll decry it if it does, but now is not the time to worry about your own image.
An example is the New Yorker‘s new piece by Robin Wright, which profiles Hena Khan, a children’s book author. Khan’s books, like It’s Ramadan, Curious George, try to defuse bigotry toward Muslims. That’s lovely, but her main reaction seems to be not sorrow for the deaths, but the worry that they will arouse hatred of her group:
On Sunday, Khan woke up and, as is her habit, checked the news on her cell phone before waking her family. It was consumed with the killings at Pulse, the gay night club in Orlando, Florida. “First it was twenty people, then fifty,” she told me. “I thought, Not another shooting! When is this going to stop? This is insanity.
“Then I saw the name,” Khan said, her voice choking back sobs. Omar Mateen, the lone gunman in the largest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11th attacks, in 2001, is an Afghan-American. Khan is Pakistani-American. Both are second-generation. Mateen, who was twenty-nine, was born in New York and later moved to Florida. Khan, who is forty-two, grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and now lives with her husband and two children in the Maryland suburb of Rockville.
“It added a whole new layer of anguish,” she told me. “I bore this tragedy as much as any American, and then to see his name. You can’t even find the words. It’s unbelievable. And during Ramadan! As a Muslim, your heart sinks.”
. . . In the last of several conversations we had over the weekend, Khan said the identification of the shooter as a Muslim had consumed her. “I have this intense fear that it is going to change everything,” she said.
One last opinion before I get to the questions. It seems hypocritical for organizations like CAIR—the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group that’s been criticized for ties to Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist groups, and whose main mission is to minimize every malfeasance committed by Muslims while completely exculpating the religion—to now claim they’re allied with gays, and astoudingly, claim that the cause of gays and of “marginalized” Muslims are one. The New Yorker article quotes Nihad Awad, a spokesman for CAIR, who after saying that ISIS does not represent them (it’s not clear who “them” is, since ISIS certainly represents some Muslims), links homophobia to Islamophobia:
Awad also pledged to stand with the gay community. “For many years, members of the L.G.B.T.Q.I. community have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Muslim community against any acts of hate crimes, Islamophobia, marginalization, and discrimination. Today we stand with them shoulder to shoulder,” he said. “The liberation of the American Muslim community is profoundly linked to the liberation of other minorities—blacks, Latinos, gays, Jews, and every other community. We cannot fight injustice against some groups and not against others. Homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia—we cannot dismantle one without the other.”
Beside this statement’s palpable untruth (civil rights for blacks was achieved in the Sixties without linking it to gay rights, which have been achieve much more recently), it’s simply a way to use the killings—almost certainly motivated in part by Islamic doctrine—to advance CAIR’s dubious agenda. If CAIR stands with the gay community—and Jews!—why didn’t it show that before? The musician Ani Zonneveld, founder and President of Muslims for Progressive Values, a group described on Wikipedia as “a non-profit organization in the United States with affiliates in Canada, Europe, Chile, Australia and Malaysia, creating inclusive communities that welcome and supports interfaith marriages, gay marriages, gender & sexual minorities, as well as sectarian minorities” put this on her Facebook page:
And she’s well familiar with CAIR.
So I have three questions. As I said, I have no firm answers to any of them, but these are what I’ve been pondering, and solicit readers’ thoughts:
Should politicians call out Islamic doctrine as responsible for this and similar attacks? This seems natural to me, but of course politicians have their own agenda, and in America that’s to not even intimate that religion can do anything bad. So, as of this morning both Obama and Hillary Clinton had mentioned that the murder arose from “hate,” and also decried the easy availability of guns (the shooter had recently bought some). But you won’t find a word from either about religion, much less Islam. Yet that has been a potent source of hatred towards gays—it’s one ideology that leads to homophobia. I’m not saying that homophobia wouldn’t exist without religion, but you’d have to be obtuse to see how Islamists’ frequent demonization, murder, and forced transgender surgery of gays can lead to a shooting like the one in Orlando. Omar Mateen’s father claims that his son was driven to murder by the sight of two men kissing, and that the murders “had nothing to do with religion”. But he has a personal interest in exculpating religion, and could Islam possibly be a factor in Omar’s revulsion? For now, I’m dubious about his father’s claims.
I understand Obama’s and Clinton’s positions, but at the same time how can you address a problem if you ignore one of its main roots? And meanwhile, U.S. national security is doing exactly the opposite of what Obama says: investigating Muslims. Which brings us to the next question:
Why, if we shouldn’t profile Muslims at airports, should we profile them in national security investigations? I am still on the fence about airport profiling of Muslims, though apparently Israel does it and hasn’t yet suffered a terrorist attack. Sam Harris, of course, has been completely demonized for suggesting such profiling. It’s seen as racist, bigoted, and as oppressing a single ethnic group. Yet I have no doubt that such singling-out is precisely what the U.S. government is doing to prevent future terrorist attacks: listening to chatter among Muslims, having operatives in mosques, and so on. This seems to me like a double standard. Now I can see that profiling in airports might be more difficult than eavesdropping and investigating future terrorist plots, but we’re talking about principle, not practice.
What role does “hate” play in this and similar attacks? What we hear everywhere is that this act, and similar terrorist acts, were motivated by hatred. “Stand up against hate,” people say. For example, here’s a bit from President Obama’s statement on the killings:
Although it’s still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate. And as Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.
And Hillary Clinton’s tweets from yesterday:
“Hatred” is so much easier to say than “religiously based hatred,” though Americans didn’t have trouble with the latter when Kim Davis refused to give marriage licenses to gay couples!
Everyone speaks as if Omar Mateen really hated gay people. And perhaps he did, but we have to recognize that hating individuals for their behavior differs from hating the West as a whole for its supposed licentiousness—a major factor in Islamic terrorism. Did the men who flew planes into the Pentagon and World Trade Center hate the people they killed? I doubt it. It makes me think of these lines from Yeat’s poem An Irish Airman Foresees His Death:
I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those I fight I do not hate
Those that I guard I do not love;
I haven’t thought this through deeply, but I think there’s a difference between the kind of hate people are bruiting about and much of the “hate” that drives Islamism. And somehow I think it’s important to understand this difference, and to understand as well the role of religion in this whole mess. If we can’t even say the words “Islamic terrorism”, if we can’t admit to ourselves that Islam fosters oppression against gays, women, and “infidels,” leading to their killing, how are we supposed to deal with terrorism?