At least 49 LGBT+ people have been killed and scores more wounded by a horrific homophobic attack on the Pulse night club in Orlando, United States in the early hours of Sunday.
US-born Omar Mateen, who opened fire at the Florida nightclub in the early hours of Sunday, was shot dead by police.
It is vital that this appalling event is not used to whip up Islamophobia and racism. Our sympathy and solidarity goes out to all those affected.
The sectarian group Isis praised Mateen as a “soldier of the Caliphate”, but it has not claimed responsibility for the murders. .The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said it had interviewed Mateen twice in 2013 after he claimed to have Isis links, but senior officials also said there was “no evidence” of a direct link. After the killings FBI director James Comey said Mateen had no ties to sectarian group Isis.
This has not stopped some politicians using the attacks to ramp up Islamophobia and justify imperialist war in the Middle East.
Donald Trump, the US Republican presidential candidate, revelled in the chance to make political capital from the deaths. He tweeted, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance”. He reiterated his calls for a ban on Muslim migrants.
His Democratic Party rival Hillary Clinton said, “We need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad.”
The right and many liberals present homophobia as a specifically Muslim problem. Writing in the Spectator magazine, neoconservative Douglass Murray argued, “We can’t ignore the religion of the Orlando gay club gunman.”
But this distorts the reality that homophobia is a much wider problem. Across the world LGBT+ people face discrimination and, all too often, violence.
British Nazi David Copeland carried out a nail-bombing at the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho, London, in 1999 that killed three people and wounded around 70.
Local officials in Orlando urged people to donate blood in response to the shooting, but gay and bisexual men are banned from donating because of a disciminatory law.
In more than half of US states, it is currently legal for an employer to fire an employee for being gay.
In April the British government warned gay and transgender travellers to be careful in the US.
Newly passed laws in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT people.
And the US is no stranger to state violence at home or abroad.
The Orlando massacre saw the most casualties in any shooting in the US—since the US Cavalry’s massacre of 150 Lakota at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1890.
And if Isis was directly involved In Orlando the US must bear a large part of the responsibility. Isis was created through US imperialism’s use of sectarianism to divide and rule Iraq after the invasion in 2003. More crackdowns, more hatred of Muslims and more foreign wars will only mean more horrors.
This is a time to unite against homophobia, racism and Islamophobia.
London Stands with Orlando vigil, tonight, 7pm, Old Compton Street, London W1https://www.facebook.com/events/1017280595022769/
Noor al-Khaled, an LGBT+ Muslim in Oregon in the US, spoke out to Socialist Worker.
“As a lesbian Muslim, this narrative frustrates me a lot because its erases LGBTQ Muslims. It treats Muslims as if we all think the same, rather than as 1.6 billion different and unique people.
It’s the opposite of what we should be doing—using these tragic deaths to push political agendas is disingenuous and hurtful.
The shooter was born in the US and using his hideous acts to justify the profiling of refugees is just xenophobic.
Aggressive foreign policies are what created the mess that gives birth to groups such as Isis and Al Qaeda in the first place.
Homophobia is definitely present in many Muslim communities, but it’s not strictly a Muslim problem.
Here in the US some of the most vocal homophobes are white Christians, the anti-gay and anti-trans laws and hate crimes are largely the result of the right wing Christian narrative.
In my experience in small-town Oregon, levels of Islamophobia are very high.
There’s a lot of fear in the Muslim community across the country. The majority of it is subtle or moderate—nasty looks¸ refusal to sit by us on a bus or in a theatre, yelled slurs, curses, insults from cars, vandalism of mosques.
But there are a growing number of high level, such as physical attacks or arson.
I’ll be honest, there’s not many places I feel safe as a visibly Muslim person wearing the hijab or niqab.
Yet LGBTQ Muslims are out there and we are hurting too—we are facing homophobia and Islamophobia and desperately need support and love.
In my opinion, the most important thing is to lift up Muslim and LGBTQ voices. A lot of allies try to speak for us—or speak over us—rather than helping to lift our voices.
For all of us it’s incredibly important to try to educate people, share information and fight against laws, politicians and pundits that push a certain rhetoric.”