Here are the facts: In the early hours of June 12th 2016, at least 50 people were murdered and at least 53 injured in the largest mass shooting in modern American history. The shooting took place inside a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, on Latinx night, in the opening days of Pride Month. It was the seventh night of Ramadan.
The man responsible bears a Muslim name. Reports have surfaced Omar Mateen called 911 to declare allegiance to the self-described Islamic State before he entered Pulse nightclub with a legally-purchased handgun and AR-15 assault rifle, and in those early hours of June 12th 2016, he opened fire on hundreds of innocent civilians.
Many Muslims are left in shock, baffled and angry at a man who would enact such hatred and violence in the name of our faith. Many Muslims are asking, “What can we do to help?”
To answer that question we spoke to organizers on the ground in Orlando, leaders in the American LGBTQ Muslim community, and activists from around the planet.
Here is the message we were given on how straight Muslims can stand up in support of the Orlando Shooting victims.
STEP ONE: NAME THIS ATROCITY FOR WHAT IT IS
Looking at the countless statements made yesterday by Islamic organizations condemning one man’s actions and declaring how at odds this wanton violence is with Islam, there’s one thing most of them have in common. More specifically, it’s what they all lack – in the numerous press releases by Islamic institutions and prominent community figures, glaringly absent from any statement are the words “homophobia” or “racism”.
It is not a coincidence that Omar Mateen opened fire in a popular gay nightclub on Latinx Night. What happened yesterday is a homophobic hate crime. We can spend the day equivocating, discussing what is or isn’t determined to be terrorism in the United States, but the fact of the matter is a man has used our faith to justify the massacre of fifty innocent human beings.
The reluctance of Muslims to name this atrocity for what it is – homophobia to its most violent end – is feigning ignorance to the very real issue of homophobia in our communities.
When we acknowledge that hatred of LGBTQ people is the driving motive of this attack, we are taking the first step to addressing the insidious, tacit homophobia that permeates Muslim American discourse.
It’s the first step to un-learning systemic anti-LGBTQ bigotry which encompasses not just the Muslim community, but the entire world.
STEP TWO: LISTEN TO THE COMMUNITIES INVOLVED
We asked Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, what Muslims can do to stand up in solidarity and support for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Their answer is simple: donate to the victims and families of this tragedy, donate blood if you are able, and show up in love and support to the Orlando Vigil at Lake Eola.
Remember that LGBTQIA + Muslims exist, and are thrown into a quandry where few – if any – spaces can feel safe today. Between homophobia/transphobia in the mosque and Islamophobia in the LGBTQ community, queer and trans Muslims are stuck at an intersection where it can feel impossible to “be both”. We find a way. And we’re usually the ones coordinating and organizing from the front lines.
Remember that by addressing homophobia in the Ummah you’re not just doing good for another group in solidarity, but are actively making your home safer for the LGBTQ people too often pushed to the margins of Muslim community.
STEP THREE: STEP UP, SHOW UP
This is an opportunity for Muslims to stand up as a community in resistance to racism and homophobia. To show up to vigils and community events, bearing supplies and tender signs of love and support. Yes, there is something going on in your hometown today – look it up and reach out. This is an opportunity to make connections between and within our communities. To start having the hard conversations about how we make our spaces safer for LGBTQ people of faith. To come together and assert that this culture of hatred and violence does not belong in our communities.
This is the moment that Muslims need to show up and come together in empathy, solidarity and love.
If you really mean it when you say that our religion does not belong to the bigots, this is your chance to live that truth out. Name this tragedy for what it is. Listen to the communities involved. Step up, and show up. This is the time. This is how we help.