O’Shae Sibley, a 28-year-old African American man who identified as LGBTQ+, was stabbed to death outside of a Mobil Gas Station in Brooklyn, New York on July 29, 2023. A group of individuals confronted him and his friends for playing Beyonce music while dancing. The young men were bothered by Sibley’s dancing in public and resorted to calling out homophobic slurs, which ignited an argument. Video evidence shows that Sibley and the group had a verbal altercation, eventually becoming physical.
When news spread like wildfire on social media, every outlet identified the attacker as Muslim. Influencers took to storm and were quick to shun the Muslim community for spreading hate towards the LGBTQ+ community. Some activists and social media personalities also blamed a public statement, “Navigating Differences: Clarifying Sexual and Gender Ethics in Islam,” signed by many Muslim religious scholars and Imams. Individuals from our Muslim community were quick to falsely re-interpret what the public statement intended to achieve and began tagging the Imams who signed it. They were demanding the Imams to issue their public comments on the murder of Sibley. They wanted someone to take accountability – and to no surprise, were banking on the conservative Muslims to issue an apology on behalf of one bad apple.
Why does this scene feel familiar? Because we’ve witnessed this pattern of events multiple times. Muslims have been victims of hate crimes for decades because of their religious beliefs and have felt the need to prove their innocence. This time, the hate and scrutiny came from within the Muslim community towards their own. But why?
An innocent man was murdered because of his sexual orientation. It was reprehensible. Regardless of one’s religious affiliation, safeguarding human life is integral to our shared humanity. Unfortunately, the “armchair activist Muslims” are just as Islamophobic as their far-right counterparts. The motive behind Sibley’s murder becomes evident: A particular faction aimed to promote a falsehood to advance their agenda of depicting Islam as homophobic.
When Muslims take the stand and go against their community, we open doors of scrutiny from the rest of the world. Islam, just like Christianity and Judaism, regards the LGBTQ+ movement as going against the tenants of religion. However, it does not mean that any of these fundamental world religions are calling for hate crimes to be carried out. The public statement “Navigating Differences” calls to peacefully coexist as it reads, “As a religious minority that frequently experiences bigotry and exclusion, we reject the notion that moral disagreement amounts to intolerance or incitement of violence. We affirm our right to express our beliefs while simultaneously recognizing our constitutional obligation to exist peacefully with those whose beliefs differ from ours.”
I believe it’s high time that Muslims reflect on the reality that defamation of character is not a joke and blaming any religious scholar for inciting violence without proof, especially when untrue, takes away all of our credibility as Muslims. The dangers of baseless allegations are in front of us: social tension, discrimination, and diversion from real issues at hand. Our faith teaches us to adhere to truth and strive for justice which can be accomplished if we work towards a higher quality of discourse, one that fosters responsible dialogue, critical thinking, and a commitment to verifying information before making judgment. Influencers are not exempt from responsible reporting. We all need to take the time to do research before making accusations that are defamatory.