The nation is mourning once again; senseless violence has again taken innocent lives, ripped families apart and left us with many unanswered questions. As we grieve and try to comprehend the incomprehensible, it is important that we remain united and not fall into the trap of division and hatred. Homophobia and Islamophobia are twin partners to terrorism. As information is slowly being revealed in Orlando, what we are witnessing is a blatant act of homophobia and evil in its worst form. But what is also transpiring in the aftermath of this tragedy is a knee-jerk reaction to blame Islam and Muslims.
This is precisely what terrorists, extremists and groups like ISIS want — division. We cannot succumb to such fear and disunity; we must remain vigilant in our will to stop any and all acts of terrorism, and denounce both homophobia and Islamophobia. This is a moment where we are being tested, and we cannot fail by answering hate with more hatred.
The LGBTQ community has long suffered from attacks, discrimination and injustice in society. Despite progress on marriage equality, the community still faces prejudice and unfairness in housing, employment and elsewhere all throughout the country. In addition, the prevalence of open homophobic statements in our discourse should disturb everyone. I myself have been in churches, or given lectures, or listened to guests/callers on my national radio show and been disappointed by people who otherwise consider themselves ministers, activists or social justice seekers express such homophobic views. I’ve also been shocked at the vitriolic language used by some clergy members in public and in private. Bigotry against the LGBTQ community lead to the spirit of this man’s horrendous hate crime in Orlando this past weekend. That is why homophobia in any form cannot be tolerated whether it’s overt biased laws that some try to implement, or subtle comments that others feel comfortable making. None of it is okay, ever.
As we take a stand against homophobia, it is simultaneously important that we do not blame Muslims or the religion of Islam. This was a horrific act committed by a person professing to follow Islam who clearly didn’t understand the religion, and who frankly could have been a member of any religion. Muslims did not perpetrate this massacre; a crazed homophobic monster did. Our response to this immense calamity cannot be Islamophobia — which I’ve also heard go unchecked. Some are sadly using this catastrophic incident to push more fear, more hatred and their own political agendas. Instead of blaming billions of people for the devastating actions of one individual, we must also stand with the Muslim community so that they are not scapegoated and subjected to hatred and bias attacks.
The goal of terrorism is to strike fear and terror into the hearts of people so that they feel unsafe to go about their daily lives. Another goal of terrorists and extremists is to create an environment where we are pitted against one another and where we answer hatred with more hatred. President Obama said there is no known evidence yet that the Orlando shooting was directed by ISIS or part of a larger plot, but ISIS allegedly was so quick to claim the shooter as one of their own because this is what they want. We cannot allow the terrorists to win. Groups like ISIS want Muslims to believe that they are not welcome in the United States and in other western countries, when nothing could be further from the truth. During these difficult times, we cannot give in to Islamophobia or blame billions of people who follow the same religion.
As we continue to denounce hatred, whether against the LGBTQ community or the Muslim community, we must remain united in our resolve to keep our great nation progressing forward. This is the most controversial and stressful of times; how we respond will be crucial.
Our great civil rights icon, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., once stated:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
The test before us is whether we will be an accomplice to terrorism by perpetrating Islamophobia or homophobia in work or deed, or whether we are going to be part of those that say we are going to fight terrorism by uniting against hatred in all of its forms. Let us stand tall together; or else we will fall apart in the worst way. For hostility and division will only give evil what it wants.