This weekend has been terrible in America – specifically in Orlando, Florida. First the young singer Christina Grimmie, known for appearing on a show called The Voice, was shot and killed by a man named Kevin James Loibl on Saturday, before he turned the gun on himself. Now, only yesterday, about 50 people were confirmed to have been killed in a massacre that took place at a gay nightclub known as Pulse. The gunman has been identified as Omar Mateen, and the Orlando police suspected that he may have been affiliated with radical Islamic beliefs and that the incident may have been an act of domestic terrorism. Apparently multiple authorities even stated that Mateen swore allegiance to ISIL. Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to guess that this revelation sparked a conversation on social media about Islam. Some people believe that the massacre committed by Mateen was proof that Islam is a serious problem and that it was time take serious action against it, while others, and still a few just blame the Republican Party and Donald Trump. Of course since even earlier today, and in the wake of Christina Grimmie’s murder for that matter, many people jumped on to the whole gun control narrative. Personally, I find that Omar Mateen’s apparent affiliation with radical Islam ought to be enough to shift the conservation away from gun control and I personally feel the incident ought to be considered a terrorist act and be treated accordingly.
However, the shooting itself is not the main topic of this post, only the necessary introduction to the main topic. The actual topic of this post is related to a specific part of the conversation about Islam – the part where people on Twitter decided that it was appropriate to contrast Omar Bateem’s actions with the attitudes of conservative Christians and their attempts to pass certain laws. An example of this attitude can be found in this tweet from Sally Kohn from CNN:
“Always fascinating to watch conservatives who won’t support basic non-discrimination laws bash Islamic fundamentalists for being anti-gay.”
I can only assume Kohn is referring to things like transgender bathroom bills and or laws that prevent private businesses for refusing to perform services to homosexuals based on personal religious beliefs. And it should be obvious what Kohn and others who make the same argument are trying to do: they are trying to compare, or rather equate, the actions of Omar Bateem with the attitudes of conservatives and conservative Christians. This perspective is the perspective that I wish to address because, frankly, I find the attempts to equate the conservative Christian and the radical Muslim very unfair and deeply inappropriate.
I must point out first that Christianity has been a vicious religion in the past, violently persecuting those who deviated from its norms and its beliefs in the past. Modern Christians, however, do not do this. I mean sure, you do get the odd fanatic who really, really hates gay people. But as far I am aware most American Christians, including those in the Republican Party, have no intention of executing people based on their sexual orientation, and if I’m not mistaken such a thing would still be treated as murder in the United States of America regardless of the religious motivation behind the act. At worst, America has states who tried to oppose the Supreme Court’s decision on the legality of gay marriage based on their interpretation of marriage, and people like Rick Santorum wailing about how he feels its a sign of Armageddon. In fact, last December a Pew research survey showed that the majority of American Christians are increasingly accepting of homosexuality, and feel that it should be accepted by society at large.
Now in Islamic countries, that is countries that not only have a Muslim majority but are also based on Islamic law, you get treated much worse than in America. In Iran homosexuality is illegal and punishable by imprisonment, lashing, and the death penalty. In Saudi Arabia homosexual activity is illegal and punishable by imprisonment, chemical castration, and death – in fact the Saudi Arabian government has recently been considering executing people who come out as homosexual on social media. In Qatar, homosexuality is punished by imprisonment, but if you are both Muslim and gay then you face the death penalty. In Yemen, married men guilty of homosexual sex face death by stoning, unmarried men face lashing, while women face imprisonment. In fact, of the ten countries identified by the Washington Post as countries where homosexuality with the death penalty, most of them are either Muslim-majority nations or explicitly based on Islamic law – in either case, it’s no stretch to assume that, in those countries, regressive and deeply conservative attitudes towards homosexuality are normal. And let’s not forget ISIL, who are infamous for throwing a gay man off a roof in order to kill him. Even when homosexuality isn’t punished by death, it is still generally illegal in Muslim-majority or Islamic nations.
Conservative attitudes towards homosexuality are not even limited to Muslim nations. Just look at my country! An ICM poll suggests that 52% of British Muslims think homosexuality should be illegal, and another 47% believe it’s inappropriate for homosexuals to teach in schools. There’s even been moderate Muslims who do not understand how a person can be gay and still choose to be a Muslim, and there was a known example of this on the BBC Three debate program Free Speech. And sometimes you had Muslims who would physically attack homosexuals in London, of all places.
Does this represent all Muslims? Of course not, and it certainly doesn’t mean all Muslims commit acts of violence against homosexuals or even that most necessarily will. But there is a noted majority of Muslims who still hold more conservative views, moreso than most American Christians do today. What’s weird is that both The Bible and The Quran have verses that seem to condemn homosexuality, or at least are traditionally interpreted as condemning homosexuality, but in spite of these attitudes towards homosexuality seem to be different. It’s obvious to me that Christians today are, for the most part, less rigid with their faith, or more or less have had to accept homosexuality in order to survive or have a place in a more liberal world. Muslim communities, on the other hand, seem to have retained more old-fashioned and rigid interpretation of their faith.
So here’s the bottom line: comparing the Islamic attitude towards gays to conservatives who advocate for “religious freedom” is ridiculous, and you cannot create a moral equivalence between American Christians, even the conservative ones, to the attitudes found in the Muslim world. This is what I have an objection to: the fact that a lot of people in the modern world are unwilling to address the attitudes find in the Muslim world, radical or not, without trying to change the conversation and make it about Christians and Republicans. It’s deeply unfair, highly inappropriate, and I suspect it to be very ideologically motivated.