Let’s Not Fight One Phobia By Embracing Another

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2016

Numerous chapters of the Council on Islamic-American Relations across the country have released statements condemning yesterday’s attack on the gay night club Pulse in Orlando. The statements run the gamut from brief to, well…  some of the spokespersons “get it.” I’ve highlighted the ones who “got it” — the ones who specifically and accurately described the victims of the attack, which, as we’ve seen, a lot of people just aren’t willing to do.

For example, there was this statement that was read live on the major news networks. CNN and NBC carried it, that I know of. (Did Fox?) Nihad Awad, CAIR’s national Executive Director said this:

We offer condolences to the families and we pray for recovery of the survivors. This is a hate crime, plain and simple. We condemn it in the strongest possible terms. It violates our principles as Americans and as Muslims. Let me be perfectly clear. We have no tolerance for extremism of any kind. We must not tolerate hateful rhetoric that incites violence against minorities. Religious freedom is a cornerstone of our beliefs as Muslims and as Americans. Today, we must stand united.

For many years, members of the LGBT community have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Muslim community against any act of hate crimes, Islamophobia, marginalization and discrimination. Today, we stand with them shoulder to shoulder. The liberation of the American Muslim community is profoundly linked to the liberation of other minority groups: blacks, Latinos, gay, Jewish, trans and every other community that has faced discrimination and operation in this country.

Other chapters — I’d say about half of them that issued their own statements (some issued joint statements with local LGBT leaders) — followed suit:

Like all Americans, Ohio Muslims express their condemnation of this horrific act of violence. Our thoughts, prayers and condolences are with the families, friends and loved ones of the deceased and the injured.

As a civil rights organization that works to end bigotry and hatred, CAIR-Cleveland stands in solidarity with the Florida LGBTQ community at this time of great sorrow for our entire country.

As Americans we must come together as a people and work to build a society based on peace, mutual respect and understanding among all people. There should be no place for hate in our country.

— Julia Shearson, Executive Director of CAIR-Cleveland.

“Muslims across Ohio and the Tri-State join their fellow Americans in grief and shock to condemn Sunday’s mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando,” said Karen Dabdoub, Executive Director of the Cincinnati chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the GLBT community over this tragedy and we offer our deepest condolences and prayers.”

The Clifton Mosque also shares its condolences with the victims and their families. “The Islamic Association of Cincinnati stands with all Americans and in particular the LGBTQ community as we denounce the senseless loss of life in Orlando yesterday. Violence has no place is our religion or in our society. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families”.

Imam Ismaeel Chartier, imam at the Islamic Association of Cincinnati is co-organizing a vigil for Orlando today (Monday) at 6:30 PM at Fountain Square with “Cincinnati in Solidarity with Orlando”.

— Various statements from CAIR-Cincinnati

“The Columbus Muslim community is shocked and appalled by this horrific hate crime against the LGBT community. There are simply no words strong enough to convey our sorrow, disgust, and deep regret that yet another misguided individual has carried out a truly heinous and unjustifiable act in the name of ISIS. The fact that this atrocity was committed during Ramadan, our most holy month, a time when Muslims are supposed to focus on prayer, charity, and acts of kindness, shows that the perpetrator cared about nothing beyond ISIS’ perverted agenda.”

— Romin Iqbal, Staff attorney of CAIR-Columbus

Minnesota Muslims condemn in the strongest possible terms the mass shooting in Orlando. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured”

The LGBTQ community has stood side by side with the American Muslim community during challenging and difficult times. We stand together against hatred, violence and demonization of entire communities.

— Jaylani Hussein, Executive Director of the CAIR-Minnesota

Just stating that our hearts go out to all who are affected and who now must try to recover from the carnage created by Omar Mateen is not enough. Truly our thoughts are with them; however, we as a nation MUST address the core issues: hatred and terror, and the warped thinking that leads one to commit such atrocities, whether it may be the murder of 20 babies and their teachers in Connecticut, or the slaughter of nine worshippers in a holy sanctuary in South Carolina, or the hundreds of other such unthinkable murderous events wrought upon this nation. We stand firm in our commitment to building a country and a world where diversity, and religious, social and ethnic differences are celebrated to unite us all.”

…Since 9/11, the LGBTQ community has time and again supported the Muslim American community against the trials of bigotry and Islamophobia. Now, the Muslim American community stands with the LGBTQ community, as we believe any Muslim who embodies true Islamic principles should do.

— Miriam Amer, Executive Director of CAIR-Iowa

“We are horrified by this atrocious hate crime and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured. We also offer our support and allyship to the LGBTQ community, which has been a faithful ally against Islamophobia. The Muslim community joins our fellow Americans in repudiating anyone or any group that would claim to justify or excuse such an appalling act of violence.”

— Basim Elkarra, Executive Director of CAIR-Sacramento Valley

Following 9/11 attacks, the LGBTQ community has provided consistent and continuous support of the Muslim American community against the challenges of discrimination and Islamophobia. Now, we stand with the LGBTQ community in this great horror and injustice. We believe Muslims such as recently passed Muhammad Ali exemplify true Islamic principles of equality, while people like Omar Mateen represent the enemy of the faith and humanity.

— Sstatement from CAIR-California

American Muslims have set up a LaunchGood page to raise money for the Orlando shooting victims. LaunchGood describes itself as a platform for “crowdfunding incredible Muslims worldwide.” with a “30 days of giving” campaign for Ramada. The Pulse shooting campaign is the Ramadan Challenge for Day 8. As of noon PST today, the site has raised $44,588 out of a $50,000 goal. The page explains:


At least 50 people were killed and 50 more wounded in Orlando, Florida where a gunman went on a horrific shooting spree at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub. Gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history. They were often the only safe gathering place and this horrific act strikes directly at our sense of safety. Far too many Orlando families lost their loved ones in a deplorable act of violence. This is why a collective of American Muslim leaders and groups have united to raise funds for the victims’ families.

We wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us, and send a powerful message of compassion through action. Our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “Have mercy to those on earth, and the One in the Heavens (God) will have mercy upon you.” And the Quran teaches to “Repel evil by that which is better” (41:34).

Whatever anyone feels about Islam, it cannot be denied that contemporary Islam, and I would presume the vast majority of its adherents hold abhorant views about the LGBT community. (I’m guessing here; I have no polling data on hand. I pretty sure I’m not going out on a limb here.) I’m not so certain that the Qu’ran’s take on homosexuality is any worse than the Torah or the Bible. The key difference is that mainstream Christianity and Judaism no longer holds to the kill-the-gays imperative of Leviticus, but vast swaths of contemporary Islam have not arrived to a parallel conclusion. So to those who argue that fundamental Islam is, on average, worse than fundamental Christianity or Judaism, I don’t really think I can argue against that based on what little I know today.

But let’s be very clear about the limitations of what “on average” means. As we’ve done a lot of work to change attitudes among American Christians and American Jews, we now have even more work to do to change attitudes among American Muslims. Based on my interactions with devout Muslims that I got to know here in Tucson, I know that goodwill exists among some — certainly not all, and probably not a majority, but some — and that this can an opening, either for further engagement or for closing the door entirely. 

And so it seems to me we have a choice. Do we answer the drum beat of those who see this as yet another opportunity to further the passions of Islamophobia, or do we resolve not to exchange one phobia for another?


June 13th, 2016


Priya Lynn

June 13th, 2016

Very encouraging.


June 13th, 2016

Lone wolves can be very dangerous, as Mateen’s example shows, but American Muslims don’t have the institutional or cultural power to create a pervasive atmosphere of homophobia the way the Christian right has. I’m sure some of them would like to, just as I’m sure there are Christians who envy ISIL. Christian and Muslim fundamentalists hate each other, but they have an awful lot in common.

Ben in oakland

June 13th, 2016

Absolutely the case.

Most of the Muslims I have met, that my husband works with, that attended gay weddings I photographed, were good people, and frankly didn’t give a damn about homosexuality.

And then, there is this slime all vermin and chips abhorrent father.


June 14th, 2016

I suspect that American Muslims are pretty much like American Christians and American Jews, in that they run the gamut from deeply religious to “secular,” with the weight tending toward the latter. And I suspect that, again like most American Christians and Jews, the more hateful tenets of their faith tend to be ignored — except, of course, for those who, like some American “Christians,” can’t pull their heads out of their Leviticus long enough to get the main part of the message.

(When it comes to blind obedience to the dictates of religious authorities, I’m reminded of the fact that something like 99% of American Catholic women have used contraception, and that a strong majority of American Catholics think that LGBTs deserve equal rights, in spite of the thunderings of their bishops. I doubt that Muslims are much different.)

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