The terrorist attack by a jihadist in Orlando is not only the latest instance of an ISIS fighter killing Americans, but also a reminder that jihadists hate gays. Curiously, the organizations that fight for gay rights have been mostly silent about the dangers Islamic supremacism poses to their constituency. But then, as Douglas Murray puts it: “the battle for gay rights stop[s] at the borders of Islam.”
To be clear, jihadists do not necessarily hate homosexual acts (prohibited in the Qur’an). They hate “gays.” They may oppose the act, but they especially detest the “sinner” who makes the act his identity, rather than hiding and denying what most of the Muslim world tolerates as a common, if temporary, deviation.
To jihadist eyes, “gays” celebrate openly, in a very American fashion, what should be hidden. In Iraq, when the Shia militias round up and stone young males with “Emo haircuts,” they justify it as eliminating satanic, Westernized homosexuals. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University in 2007, he said: “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country…we do not have this phenomenon.”
As veterans of the Afghan wars know, homosexuality is not unusual among our allies and enemies alike. A declassified 2010 Pentagon study indicates that “Pashtun men commonly have sex with other men…have sexual relationships with boys and shun women both socially and sexually – yet they completely reject the label of ‘homosexual.’”
Long before Orlando, jihadists have publically executed gay men. In Raqqa, ISIS throws them off rooftops. Many Muslim countries rule by a version of Sharia law that imposes the death penalty for homosexuality.
Bruce Bawer, an iconic gay rights intellectual, warned of the dangers Islam posed to the West in general and to gay men in particular. Bawer witnessed rapid changes in Dutch and Norwegian society after an expansion of immigration by Muslims in the 1990s. “To them,” he wrote, “the infidel’s ‘law’ is a joke, and values such as pluralism, tolerance, and sexual equality are alien and immoral. They see Western society as the enemy, European men as wimps, European women as sluts.” But there was a special disdain for gay men, and Bawer documents toleration for them in the heart of liberal Europe “slipping away like sand through the fingers.”
The response to Orlando from gay rights groups has been tepid and confused. GLAAD calls the attack a “tragedy” but makes no reference to the ideology behind it. The ACLU calls it “a horrific event” and oddly ends its statement by expressing “solidarity with the Muslim community here in Florida and elsewhere” – as though Omar Mateen had targeted and killed Muslims.
Typing the word “Islam” into the search engine of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) website yields a “No Results Found” message. The group’s June 13 statement on the attack condemns “terror” but not Islamic terror. The GMHC might contemplate Bawer’s warnings and consider the crisis Islamic supremacism poses to the health of gay men.
And where are the Hollywood allies of the LGBT community? With very few exceptions they avoid Islam altogether. True, several made sure that cameras were present when they performed their #BringBackOurGirls routine, and many boycotted the Beverly Hills Hotel when the Sultan of Brunei (its owner) announced that he would henceforth rule his island nation with strict adherence to Sharia. But the attention span of the beautiful people seems short-lived. No one mentions the Chibok schoolgirls or their Boko Haram kidnappers anymore, and while the boycott has ended, the Sultan of Brunei still owns the Beverly Hills Hotel and still rules with Sharia.
Like most feminists organizations, most gay rights advocates have paid scant attention to Islam. Instead of (or in addition to) fighting Republicans and Evangelicals, or photographers and bakers who oppose gay marriage (Obama’s position until May 9, 2012) a careful reprioritization of their foes might lead them to a worthier enemy.
If so, I say welcome to the fight, and I humbly offer some unsolicited advice.
Seize the Orlando attack and turn it against Islamic supremacists. The celebrations of those killed, the concerts and telethons to benefit their families are natural educational platforms. Use them wisely. Call on your Hollywood allies and take advantage of their access to free publicity and legions of adoring fans.
Finally, and perhaps most important, find the face of your cause. Find your Malala. It might be Hussein Sabat, Mr. Gay Syria, whose boyfriend was killed by ISIS three years ago. Sabat now leads the precarious existence of a gay rights activist from his exile in Turkey. His message is a good start: “Everyone is scared of ISIS but it doesn’t stop me from living my life. I won’t let them be a barrier and I hate them more than I am scared.”
A.J. Caschetta is a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum and a senior lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology.