Radical Islam is a great evil. It’s poison in people’s brains that conflicts with the modern world, with basic human ethics, and with cooperation with unbelievers. It has to be defeated.
There are ideas promoted by radical Islamists that are inimical to our peaceful coexistence, and that are sustained in a culture of hatred that leads people to kill. The father of the Orlando shooter, while claiming that it was not the place of people to take action, was clear in his othering of homosexuals.
He then adds: “God will punish those involved in homosexuality,” saying it’s, “not an issue that humans should deal with.”
You can also see this in a video Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar, a Muslim cleric who spoke in Orlando and thinks it is right for homosexuals to die, although of course we must not hurry God’s will along.
It’s poorly plausible denial. Consider the logic: God is good; God is great; God hates and despises gay people; they should all die for their sins and suffer for eternity in hell; but oh, by the way, you don’t need to do anything about them, but God’s probably going to forgive you if by some chance you should happen to murder a few of them.
And so it goes.
It’s very convenient.
So right now the right wing is howling that Obama did not name “radical Islam” at fault in his speech about the mass murder. Hillary Clinton has been praised because she openly accused “radical Islam” and called for increased military action (she’s making me very unhappy that she’s going to be the Democratic candidate now). Atheists I know are saying that this means we atheists have to step up our opposition to Islam, often not even bothering with the “radical” part. We hate religion, right, so we should especially hate Islam.
This is where they lose me. It makes no sense.
These bad ideas are not a uniquely Muslim problem. We have an American problem.
If we lived in a righteous government, they should round them all up and put them up against a firing wall, and blow their brains out,Jimenez said in the sermon.
They are indistinguishable from the Orlando killer’s father, or any of the dime-a-dozen Islamist preachers out there. These are home-grown Christian haters.
Look at Scott Lively, who ran for governor of Massachusetts and has been responsible for exporting Christian hate around the world. How about Mike Huckabee failed presidential candidate and governor of Arkansas?
In that 1992 questionnaire, Huckabee also called homosexuality, “an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk.”
The current Republican candidate, Donald Trump, is considered the most LGBTQ-friendly Republican — that fact alone should give one pause — and he has declared that he wants to rescind marriage equality. Last I looked, well-known homophobes Steve King, Jason Chaffetz, and Louie Gohmert are still in office, and not particularly at risk of being voted out. If I had to list all the anti-LGBTQ governors, representatives, and senators in office, I’d wear all my fingers down to little stubs.
We’ve had anti-LGBTQ legislation passed recently in Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas. It is politically safe to condemn and hate homosexuals in Republican strongholds; the Bible itself repudiates it; one of the foci of conservative religious thought in general is sexual purity, and America is most definitely a bastion of conservative religiosity.
And somehow, many atheists are able to assemble this idiotic chain of thought that atheists must oppose religion, radical Islam is the worst religion ever, therefore we must support the deportation of Muslims to prevent innocent gay Americans from being murdered. There’s a problem in the logic there. How can you sit stewing in this festering shitpile of of Christian bigotry and decide that this is the perfect opportunity to exercise your bigotry against Muslims? This makes no sense. Less than 1% of the American population are Muslim, and an even tinier percentage of that are the kind of radical Muslims who would kill for their faith, and you want to prevent homophobia by persecuting and exiling them?
Radical Islam is not the problem here. The problem is a widespread culture of hatred supported by the dominant religion of this country. And if you think it’s just religion that is the problem, you haven’t been paying attention: Richard Dawkins is hugely popular among the alt-right (although he does not reciprocate the affection), many of those popular atheist youtubers are neo-reactionary atheists, and the alt-right treats gays with all the contempt they also give to women.
This is a deeper problem than Islam. Using the mass murder in Orlando as an excuse to persecute Muslims is a category error — it is an excuse to completely ignore the fundamental source of the problem to find yet another reason to exercise your anti-immigrant, anti-brown person bigotry. Don’t fall for it. Before we deport generic Muslim people, your eyes should swivel to those nice white all-American homophobes who openly advocate discrimination and hatred.
And maybe we should actually take an honest look at what those generic Muslim Americans actually think. I know it goes against the stereotype, but many Muslims in countries like Iran and Turkey and Morocco and Egypt have been strongly secular, or at least in favor of tolerance and coexistence, and many of the Muslims who immigrate to the US are fleeing religious persecution, so we’re enriched for secular, non-theocratic Muslims. Glenn Greenwald does an excellent job of looking at the data on Muslim attitudes in the US. Did you know that “U.S. Muslims were more accepting of homosexuality than evangelical Christians, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses”?
Similarly, U.S. Muslims are more likely to support same-sex marriage (42% support it) than are U.S. evangelicals (28%), historically black Protestants (40%), Mormons (26%) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (14%). Indeed, U.S. Muslims are roughly just as likely to support same-sex marriage as Christians generally (44%).
44% isn’t great, but it does say you can’t use these numbers to support deporting Muslims unless you’re also prepared to round up just about everyone other than atheists, Jews, and Buddhists and kick them out of the country (which, I’ll confess sounds sort of appealing…but it would still be a huge injustice so I can’t support it).
Greenwald also points out the international nature of the problem.
Both China and Russia are overwhelmingly non-religious and also vehemently anti-gay; to the extent Russians are religious, they are loyal to the Orthodox Christian Church. In Cameroon, Catholic Church officials continue to spew the most vile and inflammatory anti-gay rhetoric. A prominent evangelical multi-millionaire Brazilian pastor and Congressman with a history of vile anti-gay rhetoric, Marco Feliciano, yesterday attacked the LGBT community for “using” the Orlando massacre for “self-promotion” and instead said that support for Palestinians was to blame.
Read the whole thing. Then look at the popular media. It’s amazing how quickly and thoroughly all the news networks have joined in a common message, that the Orlando attack was perpetrated by a Muslim terrorist with connections to ISIS, while the white man toting explosives and guns to a Gay Pride event suffers no such labeling, while Dylann Roof is excused from the terrorist trope because he was only terrorizing black people, while Timothy McVeigh is just a patriot who got carried away.
Face the facts. The Orlando killer was an evil person who did great harm, but if you’re going to try to find the cause in his background, you’re making a huge mistake if you stop, satisfied, at the point where you learn he was Muslim. And if you use the fact that he was Muslim to ignore the wider cultural source of this homophobia to justify broad attacks on just Islam and on immigrants, you aren’t being a rational atheist: you’re being a bigot.
Despite all this data, the standard group of hateful polemicists who literally seem to devote their lives to exploiting every news event to attack Islam wasted no time yesterday – before any facts were known, while the bodies were literally still in the club – squeezing the horrific slaughter in Orlando to depict Muslims as uniquely hateful of LGBTs. Never mind that the suspect, Omar Mateen, showed no signs of religious fanaticism, was (according to numerous close sources) suffering from mental illness, had a history of wife-beating, worked for a major defense/mercenary contractor, had no known connection to extremist groups until his 911 call citing ISIS, and was obsessed with joining the NYPD.
And never mind that white Christian Americans show the same or greater contempt for the right of LGBTQ people to exist.
The opportunity to exploit LGBT suffering to fuel the standard anti-Muslim agenda was far too attractive to resist, no matter how many facts negate it. Try to tell LGBT citizens who grew up in North America, or South America, or Europe, that anti-gay hatred is an exclusive attribute of Islam and the scorn you’ll provoke – grounded in actual personal experience rather than hateful ideology – will be intense.
I’ll be more impressed when the politicians quick to jump on the anti-Muslim bandwagon, like Hillary Clinton, are as unafraid to say the words “radical Christianity” as they are “radical Islam”.