On August 15, 2012, a gay-rights volunteer named Floyd Corkins entered the Washington, DC headquarters of the Family Research Council (FRC), a socially conservative policy group opposing same-sex marriage, brandishing a gun. According to an affidavit filed in the case, Corkins shouted “words to the effect of ‘I don’t like your politics” before opening fire at a security guard, who ultimately disarmed him. When Corkins was arrested, police found in his backpack 15 sandwiches from Chick-fil-A, the fast-food chain whose Southern Baptist owner had, two months prior, famously announced his opposition to same-sex marriage. Corkins told the FBI that he planned to kill as many Council staffers as possible and smash the sandwiches in their faces.
In the aftermath of the shooting, social conservatives blamed liberals for this act of terrorism, citing Corkins’ admission to authorities that the Southern Poverty Law Center’s designation of FRC as a “hate group” had inspired him. “Floyd Corkins was responsible for firing the shot yesterday that wounded one of our colleagues,” FRC president Tony Perkins said at the time. “But Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations ‘hate groups’ because they disagree with their public policy.”
Gay rights groups and their allies balked at these accusations, and rightly so, as nothing they had ever said or done encouraged violence against their political adversaries. There had never been an act of “pro-gay” terrorism, much less are there any organizations preaching death to critics of same-sex marriage. This was a singular act committed by a deranged individual, and while it’s certainly fair to take issue with the labeling of FRC a “hate group,” in no way could doing so be construed as condoning murder.
The same can hardly be said about the ideology of Omar Mateen, the 29-year-old Afghan-American who shot up a gay nightclub in Orlando last weekend, killing 49 people. Like Corkins, Mateen was explicit in his motivations, calling 911 in the midst of his murder spree to swear fealty to ISIS, the Islamist group that hurls gay men from high rooftops. “I pledge my alliance to (ISIS leader) abu bakr al Baghdadi,” he wrote in a Facebook post in the midst of his massacre, preemptively refuting the liberal know-it-alls who, like clockwork, would insist that his reasons for killing dozens of gay people were anything other than what he clearly said they were. “May Allah accept me. The real muslims will never accept the filthy ways of the west.”
LGBT Americans are still reeling from last week’s horror, the deadliest mass shooting in American history and the worst terrorist attack on American soil since September 11, 2001. We are understandably outraged that such homophobia exists in our society. Yet events in Orlando have generated a state of mass cognitive dissonance within parts of the gay community, as some do their utmost to downplay or deny altogether the role that Islamist ideology played. Too many of us find it easier to lash out at predictable enemies—the National Rifle Association, evangelical Christians, the Republican Party—anyone and anything other than the actual culprits here: a Muslim fanatic acting on the express theological dictates of a politicized religious doctrine embraced by myriad Islamist terror organizations, political movements and governments.
Emblematic of the denial was this fusillade from Glenn Greenwald, who insisted that Mateen “showed no signs of religious fanaticism.” Zack Ford of the Center for American Progress, meanwhile, asserts that “radical Islam” is not “more violent against LGBT people than the conservative Christian sentiment that permeates the U.S.” Lest one dismiss these preposterous pronouncements as the ignorant musings of bloggers without any real political influence, consider that the Justice Department originally released the transcript of Mateen’s 911 call after expurgating it of all references to Islam or the Islamic State, due to what Attorney General Loretta Lynch described, bizarrely, as a desire to “avoid revictimizing” those who were killed. (After that produced an immediate outcry, the FBI reversed course an hour later and released the full transcript). But as long as we persist in the lie that this atrocity had nothing to do with Islam, we’re going to have a lot more victims—LGBT and otherwise—piling up.
Of course, there are Christian and Jewish anti-gay bigots. But there is no worldwide network of Christians and Jews, spurred on by clerics and suborned by states, indoctrinating their flock in eliminationist homophobia and recruiting individuals to murder homosexuals. The same, sadly, cannot be said about Islam, the official religion of dozens of countries that legally proscribe homosexuality, some by penalty of death. In the wake of the Orlando shooting, many liberals are pointing to the near-simultaneous case of James Wesley Howell, a white man apprehended by police before he could shoot up the Los Angeles pride celebration, as evidence of how homophobia isn’t especially endemic within Islamic cultures. But there were no large-scale Christian ideological movements and religious leaders, never mind a would-be revolutionary state, motivating and backing Howell.
Faced with the fact that most Muslim-majority countries criminalize homosexuality (and that nine of the ten that do so with death are Muslim), liberals perfunctorily cite the case of Uganda, a Christian nation whose government also treats gays brutally. That this small African country is mentioned so often as an example of non-Muslim governmental homophobia attests to its outlier status. Nor is Christianity the state religion of Uganda, as Islam is for so many of the majority-Muslim countries that punish homosexuality. As for the world’s only Jewish State, well, it has a thriving gay culture and its Prime Minister has released a video statement of solidarity with the global LGBT community.
Because they are incapable of distinguishing murderous Islamist homophobia from high school bullying, many gay liberals have lashed out at Republican politicians who’ve offered condolences to the Orlando victims, accusing them of having forfeited any right to express solidarity by dint of their past opposition to same-sex marriage. Bizarrely, some have gone so far as to blame American Christian conservatives, rather than Islamist fanatics, for Mateen’s actions. The New York Times has led the pack campaigning to replace Islam with Christianity as the most threatening font of religious homophobia. A remarkable editorial about the massacre that didn’t once mention the words “Islam” or “Muslim” saw fit to condemn “Republican politicians who see prejudice as something to exploit, not extinguish.” Elsewhere, in its “Room for Debate” section, the Times asked four experts to answer the question, “Have Christians Created a Harmful Atmosphere for Gays,” an utter non-sequitur after a Muslim walked into a gay bar and murdered 49 people. The disordering of priorities here is breathtaking. If only LGBT folks could muster the same amount of vitriol towards al-Baghdadi and his deranged followers that they did for Kim Davis, the Kentucky court clerk who earned gay left ire for refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
On live television, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper grilled Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi over her past legal defense of a state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, a measure endorsed by 61% of her constituents. Cooper indignantly asked if she thought there was a “sick irony” in Bondi calling herself “a champion of the gay community” after the attack when she has publicly opposed gays’ right to marry. If there’s a “sick irony” in the response to Orlando, it’s the mindset that prefers to interrogate a Republican elected official about the fulfillment of her constitutional duties rather than the hateful ideology responsible for this crime. If gay rights organizations are not to blame for Floyd Corkins, how is Pam Bondi the slightest bit responsible for Omar Mateen?
The urge to conflate anything less than total adherence to the Western gay rights agenda with the barbaric homophobia all too common in the Muslim world essentially equates valid political views, expressed via democratic processes, with Islamist savagery. Apparently, contesting the right of biological men to use women’s restrooms exists on the same continuum as the ongoing genocide of homosexuals in Syria. By the logic of Cooper and the Times, had Sunday’s massacre occurred in early 2012, before President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, he too would be complicit in Mateen’s crimes as someone who contributed to “the corrosive politics that threaten LGBT Americans,” as our paper of record entitled its clueless editorial. All this blame-shifting conjures memories of a certain reaction to the Kennedy assassination, to this day attributed by many liberals to a climate of right-wing “hate” despite the inconvenient fact that it was perpetrated by a communist.
This desire to bury our heads in the sand and equate Judeo-Christian and Muslim homophobia is explained by two factors: familiarity and fear. To achieve legal equality, gays in the West spent the past five decades contending against a Judeo-Christian majority culture. In 2016, we’re utterly unequipped to address homophobia emanating from Islamic communities which, in America and Europe, constitute religious minorities. Secondly, while gay rights advocates have largely won the legal and culture war in the West, the struggle to legitimize homosexuality in the Islamic world has a much longer way to go, against far more ruthless enemies, and the situation is direr than anything almost any living gay person in the West has ever experienced.
The Moral Majority never had a terrorist wing.
Others have pointed to evidence suggesting Mateen was himself gay to claim his horrific acts had nothing to do with Islamist ideology and everything to do with internalized homophobia. Far from being mutually exclusive, however, these two influences are often mutually reinforcing. Given the prevalence of repressed homosexuality in the Muslim world, National Post columnist Terry Glavin observes that being a “vicious, bloodthirsty homophobe” and “a dangerously self-loathing, deeply closeted gay man” are practically “job-application prerequisites” for the aspiring jihadist. Of course, the vast majority of closeted gay men don’t commit homophobic violence. But in Mateen’s case, it was the appeal to mass-murder offered by so many prominent Islamic political leaders, clerics, and even states (such as Iran, whose condolences to the Orlando victims are the most cynical of crocodile tears, considering its own track record of murdering gays), which distinguishes variants of Islam from the homophobia of other religions. A conflicted Catholic, for instance, would be told by his priest to live in celibacy and respect the “dignity of homosexual persons,” not shoot up a bar full of them. And while it’s certainly true that the Orlando attack fits within a broader trend of increasing hate crime against LGBT people, what distinguishes it from those isolated incidents is that it took direct inspiration from a nascent theocratic state with global appeal.
Many gays rightly complain that some media outlets and conservative politicians are obscuring the specifically homophobic nature of the Orlando tragedy, “closeting” the victims by failing to acknowledge their identities as gay men and women. But denying the Islamist motivations of the perpetrator is an obfuscation no less inaccurate, and one far more dangerous.