Like other gay Americans on Sunday, I woke up to the news of the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, with absolute horror. My immediate reaction was to turn to my sleeping husband and hug him, trying to ensure myself that we will be okay — that we are safe. But I could not shake the feeling that my community was under attack, and the hate I felt directed at my community was like nothing I have felt as an out gay man in the US for years.
It is the hate I felt directed at my husband, at me, and at my community that makes me confident that we should not use this horrific act of violence to perpetuate even more hate — particularly against our Muslim brothers and sisters.
It didn’t take long, shortly after the shooter was revealed to be Muslim, for the typical Islamophobic cries from politicians. Here’s Donald Trump, who has repeatedly called for a ban on Muslims entering the US:
Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2016
I am not Muslim or religious at all. But I know what it’s like to have politicians say horrible things about your people. And I know, today more than ever, how it feels to be hated. So instead of using an act of hate to push even more hate, I would appreciate it if politicians and everyone else used the Orlando shooting as a time to reexamine their own bigotries — against LGBTQ people across the world specifically, but also against Muslim people, black people, Hispanic people, and women.
While it seems easy or possible to lump Muslims into a monolith to pander to racist and xenophobic voters, the truth is that most Muslims — like any other group of people — abhor violence. This is just a fact: Pew Research Center surveys have found that the great majority of Muslims around the world say that violence in the name of Islam is not justified. And it's worth remembering that the primary victims of terrorist groups like ISIS are other Muslims.
The Orlando shooter, in other words, doesn't represent the great majority of Muslims.
It’s also true that there are millions of LGBTQ Muslims around the world. Some may even be among the victims of the Orlando mass shooting. (We don't have a full list of the dead and wounded yet.) They surely did not approve of the violence we saw today.
Ramadan and LGBTQ Pride Month are both underway. This should be a time to respect and honor the diversity that makes America so great. No terrorist attack — especially one that seeks to perpetuate hate — should be allowed to change that. We can't fight hate with hate.