by A.J. Caschetta
To jihadist eyes, "gays" celebrate openly, in a very American fashion, what should be hidden.
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.'"
Most gay rights advocates have paid scant attention to Islam.
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.
Will Hollywood celebrities' support for the LGBT community last longer than that for the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram?
Like most feminist 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 worthier enemies.
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 importantly, 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.
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