The mentality of Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen is a stark reminder of how religion often perverts sexual morality. Mateen apparently believed that homosexuality between consenting adults is morally wrong and that taking thousands of women as sex slaves as ISIS does is not morally wrong. He had it exactly backwards. Homosexuality is not morally wrong. Slavery and rape are morally wrong.
If this anti-gay jihadist terrorism “has nothing to do with religion” as Omar Mateen’s father dishonestly claims, then it follows that KKK lynchings against African Americans “had nothing to do with racism”.
ISIS is a far-right religious extremist group and it is far past time for the Christian far right in America to recognize themselves in the mirror when they look at them, just as it is far past time for all liberals to recognize that they should be leading the fight against radical Islam shoulder-to-shoulder with secular and liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims instead of making excuses for radical Islam as though it is a response to U.S. foreign policy rather than a collection of far right religious extremist movements opposed to liberalism, secularism, humanism, peace, modernity, universal human rights and progress.
It is not possible to make peace with Islamic State or the Taliban or al Qaeda or al Shabab or Boko Haram or Ansar al Sharia. It may be possible to change the minds of individuals but not these movements or their deeply committed leaders. There is no nonviolent solution to the problem of jihadist terrorism, but there is also no solution without combating the ideologies and not just the people behind these movements.
As for the revelations that seem to indicate that Omar Mateen may have been a closeted gay or bisexual man, I do not find this development surprising at all. Many of the most hateful and fanatical homophobic bigots are closeted homosexuals or bisexuals so filled with self hate that they blame others for “making them gay”. His father allegedly called him “gay” in front of his ex-wife and said that gay people deserved the death penalty.
Islamic State fighters have hugged and said prayers of forgiveness before stoning homosexual men to death, while promising them that they would be forgiven by Allah after death. Islamic State also recently caught one of its military leaders having sex with a teenage boy. The boy was executed and the military leader was sent to fight on the front lines to die a martyr for forgiveness for his homosexuality. Al Qaeda is known to promise not only forgiveness for one’s own “sins” but for the sins of several family members as well. Perhaps this was a sad case of a self-hating closeted gay or bisexual man from an extremely anti-gay family and religion and culture turning to radical Islamism to “cure” himself of his “sins”.
One of the elements of the mass shooting problem in the USA that should not be underestimated is the “copycat crime” phenomena. Whether it is postal workers, school kids, disgruntled workers, “lone wolf” ISIS recruits, racist fanatics, crazed conspiracy obsessives, or hallucinating schizophrenics, there is an aspect of these crazy acts inspiring other unstable people to do the same. Many of these killers desire notoriety and infamy through their homicidal and often suicidal actions.
I do not suggest, as some do, that we not talk about the perpetrators. Instead I think we should be realistic about the perpetrators by discussing their actual human frailties instead of making them out to be either super-human or sub-human monsters. The real horror is that people do these things. I am not suggesting pity on or empathy for killers of innocent people. What I am suggesting is that the best way to not glorify mass killers is to show how weakness not strength drove them to kill.