In Mourning and Solidarity, Local LGBTQ Leaders Warn Against Islamophobia

By Sarah
, AlterNet, June 12,
Sunday morning’s horrific mass shooting at an
Orlando, Florida LGBTQ nightclub is being met with mourning, outrage,
heartbreak and international solidarity, as well as words of caution against
the unleashing of further cycles of violence through anti-Muslim and xenophobic
Approximately 50 people were
killed and 53 wounded when a man opened fire at the Pulse club on its Latin
night in the midst of Gay Pride month. The shooter has been identified as U.S.
citizen Omar Mateen, who was killed by police. Some news outlets are reporting
that Mateen, a longtime employee of the multinational mercenary/imprisonment company G4S, mentioned
ISIS in a 911 call, but officials have released little information and there
has been no verification of concrete, longstanding ties.
Cindy Wiesner, a queer Latina
Miami resident and national coordinator for Grassroots Global Justice Alliance,
told AlterNet, “I am so saddened and angered by the senseless lives lost,
people injured and a community that will be permanently marked by this. I worry
about the fodder of hate and revenge that Trump and his kind will produce. Will
he now opportunistically defend Latino people and LGBTQ people’s lives or are
we just collateral damage?”
The Muslim Alliance for Sexual
and Gender Diversity, which works to support and empower LGBTQ Muslims,
declared in a statement released on Sunday, “This tragedy
cannot be neatly categorized as a fight between the LGBTQ community and the
Muslim community. As LGBTQ Muslims, we know that there are many of us who are
living at the intersections of LGBTQ identities and Islam. At moments like
this, we are doubly affected.”
“We reject attempts to
perpetuate hatred against our LGBTQ communities as well as our Muslim
communities,” the organization continued. “We ask all Americans to
resist the forces of division and hatred, and to stand against homophobia as
well as against Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry.”
In a vacuum of information, media
outlets and politicians are speculating about Mateen’s ties to terrorist
organizations, with Florida senator Bill Nelson insinuating that Mateen had links to ISIL, while
acknowledging such information is unconfirmed. USA Today tweeted out an
outrageous news bite referencing Mateen’s parents, who were born in
Afghanistan, stating, Omar Mateen “was a U.S. citizen,
but some of his family is not.” Such response comes in the midst of an
election cycle marred by anti-Muslim incitement, accompanied by a spike in Islamophobic hate
Presumptive Republican
presidential nominee Donald Trump—who has proposed banning non-American Muslims, killing the family members of ISIL, “forcing” Mexico to build a wall and
deporting millions of immigrants—is opportunistically using
the massacre to boast that he is “right on radical Islamic
But Hermelinda Cortes, organizer
with the queer liberation organization Southerners on New Ground, told AlterNet
that racist, xenophobic rhetoric further erodes the safety of LGBTQ people,
many of whom are undocumented, refugees, Muslims and people of color. Cortes
emphasized that the Orlando attack was “part of a larger trajectory and
cultural backlash against the LGBTQ movement fighting to be free,” citing North
Carolina’s extreme anti-LGBTQ law, House Bill 2. “We are taking this attack in that
context and don’t see it as an isolated incident.”
As a case in point, while there
is a pressing need for blood donations, many gay and bisexual men are barred
from donating due to discriminatory FDA rules.
Many argue that this painful
moment requires solidarity and a more nuanced response.
“Homophobia, transphobia and
patriarchy kills on a daily basis,” Darakshan Raja, founder of the Muslim
American Women’s Policy Forum, told AlterNet. “All of us must do better to show
up for LGBTQI/gender non-conforming communities and end this violence.
“Simultaneously we need to
be careful of the narrative around the shooter,” Raja continued. “Islamophobia
won’t fight homophobia/transphobia, especially when these systems are
Ashley Green, a Tampa Bay-based
organizer with the Florida-based organization Dream Defenders, agrees.
“Seeing our brothers and sisters targeted for who they love is sad and
tragic,” Green told AlterNet. “We need to reject homophobia and
Islamophobia. One form of hate can’t justify another.”
Equality Florida noted in a
statement released Sunday morning, “Gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ
history. They were often the only safe gathering place and this horrific act
strikes directly at our sense of safety. June commemorates our community
standing up to anti-LGBTQ violence at the Stonewall Inn, the nightclub that has
become the first LGBTQ site recognized as a national monument.”
“We are heartbroken and angry,”
the organization stated, “that senseless violence has once again destroyed
lives in our state and in our country.”