"Radical Islam," Islamophobia, and the Pulse Massacre

A lot of people in the Jewish community have been talking about whether “Radical Islam” played a role in the Pulse Massacre. “Radical Islam” did not play a role in the shooting and it is not a problem in this country because “Radical Islam,” as it is represented by the West, is not a part of Islam. Using that term is dangerous because it begets Islamophobia. Radical Islam is employed to distract from the root causes of why this attack took place.
Everything I will say has been written about and talked about more eloquently by Trans and Queer folks of Color and Straight and Queer Muslims. I strongly recommend reading their work. (Here are a few links to get you started.) But because I know my opinion is not popular in the Jewish Zionist community, I believe it is important to share it here. I hope you all can hear it.
I am not ok with framing the massacre at Pulse as an act of “Radical Islam.” The term “Radical Islam,” as it is widely used in the West to describe terrorism, is not actually a term in Islam because terrorism and violence is not Islam. You can find links of Muslims stating as much here, here, here and here. In short, Muslims do not consider “ISIS” or this kind of terrorism Islam. Islam is a religion of peace and justice. Period. The term “Radical Islam”—as used to describe an ideology of hate and violence—is an inaccurate portrayal of the faith.
I will not bring the “problem of ‘Radical Islam'” into the conversation about Orlando because to do so would give the fallacious term validity and it would associate the abhorrent violent action of one person with the entire faith and people of Islam.
It is not ok to perpetuate this inaccuracy. Doing so is not only massively disrespectful of a faith, but also poses a physical danger to members of the American Muslim community. Already, Islamophobic rhetoric manifests in brutal, violent attacks. With the Right’s increased adoption of the language of “Islamic Extremism”, we risk increased violence against Muslims, as well as death and deportation. I am also not ok with this. I think there is a huge problem if we as a community are ok with this type of violence and tyranny or are willing to stand idly by as it takes place.
Using the term “Radical Islam” also perpetuates the myth that the majority of terrorist acts in the United States are carried out by Muslims. In fact, twice as many people who commit major massacres within the U.S. are White Supremacist Christians, but you do not hear people blaming “Radical Christianity” for the violent acts of one person. Instead, White Christian terrorists are “lone wolves,” even if one of them tries to blow up a Planned Parenthood while quoting bible scriptures, even if one massacres a church and quotes major White Supremacists in his manifesto.
It seems that a person’s religious background is used to blame a whole religion only when the person is Muslim or another religious minority. Also fascinating that 98% of acts of terror are committed by cisgender men in the US, but that is a post for another day.
There is not a problem with “Radical Islam” in this country. The rhetoric of “Radical Islam” distracts from the root causes of this tragedy. There is a problem with our continued inability to prevent bigots (usually white cis men) from getting access to assault weapons and carrying out violent atrocities. There is a problem with the homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia that is approved of and sanctioned by law in this country, which emboldens a sadistic person to take violent action as an individual.
There is a problem when laws protect gun rights more than a trans/gender non-conforming person’s right to pee, showing that we matter less and are fair game to be killed. There is a problem when the fact that the club was Gay and it was Latinx night is written out of the story by the media, further exposing that while LGBTQI people don’t matter in this country, LGBTQI People of Color matter even less and are forgotten. There is a problem when the white LGBTQI community is complicit in white washing an attack that targeted POC. There is a problem with the rhetoric in this country that dehumanizes and perpetrates immigrants. There is a problem when the United States’ role in creating ISIS through imperialism and oppression is ignored to the point that our two presidential candidates’ only response to this tragedy is to oppress, deport, colonize, and drone bomb Muslims at large.
I hope we can start to look at how these root causes of the Orlando shooting exist in our own community and our society at large. We need to hold each other accountable for our complicity in creating the culture that made the shooter, rather than fabricating a scapegoat to divert responsibility.
Photo by Alisdare Hickson, under creative commons (CC BY-NC 2.0) license, via Flickr.

One thought on “"Radical Islam," Islamophobia, and the Pulse Massacre

  1. i think the LGBT community has a delusional view of how often straight white males think about them. its 2016, no one cares, find a new hobby.

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