Saying “no” to scapegoating after Orlando

June 16, 2016

THE MASS murder at Pulse, a gay bar in Orlando, is an absolute tragedy--one born of homophobia.

Because the shooter was of Afghan descent, the inevitable Islamophobia and anti-Arab, anti-Southwest Asian panic has taken hold. Afghans are ethnically diverse, and largely not Arab, but unfortunately, this distinction matters little to people who hear nothing but a vaguely Arab-sounding name alongside Islamophobic code words.

CNN, as well as other "respectable" news sources, have identified this attack as "terrorism" and "Islamic extremism." The shooter's father, however, said that the shooter became enraged when he saw two men kissing. That is homophobia, and unfortunately, homophobia happens in every race, ethnicity and religion. It is a widespread and systemic oppression, and it is certainly not restricted to Muslims. Muslims are not responsible for this attack, and we must combat the racist notion that they are.

We, as queer and trans people of conscience, as socialists, must not allow the thin layer of white, wealthy, ruling class LGBTQ people to turn this tragedy into a justification to endorse Islamophobia, racism, imperialism and the surveillance state. We must not allow politicians to spy on our neighbors, detain them without cause, or murder their families overseas in our names.

Image from

Our Arab, Muslim, Southwest Asian and Persian queer and trans comrades, and anyone who is perceived as Muslim or has a vaguely Arab-sounding name, will be subjected to increased racism and Islamophobia, both in the LGBTQ community and beyond. They will face increased violence, surveillance and scrutiny in their day-to-day lives. They will be expected to denounce an act they had nothing to do with; an act they abhor.

We have a responsibility to make it clear that they belong in our communities. That they have the same right to LGBTQ spaces as anyone else. That they are not culpable for the acts of a single bigot.

We cannot allow racism and Islamophobia to prevent queer and trans people who are Muslims, or are perceived as Muslims, from continuing to be an important part of their own organizations and movements. We have a responsibility to defend our people against racist and Islamophobic attacks, both within the LGBTQ community and outside of it. We must counter the Anti-Arab, Anti-Southwest Asian and Islamophobic narratives peddled by bigots, by the media and politicians. Do not let them turn tragedy into racism and Islamophobia.

Readers’ Views welcomes our readers' contributions to discussion and debate about articles we've published and questions facing the left. Opinions expressed in these contributions don't necessarily reflect those of SW.

IT IS also important, while discussing this murderous act, to make it quite clear that mentally ill people are far more likely to be the victims of violence than they are to be the perpetrators of violence.

In the wake of mass shootings, alongside the racism which flourishes if the shooter is Muslim or perceived as Muslim, come the statements that mass murderers are "mentally ill," "mentally unstable" and "crazy." This is categorically false. Statistics on mental illness and violence show overwhelmingly that mentally ill people are less likely to be violent, and more likely to be victims of violence, than those who are not mentally ill.

Calling mass murderers "crazy" or "mentally ill" contributes to the stigma that says we, as mentally ill people, are violent and dangerous. That kind of stigma gets us prison instead of treatment, institutionalization, a restriction of our rights and contributes to the ongoing violence we face. We cannot defend against racism and Islamophobia by targeting mentally ill people instead.

We will mourn our kin who died in Orlando. That grief is normal and expected, and we have every right to it. We do not have the right to turn this disaster, this devastation, into Islamophobia, racism and ableism. We denounce this obvious hatred of queer and trans people, and we denounce attempts to shift the blame from homophobia and transphobia to race, ethnicity, religion and mental illness.

We can cry, but we must remember to fight as well.
Katrina Bacome, Toledo, Ohio

Further Reading

From the archives