Although it has been only a few days since our nation was shaken to the core by Orlando nightclub massacre, a virtual firestorm of accusations, vilifying and xenophobia is already raging. This was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, and it has simultaneously opened two already festering wounds: homophobia and Islam phobia.
Unfortunately, this horrifying act of mass murder, the tragic consequence of the perpetrator’s deranged hatred of gays coupled with his fanatical devotion to ISIS, has contaminated the presidential race. Donald Trump, capitalizing on this tragedy, has doubled down on his extreme ideas about dealing with the threat of radical Islam. He is, in effect, throwing gasoline on an already raging fire. Now he is demanding that Muslims in America should become informants, reporting any hints of extremism. This is strongly reminiscent of McCarthyism, calling into question the loyalty of millions of Muslim Americans. This demand could well portend a nationwide witch-hunt, worsening the insecurity of innocent Muslims and simultaneously giving encouragement to the dangerous extremists. It could also do great harm to American democracy.
Hillary Clinton, for her part, seems ready to up the ante, expressing her readiness to speak of radical Islam in a way that President Obama has been unwilling to do, owing to his reluctance to over-generalize, and further alienate America’s tenuous allies in the Middle East.
There are many significant issues to be addressed. However, the crucible of presidential politics is not the place for an airing of these issues. The tone of the campaign is already close to the boiling point. Our country does not need more inflammatory rhetoric that could not have any ameliorating effect.
We should be able to sympathize with the terrible dilemma confronting Muslim Americans. Most of them have come to the U.S. and to other countries to escape the suffocating atmosphere of fanaticism, sectarian strife or perennial poverty. Ever since 9/11, they have been paying a very high price for the horror that was not of their making. And now this. I would not want to be a Muslim in America at this moment.
Amidst our national anguish over the Orlando nightclub massacre, there is plenty of blame to go around. The U.S. Congress which, after a gruesome series of mass shootings by deranged men, still refuses to make the smallest progress toward meaningful gun control. It must be noted that the gunman purchased all of his weapons and ammunition legally.
Our nation’s medical system’s inability to deal with mental illness also shares responsibility. Those closest to the gunman were aware of his volatility yet did nothing about it. Even if they had reported his instability, there is no likelihood that there would have been meaningful intervention.
Furthermore, at the risk of being labeled politically incorrect, it must be recognized that homosexuality remains a crime in virtually every Muslim country, and other many countries as well. ISIS, an obscene perversion of Islam, carries out horrible crimes supposedly in the name of their religion.
Although Islam will continue to regard homosexuality as a sin, (as do several other religions, including some here in the U.S.) would it be expecting so much for it to be decriminalized in those countries? Would it be too much to expect Muslim religious leaders to refrain from ranting against homosexuality in the mosques, particularly here in America? It is highly unlikely there will ever be gay pride parades in any Muslim country. But merely to cease prosecuting and punishing gay people would be a gigantic step in the right direction.
Finally, all religious groups that preach hatred or intolerance toward other religions, ethnic groups, or toward those who do not believe or behave as they do must accept a share of the blame.