In the early hours of Sunday morning, an Islamic extremist opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing dozens of people and injuring many more. He was only stopped when local law enforcement used explosives and firearms to enter the Pulse club and kill him. A community, both locally and globally, is in mourning for its loss and a country is reeling from the most lethal act of terrorism conducted on its soil since the attacks of 9/11.
There is not a PR department or publicist in the world capable of putting a positive spin on what happened in Orlando. The combined efforts of Malcolm Tucker, Don Draper, and Brian Kinney would be inefficient to devise a strategy to make people feel better about what happened. However, the devastating attack might provide an opportunity for reflection and perhaps a moment of learning. If anything will be achieved from the senseless violence we saw at the weekend then it might be that the LGBTI community gets a clearer picture of whom its allies are and whom they are not – because they are not whom they were.
The allies of the LGBTI community are not, for instance, those whose first response was to go straight to gun control. Those commentators who did so, such as Piers Morgan, most likely did what they thought was best but failed to notice the distinction in this particular attack – that it was targeted specifically at the LGBTI community and was carried out by an Islamic fundamentalist who had been sucked in to the vortex of unenlightened hate that is radical Islam. By turning the narrative surrounding this attack from what it is - a religiously motivated attack on queer people - to a debate on America’s gun problem, the nature of the victims (and, just as importantly, of the perpetrator) was pushed out of the narrative. This was an attack motivated by an extreme version of a religion on a minority group.
Also worse than useless was the usual din that overpowers the debate during these saddening times. Politicians, commentators, and others rushed to be the first to assure and remind us that the murderer in Orlando did not represent all Muslims. Well duh! We all know that this man did not represent all Muslims and that the majority of Muslims disapprove of his actions. However, those who bleated this refrain, including President Obama, seemed to be unaware that in doing so they blocked out any future discussion of the role that a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam had on this man who was radicalised online by a hateful message.
Being presented with a wall of sound with “Not All Muslims” written on it is both insulting to the intelligence but also prevents further investigation and discussion of the problem of homophobia within Islam, and religion more generally. When one remembers that, according to a recent poll, 52% of British Muslims would support the criminalisation of homosexuality, and when one also remembers that the majority of countries that commit state sanctioned murder against homosexuals are nations with Muslim majorities, then the link between certain versions of Islam and homophobia must surely be investigated – not least in the name of gay Muslims, of which there are most likely more than many would suspect.
A comprehensive list of the unhelpful noises that were made in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting would take up more column space than the good people at Backbench generously allow me, but the source is always the same. When an attempt is made to distract by changing the analysis to a discussion of guns, misogyny, class, or any other factor –it always comes from the left.
The reason for this is simple: modern “progressives” operate on the basis of a hierarchy of oppression, which prevents criticism (or even negative mention) of any individual, or group, which has minority status. The Cultural Marxism to which the modern regressive left adheres considers being a Muslim as de facto grounds for absolute protection, and therefore forces them to scrabble around for other issues to talk about when radical Islam strikes. This inability to criticise radical Islam, or even mention it by name, means that the currently-in-vogue regressive left can be no friend to LGBTI people. Times have changed.
However, the LGBTI movement does have new allies and they come from an unlikely place – the cultural right. LGBTI folks can find solidarity in this unlikely quarter of politics because the old guard of social conservatives who would have denied them marriage rights, prevented the recognition of their sexuality as anything other than a mental illness, or removed them from any discussion in schools has ceased to have any power. What stands in its place is a hybrid of libertarians and classical liberals who acknowledge both the value of the LGBTI community – even if some on its fringes don’t particularly like them – and acknowledge the threat it faces from Islamic radicalism.
Entertainers like Gavin McInnes and politicians such as Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, and David Coburn are now the allies of the LGBTI movement – some of those men are members of it in fact – as they are able to acknowledge the threat that Islamic radicalism poses to the health, happiness, well-being, and very lives of gay people without becoming enraptured in their own guilt. It has become clear - the present and future true friends of the LGBTI movement are on its right flank, while those on its left offer nothing but excuses and obfuscation. Consider the average leftist position on Israel – the only country in the Middle East not openly hostile to gay people – for all the examples one would ever need.
In the time following the Orlando shooting (carried out by a radicalised Islamic terrorist against gay people) the LGBTI community faces a choice. It can either stick with the same regressive left, paralysed by the fear of being Islamophobic, or it can turn to the right and embrace its former enemies in the spirit of liberty and security. Given the popularity of #GaysForTrump on Twitter and of Milo Yiannopoulos’s “Dangerous Faggot Tour” on US college campuses, it would seem that this decision is being made already.
Read more articles by this commentator