By BERNIE BELLAN The mass killing in Orlando earlier this month provoked the usual storm of outrage from a myriad of different commentators – although the outrage varied depending on the perspective of the person voicing the outrage.
Liberals lamented the ease with which, once again, an individual in the United States was able to acquire the kind of assault rifle that one would think would be of absolutely no use to anyone except for someone in the military. And, even though Donald Trump went ridiculously overboard in accusing President Obama and Hillary Clinton of not wanting to use the term “fundamentalist Muslims”, he did have a point that politicians often bend over backwards using euphemisms for radical or fundamentalist Muslims.
Do you think that maybe, just maybe, after the third mass shooting now by a Muslim in the United States in recent years, we are witnessing a trend that is likely to continue, which is mass shootings by Muslims, apparently in alignment with radical Muslim groups, but without any direct coordination with those groups?
While I understood the reasoned responses of both President Obama and Hillary Clinton to the Orlando shootings, especially President Obama’s lamenting the inability of American politicians to make any meaningful changes to gun control laws, the problem isn’t just the ease with which so many individuals in the United States can acquire high-powered guns. There is also the problem of attempting to balance the rights of an individual to privacy and freedom of thought with the rights of members of society to be protected.
Members of the LGBT community focused on the fact that the shootings took place in a gay nightclub, but didn’t dwell on the fact that the shooter was a Muslim. I didn’t hear anyone from the LGBT community comment on the shooter’s father’s pronouncement that gays deserved to die, but only at God’s hands. This wasn’t just an act of homophobia; it was a deliberate act perpetrated by a Muslim (who may, it turns out, have been gay himself in a strange but understandable twist that might help to explain his actions if he was struggling with his own angst over being a gay Muslim) in accordance with anti-gay attitudes prevalent in Islam.
Right-wing commentators pointed to the extreme homophobia associated with fundamentalist Muslims, but didn’t draw the same connection between fundamentalist members of other religions, including Jews and Christians, and extreme homophobia. Can we be honest about this? The Torah is replete with condemnations of homosexuality. Sure, liberal Jews (and even some Orthodox Jews) can bend themselves into pretzels trying to explain away the Biblical injunctions against homosexuality, but for fundamentalist adherents of the Mosaic religions, it’s pretty clear that homosexuality is an abomination in God’s eyes. A few years ago I read a hugely sarcastic book that pointed out the Torah’s position on homosexuality. That book was titled God Hates You if You’re Gay and Loves the Smell of Burning Fat. (That latter reference is to the Torah’s preoccupation with rules governing animal sacrifice.)
Let’s also remember the attacks by ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel on women. When it comes to religious zealots prepared to uphold their beliefs, right now Muslims may be the scariest, but it wasn’t too long ago that Christians were quite willing to burn heretics and non-believers at the stake. If anything, the lesson is that religious fanatics are capable of outrageous acts no matter which religion.
Frankly though, when it comes to dealing honestly with Islam, however, the commentators who make the most sense to me are individuals who would be considered liberal in most respects, but who refuse to align themselves with the purveyors of political correctness. My hero in this regard has always been Bill Maher, whose show “Real Time with Ball Maher” can be seen on HBO. Maher’s savage skewering of almost anyone with whom he disagrees can be cruel, but he always backs up his arguments with facts. Of course, which facts he chooses to advance is problematic but, like another HBO personality, John Oliver, of “Last Week with John Oliver”, Maher can be deadly in skewering sacred cows.
A while ago Maher had a show during which he offered up a litany of poll results from around the world showing that Muslim attitudes on a whole host of issues were predominantly anachronistic by Western standards – and not just liberal Western standards.
Homophobia is pervasive among Muslims everywhere, Maher was able to show, but even something that I’m sure even the most conservative Jews or Christians would find odious – support for honour killings, receives substantial support among Muslims throughout the world, and not just in Arab countries. I’m not talking about majority support; but even if only a small number of Muslims support honour killings, in this case, one is too many.
Okay, I know the counter argument: Muslims who have emigrated to the West have often moved here precisely because they want to escape that mentality. Islam, we are told, is a religion of peace. But, any examination of the Koran will reveal that, at best, it’s a mass of contradictions, calling for tolerance on the one hand, but ordering the killing of unbelievers on the other.
I don’t know about you, but when I see a woman clad in a burkah head-to-toe, which is something I’ve seen more often of late in Winnipeg than I have in the past, I cringe. It’s so commonly seen in cities like Toronto that I suppose residents of that city may have grown quite accustomed to seeing something that is so medieval and misogynistic that it cannot be perceived as anything less than barbaric by anyone who truly gives a damn about real human rights. But, when you see a husband and wife out in public, with the wife wearing a burkah – and remember, a woman wearing a burkah will always be in the company of a male, how respectful do you think either that man or woman is likely to be of gay rights?
Yet, it’s supposedly Westernized Muslims who have been involved in the three mass shootings which I referenced earlier – the shootings by an army psychiatrist in Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009; the shootings by a couple in San Bernadino in 2015; and now the shootings in Orlando this month. If there’s one saving grace from the most recent episode of mass killings, however, it’s that Donald Trump does not appear to have benefited in the polls from his attacks on Obama and Clinton for their refusing to use the term “fundamentalist Islam”. Normally one would expect that Americans would support that kind of right-wing demagoguery following such a tragic incident. In this case though, it appears that Trump’s message of bigotry toward so many groups, especially Latinos, has worn thin and perhaps tiresome to the vast majority of Americans. Still, one can only hope that law enforcement authorities in the U.S. are doing their utmost to quietly infiltrate the mosques that are the source of so much Muslim hatred, along with keeping tabs on the Internet sites from where so many of those “lone wolf” killers are drawing their inspiration.