During the course of writing the novel, I met, talked, and interviewed a good number of Muslim-Americans who are gay. I met those who were open about their identity and comfortable in their own skin; I met those who were still hiding their sexual orientation from those closest to them due to fear and their understanding of the repercussions; I met those who were married with kids and had a whole secret life that only a few knew about, but they were comfortable with their decision.
I also met those who were still going through the internal struggles and couldn’t understand why they were that way. Furthermore, I met those who struggled with their religious beliefs and wished to identify as Muslims, but weren’t welcomed by their own families and religious leaders.
The one constant that surfaced often was the fact that many couldn’t reconcile both their sexual and religious identities. It was a source of stress and anxiety. And to understand that struggle, one must dive into the religious teachings causing many to feel worthless, feel undesired and unwanted by their families and communities, feel constantly threatened, or feel the need to end their own lives. It is a struggle that thousands within the LGBTQ community endured and still endure, and not just in Muslim families.
Think of their recent struggle with the bathroom laws here on American soil.
With the recent shooting in Orlando, and all the information circling around about the shooter, I am starting to doubt the terror narrative. I am now considering the murder-suicide narrative.
Omar could have been gay, or he was gay based on information provided by his ex-wife, family, colleagues, and the several gay dating apps he was visited. Add to, he was a regular of the club he attacked.
It is very possible that Omar didn’t have the support of his family. He probably knew that divulging his sexual identity to the family meant his death.
Yes death, homosexuality is an offense which is punishable by death in accordance with the laws of some Muslim lands—a punishment that has no foundation in the Quran whatsoever. However, if you look deeper into those punishments and their history, you will trace their origins to a non-Islamic source.
Back to Omar, and not in his defense, he is both a victim and a criminal. He is the victim of cultural and religious teachings that isolate those viewed as sinners, and that doesn’t apply to Muslims alone. He is also a victim of a culture of hate, which dehumanizes those of colors, those who hail from Muslim origins, and if it is not worse, the crowds cheer. He is also a weak minded criminal who couldn’t face the pressures of society.
Whatever he did is gruesome and unacceptable to anyone who has an ounce of humanity and compassion for their fellow human beings. And we must pause for a second to recognize that the pain felt by the families of the victims is not shared by all. We must recognize that millions around the globe from all walks of life and from all religious backgrounds the death of 49 human beings who fell victim to this horrendous crime just because they were gay.
There is a lot of work that needs to be done.
Nevertheless, here is a different narrative based on the information we have now. Omar was gay. He hated himself for it. He was married, something that he probably had to do to appease his family or to masquerade his sexual identity. Omar was a Muslim who knew close to nothing about “Islam”, which probably led him to hate himself more causing him to sink into depression and a vicious cycle of self-imposed isolation. Omar most likely tried to seek some help, but didn’t know where to go.
He, then, concluded it was best to end his own life, and as he finally affirmed that decision, he decided to take the lives of others as a token of his repentance to the Gods for the many sins he committed.
There are so many tormented souls out there who can be an easy prey to those manipulative powers. And we must act.
Lives can be saved if we can become proactive rather than reactive. Lives can be saved if we learned the basics of respecting the rights of each and every human being. Lives can be saved if we left the judging to God himself and understand our own limitations as human beings.
During the course of writing the novel, I had a glimpse of the struggles of the members of queer Muslims, and I can tell you this much, it is a very scary place. And it is just as scary for others who adhere to other faiths.
The Muslim world is not so Islamic in many of the teachings it follows today. A lot of the teachings have no foundation in Islam. And I am not saying this to defend Islam or to say that ISIS or other groups don’t represent Islam and Muslims. I am referring to regular folks who peacefully roam the streets believing and accepting something to be Islamic, but isn’t so at all.
To illustrate, many Muslims believe that stoning is punishment for adultery. However, the punishment for adultery is clearly stated in the Quran, and it is not stoning. It baffles me how it became part of Islam over the years.
I believe it is time for religious institutions, and I am referring to all religions, to revisits their stances on the LGBTQ issues and plenty of other issues (Women, Children, religious freedom, personal freedom) in hopes to save future generations and many others from themselves.
Guilt, shame, hate will never solve the problems of the collective good. I am not proposing flying the rainbow flag in the Vatican or in Makkah. However, I am proposing a new approach, one based on understanding and respect for the human life.
Education is the key, knowledge is power.