As an Arab, the Middle East’s reaction to Orlando left me speechless
As an Arab, the Middle East’s reaction to Orlando left me speechless published by The 1st Amender
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Posted on 2016-06-21
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This article was originally written by Mohammed Rady on http://www.arabhumanists.org/arab-reaction-orlando-depressing/
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Recently, a devastating terrorist attack took place in Orlando, where 49 innocent people were murdered. Surely, the majority of people in the Arab world condemn this atrocious act of violence? The most fatal shooting in recent American history cannot possibly be celebrated by such a large number of peace-loving people who, after all, mostly condemn the acts of terror committed in the name of Islam by groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, right? Right?
As a bilingual Arabic and English speaker from the Middle East, I took the liberty of browsing through Arabic news pages on Facebook earlier today; namely Al Jazeera, Al-Arabiya, BBC Arabic and a number of Egyptian news outlets to gauge how the Arab world was responding to the Orlando shooting. The results were disappointing, alarming, and depressing to say the least. Each page’s comment section was inundated with comments showing sympathy towards the attacker, praising him for his actions and wishing death upon members of the international LGBT community. Comments ranged from jokes about the incident and how “the gays had it coming,” to long du’as (religious supplications), wishing death upon gays and lesbians, as well as asking God to grant the killer “the highest place in paradise.” I considered collecting screenshots of these comments to raise awareness about the amount of hatred towards the gay community in the Middle East, but it soon dawned on me that such a task would be impossible.
There were simply too many hateful comments, with thousands celebrating the attack, from Tunisia to Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. It was only through deep digging that a single person who expressed so much as a shred of sympathy to the victims and their families, or even condemned the blatant massacre that took place could be found. If you don’t speak Arabic, visit Al Jazeera Arabic’s Facebook page and scroll down until you see a post about the Orlando attack and note what the top three “reactions” (newly added Facebook feature) are.
Shocked? So am I. It is truly saddening and disturbing to see that such a large number of social media users in the Arab world who voice their opinions on the internet openly and unapologetically condone the killing of innocents because of their sexual orientation. Conversely, you may argue that as a majority of Al Jazeera Arabic viewers and readers are Islamist sympathizers, it is no surprise that they would be homophobic, and you would be right. But bear in mind that this also applies to outlets such as the BBC and Al Arabiya, whose followers you may assume are anti-Islamist because of their condemnation of ISIS. Egyptian news outlets generally have a large pro-Sisi following, and one might be led to think that their anti-brotherhood and anti-Islamism stance means that they condemn acts of terror against members of the LGBT community. Clearly, this is not the case.
The implications of this are far worse and much more far-reaching than one might initially consider. It has now become commonplace in the Arab world to wish death upon minorities and celebrate their murders. Gays, Christians, Jews, atheists, apostates, heterodox Muslims, liberal Muslims, and secularists are seen as subhuman. Celebrating their deaths is now a norm. At worst, attacks such as the Orlando shooting are met with praise, and at best silence.
Members of the left who claim such terrorism has nothing to do with Islam need to become aware of the issue at hand that is Islamism, and understand the ramifications of evading discussions on it. The Arab world’s moral collapse is the result of decades of fundamentalist Wahhabi indoctrination across the Muslim world which has culminated in the recent rise of Islamic terrorism. Reform must come from within Muslim communities – I can’t stress this enough. An open and frank discussion on the current understanding and interpretation of Islam is much needed. Yes, it’s great to see Muslims in the west condemning the attack and voicing solidarity with the victims and their families, but there still remains a long way to go. The Muslim world, particularly the Middle East and North Africa, has become rife with followers of either Arab nationalist anti-west ideologies, or Islamism and Wahhabism, both of which are cesspools for hate.
When the standard response from a lot of liberals is “Christians can be homophobic too” and “this has nothing to do with Islam” right after a terrorist attack where 49 people were killed because of religious fundamentalism, then a frank discussion is desperately needed. No favors are done by denying the presence of homophobia in Muslim communities and repeating far right Islamist rhetoric and propaganda. This only worsens an already bad situation, and the profundity of the consequences this attitude engenders towards Islamic fundamentalism must be recognized. Ignoring Islamic fundamentalism only makes the far right stronger, and its rise will be immediately followed by the persecution of the minorities whose rights the left purports to protect. This makes it harder not only for the LGBT community in the Middle East, but also other minorities and liberal and secular Muslims who fight for change on a daily basis in the Arab world.
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