Some of our political leaders and much of the media seem to be straining to place the blame for the murderous behavior of Omar Mir Seddique Mateen anywhere except on his Muslim faith, his apparent devotion to ISIS, and most of all to Islamic teaching.
But speaking as a Muslim reformer, and as a former radical Islamist, I can tell you that such efforts are fruitless. Those factors are exactly what have likely caused the 29-year-old former security guard to open fire early Sunday morning in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and wounding 53 more — all of them presumably homosexual.
The punishment for being a homosexual is death as universally interpreted by Islamic teaching.
And the fact that Mr. Mateen was reportedly gay himself does not invalidate this conclusion. On the contrary, it reinforces it.
Please let me explain.
This might be an inconvenient truth, but homosexuality is condemned by Islamic teaching and despised by many, many Muslims, even those who secretly practice the gay life. Although the Quran does not mention specific legal punishment for homosexuals, the subject in Islam as practiced today is dominated by the other four forms of Islamic authority:
- the Hadiths, which chronicle the life of the Prophet Muhammad (as opposed to the Quran, which is believed by Muslims to be the literal Word of God),
- the Sahabah, or the testimony and actions of the disciples of Muhammad,
- the Schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and
- the official interpretations of Islamic law by the clerics — most familiarly known as Sharia.
In all of these cases, homosexuality is regarded as a sin punishable by death.
Let me repeat that: The punishment for being a homosexual is death as universally interpreted by Islamic teaching. If any Muslim practices lowat, or the gay lifestyle, he will meet the Lord “unclean” — even if he attempts to wash himself with every drop of water in the world.
Moreover, much of the discussion of homosexuality within Islamic teaching concerns the type of punishment homosexuals should receive. The preferred methods are throwing them off of cliffs (or if it’s more convenient, hurling gays from the tops of tall buildings, as ISIS has been doing), or burning them alive. As morally repugnant as we in the West might find such acts, they are routinely the topic of discussions among Islamic authorities.
Nothing in Islamic literature contradicts it.
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That is why cleric Farrokh Sekaleshfar, speaking at an Islamic center in Sanford, Florida, last April, said, “We have to have that compassion for people. With homosexuals, it’s the same. Out of compassion, let’s get rid of them now.”
If Sekaleshfar’s remarks were contradicted by Islamic teaching, they would have caused widespread condemnation by mainstream Islamic scholars. But there was none at the time, and none since, because his position on homosexuality is universally accepted by Islamic authorities.
Now, let’s assume that the reports about Omar Mateen’s homosexuality are true and that he was indeed a gay Muslim. Imagine the conflict such a condition would have caused in this misguided man’s mind. On the one hand, he was described as a devout Muslim, with considerable evidence that he had embraced radical Islam. But on the other, his mind and his body were filled with desires he knew would result in his eternal damnation.
How to reconcile the torment?
Islamic teaching also provided the answer. In the Quran’s Sura (chapter) Ali’Imran 3:169-172, we find this passage:
“But do not think of those that have been slain in God’s cause as dead. Nay, they are alive! With their Sustainer have they their sustenance …”
For Muslims, the meaning is clear: Martyrdom is a guaranteed way to achieve Paradise. Mr. Mateen, in my view, removed the conflict from his troubled soul by embracing jihad — holy war — and dying for the cause, in his case from a policeman’s bullet. And he also atoned for his sins by carrying out the declared punishment for homosexuality by opening fire on the patrons of the Pulse that awful night.
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I would add that the attempt to bring the gun-control issue into this incident has no relevance. Though Mateen, a security guard, had ample access to firearms and ammunition, if he had been prevented from using a gun he would have chosen another form with which to commit his mayhem. The point is that, for Omar Mateen, murder and suicide were inevitable outcomes.
Finally, despite the fact that Mateen’s possible homosexuality could have played a role in the Orlando shooting, the choice of the Islamic month of Ramadan to do the attack, calling 911 to pledge alliance to ISIS, and the fact that he was a dedicated Muslim gives more credit to the ideological factors behind the problem than to the psychological ones. If being homosexual was the main cause of the attack, we would have likely seen many terrorist acts by gay people on their own gay communities.
The fact that the Orlando attack is probably the only known terrorist attack conducted by a homosexual to kill his fellow homosexual people further supports the conclusion that ideological factors— possible aggravated by homosexuality of the perpetrator — are the main cause behind the attack.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid, a practicing physician and cognitive psychologist, is the author of “Inside Jihad: How Radical Islam Works, Why It Should Terrify Us, How to Defeat It.”