Once again, our lives are darkened by yet another mass shooting.
As I felt myself overcome by sadness for the lives lost, I was suddenly struck by a jolt of anger, and I remain angry.
I’m angry at the loss of 49 lives and the impact on countless others. I’m angry that some are suggesting that the victims deserved such an end. I’m angry that the perpetrator is, once again, identified as a Muslim, however far from practicing my faith he might have been.
I’m angry to hear voices asking why don’t “the Muslims” stand up against those in our communities who commit such crimes, as if we are imbued with some supernatural capability to foresee and prevent acts of terrorism, when no such question is asked of non-Muslims when members of their faith commit such crimes.
I’m angry that terrorism remains the exclusive domain of brown-skinned people with Middle-Eastern names.
But I am particularly infuriated to see that the enduring horror with which those who lost loved ones struggle to cope is overshadowed by a public discourse that focuses on highlighting differences, vilifying segments of the American population — including the victims themselves — and being leveraged to advance political goals.
As mass shootings become all but commonplace, the real tragedy is the lack of humanity in our response.
We rush to characterize this incident as terrorism — foreign because it’s associated with Islam. Yet we neglect to recognize the shooter was born and raised in the United States, no doubt radicalized in part by the incessant railing against LGBTQ communities and relentless efforts to codify restriction of their rights as citizens of this country.
The discussion of gun rights and control builds to fever pitch within hours, ignoring the reality that violence itself, not the means by which it is achieved, is ultimately the problem.
We silence the voices of LGBTQ communities that have been faithful mutual allies of American Muslims in our common struggle to overcome the same structures of oppression — voices that reject association of this shooting with the Islamic faith. And we erase those who identify with both communities, being both adherents of Islam as well as identifying within the LGBTQ spectrum. No longer will I condemn the actions of Muslim murderers on the grounds of my Muslim identity.
Indeed, acts like the Orlando shooting are foreign to all hearts that shelter compassion and regard for humanity, regardless of who is responsible. I condemn these acts of violence, characterized by a reckless disregard for the sanctity of human life, on the grounds of our shared humanity. That humanity demands a departure from the distractions of sexual orientation, religion and political agendas.
We must, at some point, stop to interrogate our individual and societal contributions to the environment and conditions that give rise to these repeated acts of indiscriminate violence.
While it cannot be considered a coincidence that an LGBTQ establishment was targeted when narratives that cultivate hatred, animosity and bigotry directed at those communities are a common thread of American popular and political discourse, we also cannot be drawn into the trap of fruitless debates over Omar Mateen’s Muslim identity, proclamations that divine justice has been served, or the merits of various gun control measures.
These polarizing discussions do not serve to prevent future mass shootings.
In the wake of this tragedy the Muslim and LGBTQ communities share a sentiment: Not in my name. Neither will Muslims assume responsibility for the actions of one among us who has disgraced the teachings of our faith, nor will the LGBTQ community allow their suffering to be exploited to advance a narrative of hatred and divisiveness. Instead, we declare in a unified voice our enduring commitment to loving all members of the human family, not despite, but for who we are.
Raja’ee Fatihah is a native of Tulsa, a social services inspector at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and a civil affairs specialist in the U.S. Army. He is a board member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Oklahoma Chapter.