Homophobia, Religious Ideology, and Conservatism

Before Black Lives Matter became more known in the media (and, unfortunately, a social media trend for some people), I was an active supporter of the BLM movement back in high school. I would spend a lot of my time actively educating myself about topics that I knew less about. These topics involved anti-Black racism, homophobia, abortion rights, and other "controversial" issues in the media. 


Recently, I watched a documentary, 49 Pulses, on the Pulse shooting that occurred in 2016 and resulted in the death of 49 innocent people. The Pulse nightclub shooting was the deadliest incident in the history of violence against LGBTQ+ people in the United States. Many of the victims were also persons of colour and Hispanic because the club was having a Latin Night. Although I knew about the shooting when it occurred, almost four years later I still wanted to learn more about the shooting, the PTSD the victims faced, and the homophobia that had caused the shooter to take these lives. I felt appalled after watching the documentary and hearing about the trauma that all the victims, their families, and the first responders faced that day. I spent hours watching more news footage from 2016, police reports and press conferences, and countless other YouTube videos. 


The shooter had a lot of rigid ideals and was very homophobic. The shooter also practiced Islam and, unfortunately, gives the religion and us, Muslims, a terrible name. As a Muslim, I felt embarrassed and disgusted seeing this person hold so much hatred in their heart and being so misinformed about the religion. This incident at Pulse made me think a lot about religious ideology and how that relates to homophobia. For instance, the Quranic verse states: 


            "Humanity is but a single Brotherhood: So make peace with your brethren." 


This is in direct contrast to whatever the shooter believed (which went against the Islamic moral conduct). A lot of people who have homophobic ideals are raised to think these types of notions. Social influences, parents, friends, and other people in their lives, strongly influence their beliefs. Even thought LGBTQ+ relationships are discouraged in Islam, the religion stills encourages peace, love, and respect for everyone, and says nothing about harming LGBTQ+ individuals. Many Muslims, like myself, are completely accepting of LGBTQ+ relationships as well. Unfortunately, Islam's message is continuously misconstrued by other people and Muslims, like the shooter in this case. This type of homophobic sentiment is not just unique to Islam but also commonly occurs in other religions. For instance, in Christianity, we've all heard the following Biblical verse: 


            "Love thy neighbour, as thyself."
                                                                                                    [Matthew 22:39] 


However, many Christians still consider homosexuality and the LGBTQ+ community to be "unnatural." A pastor, Dag Heward-Mills claims, "You don't find two male dogs, two male lions, two male impalas, two male lizards. You don't find that in nature. That is unnatural. There is nothing like that in nature." However, how can people love their neighbour when these types of sentiments harm the LGBTQ+ community in healthcare, social institutions, political policies, and other areas in everyday life? 

The most prominent example of this discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community, in the face of religion, relates to Ted Cruz, a Republican Senator from Texas, who tries to combine religion and politics. He does this by arguing against same-sex marriage, trans rights, and has made homophobic remarks, such as: 


"I would encourage everyone here to be lifting up in prayer the court that they not engage in an act of naked and lawless judicial activism, tearing down the marriage laws adopted pursuant to the Constitution." (June 2015 at the Faith and Freedom Coalition)              


He is not the only person who has made these types of homophobic and transphobic remarks. Recently, another representative, Marjorie Taylor Greene, put up an anti-trans sign outside of her office. She mocked another representative's transgender daughter and claimed to uphold science above everything else, claiming only two genders. The irony is that many religious Republicans have strongly biased notions that contrast scientific principles (especially when it concerns COVID-19, mask-wearing, and abortion rights). 


These examples of a shooter, who misconstrued Islam's principles, along with political leaders constantly placing the Bible's literal meanings above basic decency and respect for the LGBTQ+ community, are all contradictions. Homophobia and religious intolerance are harmful, hateful, and in direct opposition to the peaceful message taught in these religions. Unfortunately, the problem with homophobia, taking religious texts too literally, and misconstruing messages is only further complicated when you factor in social influences, what's being taught in social institutions, and countless other environmental factors.