I don’t know why, but I felt an obligation to write this, as a Muslim-American.
A week ago today, in the early hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016, 49 people were killed and 53 people were injured in Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. This was the deadliest terror attack in the US since 9/11 and the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
When I read these words on news headlines after waking up Sunday morning, I felt sick and mad and oh so heartbroken. Unfortunately, hate seems to be growing in the world. Boston. Paris. Belgium. San Bernardino. Orlando. These city names are now associated with acts of terror and hate. It makes me so sad to see how often these occur and how nothing has changed. Not even after Columbine, Aurora, or Sandy Hook.
Here are my two cents about the actions of this killer and about what needs to happen in order for something like this to never happen again in our country.
I am not going to mention the killer’s name because it has already been mentioned too many times in the media. He was a Muslim, yes. Was this an act of Islamic radicalism? NO. These words should not be used to label this terrorist attack. Why? Because calling it Islamic radicalism is exactly what the terrorists and ISIL want you to call it. It is bigotry to blame all Muslims for this act: to judge an entire religion based on the actions of one man is wrong! Although this man may have been born into a Muslim family, he was in no way a devout Muslim or a good, faithful man if he committed such a horrific act. In no way does Islam promote violence. Of course, the members of ISIL and other terrorist organizations use the “jihad” verse to justify their actions because they are radicals and fundamentalists. The passage says “fight the infidels and kill them”. Terrorists take this literally and see all non-Muslims, homosexuals, Americans, etc as infidels. In the context of this passage, it was referring to the infidels during the time of the Quran, which should NOT be applied to the twenty-first century. And by the way, “jihad” means a struggle, not a religious massacre. In short, ISIL and other terrorist groups do not represent the other 1.6 billion Muslims around the world who want nothing else in this world but peace.
I can go on and on about what Islam is to me and break down stereotypes, but that is not the focus of this post.
In Islam, homosexuality is a sin. There, I said it. My religion does not believe in gays or bisexuals or lesbians. But here’s the thing: lying and cursing are also sins and people who commit those acts aren’t excluded from mosques, so homosexuals shouldn’t be excluded either. Because I am a Muslim, does that mean I don’t support homosexuals? NO. In my eyes, love is love. President Barack Obama’s personal faith only believes in the relationship between a man and woman, but does he look at gay people any differently than straight people? NO. In America, everyone has the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Furthermore, there is no such thing as a lesser person. Everyone is equal regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. LOVE IS LOVE. Last summer, on Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States proved that love wins.
The shooter was a homophobe. It is as simple as that. He didn’t like the sight of two men kissing, so he found a popular gay club after searching on gay dating sites and picked a target. This is just plain hate. I cannot comprehend how someone can dislike another person just for their sexual orientation. Love, regardless of the two people it is between, is love.
So how can something like this be prevented? Well tackling homophobia is no easy task. Why? Because changing the way people think and changing ideologies and changing beliefs is so very difficult and not a realistic solution. Extremism and hate are much more ethereal and hard to pin down than physical weapons. What is the other option? Gun control. Yup I said it. GUN CONTROL. (I can already see the red necks running away from these words.) As a born and raised Texan, gun control is such a frustrating issue to me. If it was my choice, I would scoop up all the guns in the world and throw them away. Is that an option? No. (But c’mon, how amazing would a gun-free world be?!) I live in a Republican state. Although, living in Dallas, I am a bit removed from the conservative, Republican values deep in the heart of Texas. People here love their guns. What do these people love more than their lives? The Second Amendment to the Constitution: the right to bear arms. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Bill of Rights! My favorite is the First Amendment because without it, I couldn’t even be writing this blog post. What I don’t love as much, however, is the Second Amendment. But I do realize that there will always be those people to whom the Second Amendment is SO very important because it gives them a sense of protection. They are responsible gun owners who are not harming the safety of the US. What needs to be noted, however, is that the constitutional right to bear arms was granted when assault rifles were not around. Furthermore, the common denominator in Columbine, Newtown, San Bernardino, and Orlando was not the motive for the shooting, but what was used to inflict harm: guns, or more specifically, assault rifles.
What I don’t understand are the people who believe that if more people in Pulse nightclub had similar weapons as the shooter did, they could’ve saved themselves and other people. Who in their right mind can say that? I doubt the families of the victims believe that if everyone was armed, there would’ve been less violence. More guns does not equal less violence. In fact, it allows for a chance of more violence! I promise you that the answer to guns is NOT more guns. I believe that the only way we can lessen the impact and lower the casualties of such shootings is with better gun control.
Better gun control does NOT mean to go and confiscate the guns of responsible gun owners who use them for hunting or just for protection. It means background checks with no loopholes. In America, it is easier to get a gun than it is to get a driver’s license (believe me, I am in this process right now), medicine for a cold, a pet, a passport, and a divorce. That is sad. The saddest part is that the Orlando shooter bought the guns and ammunition he used to kill 49 people and injure 53 others just a few days and weeks before the shooting occurred. He was on the FBI’s radar as a possible terrorist threat for years and was still able to purchase a gun legally. These facts should just scream to you that there is something entirely wrong in our gun policies. There needs to be a “no fly list” for guns. If someone poses a possible threat to the security of this nation, they should not be able to buy a gun and then use it to kill dozens of people.
It breaks my heart to say that in the United States of America, you are not safe in an elementary school, high school, college, movie theater, club, or church. The only thing safe is the Second Amendment. At this point, we can conclude that this is just an American problem. How can one of the most advanced nations on Earth, a country that champions freedom, have shootings like this occur so often?
Dear Congressional Republicans and NRA, how many more shootings in America do you need until you get some common sense knocked into you and support gun control?
But here’s the other thing: mass shootings should not be the trigger for better gun control. Gun violence is an everyday issue. In America, according to the CDC, on an average day, 87 people are killed by guns (homicide and suicide). If you're wondering, yes, that is A LOT of people. One solution is better mental health policy and treatment because no person who is mentally sound would kill themselves- they need people willing to listen to them and help them. What can prevent homicides (people killing other people), is to not promote violence on any media platform. Kids in the US grow up playing video games in which they shoot people. Toy stores carry many different kinds of toy guns. This sensationalizing of violence is poisoning the minds of children everywhere and can sometimes lead them to the road of becoming murderers. To me, the most permanent solution to all of this is love. More often than not, the mass murderer or the person who committed suicide is profiled as someone who was isolated and not socially outgoing. We need to spread love, not hate. If people feel loved and included and accepted, they don’t feel excluded or alone. It is our job to be open and accepting and to look at everyone the same way. Love will always conquer hate.
My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims of this horrendous act. I pray that this doesn’t happen again. And I pray that preventive action is taken.