There is something inadequate about describing last weekend’s massacre as “hate.” The word is too amorphous, like a semantic fog. It obscures the conscious and sustained movement behind such atrocities.
However conflicted Omar Mateen may have been about his identity, he chose to become a jihadist. Mateen joined the ranks of theocrats the world over who execute those they deem sexually deviant. And if Mateen were himself gay, it would hardly be unprecendeted. Some Muslim men, as jihadist expert Will McCants said, “who feel ashamed of their ‘sinful’ behavior commit violence on behalf of ISIS to redeem themselves.” Rather than being mutually exclusive, internalized stigma and Islamist fanaticism are more likely to compound each other.
We should make it harder for violent fanatics to arm themselves, and I support David Frum’s reform aggenda. We should not, however, reduce the issue to “hate plus guns.” Doing so would be obtuse, for reasons explained well by James Kirchick:
Denouncing hatred, guns and evangelical Christians is easier, not to mention more intellectually comforting, than confronting the dangers of a new-old form of religious obscurantism adhered to by untold millions of people who belong to groups that we – not they – have positioned as benign objects of our well-meaning attempts at equalitarian uplift. For products of a free society, which greatly values sensitivity to others, and wishes to continue enjoying life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness while forthrightly condemning the sins of racism, sexism and homophobia, its unsettling to imagine that other people don’t want the same things we do. In fact, they want to kill us, for reasons that we simply cannot undo, if we want to remain who we are – especially if we are gay, female or Jewish, or atheists, or like to read the wrong books, or look at cartoons.
That’s the truth. Yet for the self-anointed community of the good, anything is easier than dealing with the reality of a fascistic political movement that cloaks itself in religious language and religious hatreds, enjoys meaningful support in Muslim communities and even among Muslim religious leaders, and which routinely uses brutal violence to erase the basic human rights and often the lives of everyone who fails to adhere to their medieval theocratic dictates. Desperate to transform violent oppressors into the Christ-like oppressed, the regressive left averts its gaze, and, more often than not, boldly blames the victims.
Clearly, progressive leaders are not speaking candidly about the darker varieties of Islam. The conservative Ramesh Ponnuru suspects there is “a hidden argument behind this delicacy about terminology,” and I suspect he is right. Ponnuru said:
What motivates it, if I’m right, is not just a concern that using the wrong terms will grant legitimacy to terrorists and convince non-violent Muslims we’re against them. There’s also a concern that the wrong terms will convince non-Muslim Americans to think we’re at war with Muslims, too, and thus encourage bigotry. But this seems like a self-defeating tactic. If our choices are to view all Muslims as our enemies or to insist that Muslims “have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism,” as Clinton has said, some people are going to choose door number one.
However noble the lie may have once been, it is still a lie. It is also something fewer and fewer of those on the receiving end are buying. Most Americans recognize this fascistic movement has something to do with Islam. They may not know much about Sayyid Qutb, and they may not know much about Muslism resistance to Islamism. But they do know the claim this has “nothing to do with Islam” is false. And they probably care less about any admirable motives behind the claim than being talked down to like incorrigible bigots.
The insult is only made worse by progressive double standards. If ideology mattered in Charleston, South Carolina at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, then it mattered in Orlando, Florida at Pulse. Otherwise, it gives the impression that the political motives behind a terrorist attack only matter to progressives when it’s rhetorically convenient.