Pray for Orlando – but make sure you MEAN it.

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Moment of silence, Orlando vigil

Beware of hypocrites in sheeps clothing.

I have been trying to write this for over a week, but my mind’s not been in the right place to do so. I’m not sure it’s still in the right place, but I am satisfied that I did the right thing in waiting.  However, if I don’t get this out, I am going to make myself ill.

The shooting in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where 49 LGBT+ people enjoying a night out in what they believed was a safe place, was truly stuff of horror. I have never been so moved to tears, so utterly shaken, since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Four nights running I cried myself to sleep. As the days went on, it became clear that the gunman, Omar Mateen, had very complex motives indeed.

The first thing we learned, which the media were very quick to tell us, was that Mateen was a Muslim. As more facts emerged, it was reported that he swore allegiance to the leader of Daesh. Then he was reportedly “angered” by the sight of two men kissing. Then it was reported that he used to beat his ex-wife. It was said he drove miles seeking out a gay nightclub to carry out his massacre. The media gradually built up a picture of an angry, homophobic, misogynistic, radicalised Muslim, with possible links to Islamic State.

Then as time went on, we found out that as well as Daesh, Mateen had also claimed allegiance in the past to Al Queda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, and various other radical Islamist groups, whose ideas and interpretation of Islam all disagree. His ex has stated that he rarely attended mosque but merely paid lip-service to Islam, the FBI stated that while there was evidence he was radicalised, there was no proof of links to any radical Islamic group. It seems then that far from the “soldier” which Daesh were quick to portray him as, Omar Mateen was a lone nutter with a chip on his shoulder, who claimed allegiance to conflicting radical Islamist groups, while really knowing diddly-squat about any of them.

Probably most damning of all revelations were that far from seeking out a gay nightclub, Mateen was in fact a regular customer and well-known at Pulse, Orlando, and that he had profiles on gay dating apps. So now of course, he is being portrayed as a self-loathing, semi-closeted gay man, and that’s why he carried out his crime.

Not one of us knows the inside of Omar Mateen’s mind, so we will never know the true motives behind the killing. It could have been religious based, it could have been self-loathing, he could have been mentally ill; we simply do not know, and that he was killed, we will never know.

Can we then absolve the influence of religion upon his crime? Some seem to be doing so, including those who are maintaining that it was a purely homophobic attack. That was certainly the view of political columnist and author Owen Jones, when he walked out of a Sky News interview about the attack, accusing them of downplaying the homophobic nature of the attack.

Of course, Jones was right. Sky were deliberately trying to push the Islamist nature of the attack and completely ignoring the homophobic element. It cannot be ignored. Even the US media, whilst touting the pulse attack as the worst gun attack in US history (wholly inaccurate; try Wounded Knee), they completely ignore one sobering fact; the Pulse attack was the single largest killing of LGBT+ people in one place since the Nazi holocaust. That little fact is something which must be pressed as much as possible.  Likewise, unlike the media trying to play this massacre down, I will call it what it is; a terrorist attack.

For cishet people, through their cishet media mouthpieces, to try to portray the Pulse shooting as anything else than primarily homophobic in nature is either to pursue an agenda against Islam, or ignore it as “not my problem”. To portray the shooting as a ‘gay-on-gay’ attack, is tantamount to blaming the victim.

But all the rhetoric coming out of the media begs the question, can we equally ignore the religious element in this mass murder? Not for one moment. Whether confused about his sexuality or not, there is one thing for sure; Omar Mateen was a homophobe, and that begs the question, just where did that homophobia stem from?

Bigotry, all bigotry, is a learned behaviour. No person wakes up one morning thinking “I hate all gays.”; it comes from indoctrination. As I said, we’ll never know the inside of Omar Mateen’s mind, but it is already known he had been radicalised and had some knowledge of Islam, which like it’s Judeo-Christian cousins, is a deeply homophobic religion. Some people, particularly apologists for Islam and for other religions, can try to downplay the Islamic religious element all they want, but it cannot be ignored. When Daesh are pushing gay men off the top of buildings, when there are Islamic countries where being gay or any other part LGBT+ can earn one anything from a jail sentence to being lashed in public, or even the death penalty, to ignore the homophobic influence of Islam is to bury one’s head in the sand, while wearing blinkers at the same time – a good trick if you can manage it. Unfortunately, there are so many today who think “Ooh, we can’t upset the Muslims.  How dare you be so Islamophobic.” (I hate that word), that we are all supposed to walk on eggshells.

Well, tough titty dears. Call me an Islamophobe all you want. Indeed, call me anti-relgious – I am – because I am not going to miss Christianity in this article either. And once you’re done calling me all your names, you can go kiss my sweet atheist arse. But I am not for one moment going to refrain from pointing the finger firmly at Islam for the Pulse shooting, when it most certainly was one of the motives.

But Islam as a faith is only part of the indoctrination. We then have to ask where it began, and as is usual with most bigotry, we need look no further than the home environment and parental influence. There is a lot of truth in the old Scots saying “Fools and bairns speak at the cross whit they hear by the ingleside.” Look to a bigot, any bigot, then look to one or both of their parents, and nine times out of ten, you shall find that they are equally bigoted, and have brainwashed their child into the same poisonous mindset. And of course, that is never more true where the family has deeply held religious beliefs.

Omar Mateen’s father, Saddique Mateen, after the killing gave an apology and claimed his son’s terrorist act had nothing to do with religion. Less than 24 hours later, Mr Mateen senior released a video, supposedly an apology, in which he stated “God will punish those involved in homosexuality… …not an issue that humans should deal with.” It later transposed that Saddique Mateen hosts an extremely pro-Taliban TV show on the California-based Durand Jirga Show, and in Facebook videos has often appeared in uniform, declaring himself the leader of the “transitional revolutionary government of Afghanistan”, that he has ties to the US congress and his own intelligence agency, which he says he will use to subvert and overthrow the present Afghan government. If Omar Mateen was a nutball, it seems it must have been hereditary.

But we also see that Saddique Mateen is indeed an Islamic fundamentalist, he is indeed a homophobe, and we then see where Omar Mateen’s Islamist leanings and his religious homophobic bigotry began; at the hands of his own father.

And that of course does not, for one moment, justify the worst ever terrorist attack upon LGBT+ people. It was a truly evil thing for Omar Mateen to do. But while he may have been mentally-ill (and the continued media stigmatisation of the mentally ill is not lost on me either), I sincerely doubt he was a psychopath and / or did not know what he was doing was wrong; that is, he was not of the legal definition of insane. I maintain he deliberately set out to kill as many gay men and women as possible, in full knowledge of what he was doing, and if anything, that makes it all the worse. However, his Islamist brainwashing does go to some extent to explaining the complex motives he held.

Not that I would ever wish to stir up anti-Islamic hatred. This is not the point of this article, but rather it is a reaction to and a criticism of a faith with a Dark Ages view of sexuality. Don’t worry Christians, I’m getting to you and I’m not going to miss you either. Just you take your place in the queue, because know what? You’re next in line.

I certainly would never wish to be seen as buying into the rhetoric of Donald Trump, who was obscenely quick to make the Orlando shooting about him, and try to claim that it supports his plans if elected US President to ban Muslims from entering the USA. Trump claimed on Twitter that he had been right about Islamic terrorism, and then Tweeted “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”

Were that vile Tweet not enough, the fact that there was an armed police officer outside of the Pulse nightclub was not enough for Trump; he thinks that people in clubs should be armed. On Monday, 13 June, he stated on CNN, “If you had some guns in that club the night that this took place, if you had guns on the other side, you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had. If people in that room had guns with the bullets flying in the opposite direction right at him… … right at his head, you wouldn’t have had the same tragedy that you ended up having.”

Of course, we all know that Donald Trump is electioneering, and we know that his electioneering is based on a ticket which is equally bigoted against Muslims and Latin Americans. Unfortunately for the Donald, there are certain facts where his racist and anti-Islamic rhetoric falls down completely;

  • Omar Mateen was not an immigrant; he was a US citizen, born in the USA. Therefore, a ban on Muslims entering the USA would not have made a blind bit of difference.
  • People carrying guns in nightclubs, in a crowded place, with alcohol mixed in, would indeed have a very different outcome; with bullets flying in all directions, it would be a bloodbath in which many, many more would perish.
  • Of the 49 dead and 53 injured in the Pulse nightclub, the overwhelming majority were Latinx. Would Donald Trump and those in the US gun lobby who support him be so ready to push the “arm everybody” line if they were aware of that fact?

That the majority were in fact Latinx, the irony of the attack was that it was a US citizen attacking people at least from immigrant backgrounds, and some of whom were more than likely immigrants, which of course is the complete mirror of Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric – about immigrants killing US citizens.

So, what about the response from some Christians, and why do I have such a problem with them?

Well, firstly there was the response from some Christian homophobes, which was to be expected. Even as the attack was happening, one particular lowlife crawled out from under his stone long enough to Tweet “Someone is doing God’s work in Orlando. #FeelingBlessed” There have indeed been many bigoted Christian pond scum who were just rubbing their hands with glee at 49 LGBT+ people being wiped out. Of course, some didn’t realise at first that it was a Muslim terrorist, and soon changed their tune when they found out. Others simply did not care who did the shooting, so long as somebody did it. When it comes to LGBT+ people, creationism, subjugation of women, abortion, atheism, wanting a theocratic government, declaring their God is the only true god, and being willing to kill for that belief, you could not get a pubic hair between some Christian fundamentalists and Islamist fundamentalists.

Of course, many of such are keyboard warriors; trolls stuck in their mom’s basement who can only pull their obese arses away from their computer long enough to waddle off for another 2 litre bottle of cola (and it’s always diet cola – WTF?), and another share-size bag of cheetos, sweating profusely at the exertion of doing so, whom we should not worry about too much. But others may be physically fit, heavily armed, and easily influenced by Christian pastors ‘rejoicing’ the killing and continuing to spread their homophobia. One such is Pastor Roger Jiminez of Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento, who stated;

“People say, like: Well, aren’t you sad that 50 sodomites died? Here’s the problem with that. It’s like the equivalent of asking me — what if you asked me: Hey, are you sad that 50 paedophiles were killed today?’ Um, no, I think that’s great. I think that helps society. You know, I think Orlando, Florida, is a little safer tonight.” He added: “The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job… …I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put a firing squad in front of them, and blow their brains out,”

Jiminez also posted a video of his sermon, which YouTube promptly removed for violating their hate speech policy.

Not that Jiminez was alone in his twisted rhetoric. He was soon echoed by Pastor Steve Anderson of the Faithful World Baptist Church, of Tempe, Arizona, who came out with a similarly vile rant in another video, also removed by YouTube;

“…we’re supposed to be sad because a bunch of perverts in a gay bar are killed… … we’re supposed to sympathize with that. Well, frankly, I’m not sad about it at all. I don’t condone violence, I never have… but I’m not gonna sit here and cry about it and say it’s a tragedy, because it’s not…”

The video followed earlier comments by Anderson, in which he stated there were “fifty less paedophiles in the world”. Same rhetoric as from Jiminez, except of course it is a fact that children are much safer in the company of LGBT+ people than they ever have been in the company of Christians, particularly Christian clergy. Yes dears, I went there – and I make no apologies for that, because it happens to be a fact. The vast majority of paedophiles, both active and inactive, are cishet men; even men who prey upon little boys tend to be otherwise heterosexual. The LGBT+ community has the lowest incidence of paedophilia -fact. And it’s not gay clubs hiding and protecting kiddy fiddlers – it’s the Vatican doing that. Stick that one RIGHT up your cassock, Frankie Baby.

I only wish it were easy to ignore the insane rantings of the likes of Jiminez and Anderson. Unfortunately, as we in the LGBT+ community know all too well, we cannot. They are every bit as dangerous as fundamentalist Islamists. In fact, given that Christianity is still the largest religion in the world, and there are many, many more people out in western, developed, at least ‘culturally Christian’ nations than there are in Islamic countries, homophobic Christian preachers are probably a greater danger, due to the hate they stir up. Steve Anderson is the natural successor to the leader of the 16th century Scottish Protestant Reformation, John Knox. And if he thinks that’s a compliment, it’s not. Just like Knox, people like Anderson stir up the hate, which inevitably leads to violence. But when that violence happens, he is nowhere to be seen and claims not to condone it. And that dears, is and always has been, the worst kind of cowardice.

But it is not so much the hate preachers who anger me. Not even crazy TV evangelist Pat Robertson who says Christians should just sit back and “let Muslims and gays kill each other”. Because of course, the LGBT+ community are well-known for launching attacks upon Muslims. Look out, Daesh, we’re coming for you – to redecorate your tents with hanging drapes and throw pillows.

No dears, the ones who have really got my backs up have been the hypocrites, with their crocodile tears for the Orlando victims; who all too often have been the same people who have sought to further oppress the LGBT+ community.

If someone hates me, let them hate me, and I’ll fight them with my intellect, my sarcasm, and where it is called for, with kindness and a soft word. What I cannot stomach is the hypocrite who pretends to be my friend, and yet holds a deep-set prejudice against me. Those are the ones you have to watch out for, or you’ll soon find a knife sticking out of your back.

In the wake of the Orlando shooting, there were a number of “good Christians” on social media posting “Pray for Orlando”. Some of the people I noticed posting this had in the past, the recent past, applauded moves to repress LGBT+ legislation. Indeed, in the two weeks prior to the shooting, there were two instances of American politicians calling upon anyone spotting a transgender woman in a ladies restroom to kill them. Some of the people I spotted posting these stories, agreeing with them, were among the same people posting their “Pray for Orlando” memes. Another such was one woman who posted a story about young children being taught to respect gender differences, and who stated “Well, that’s mine being home schooled.”

The hypocrisy is vertigo inducing.

But if keyboard warriors trying to find a salve for their guilty consciences was bad enough, those “in authority” doing exactly the same thing was bloody infuriating and insulting in the extreme. Governor of Florida Rick Scott (Rep), Texas senator Ted Cruz (Rep), Speaker of the House Ted Cruz (Rep), North Carolina senator Richard Burr (Rep), Texas representative Louis Ohmmeter (Rep), and Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell, are among just some of the US politicians who offered “thoughts and prayers” for the Orlando victims, but who have not only voiced strident homophobic and transphobic statements, who have not only pushed anti-LGBT+ legislation, but some are actually continuing to do so.

The very state the shooting took place in, Florida, and it’s governor are actually a prime example of this. Governor Scott is known to be against equal marriage, and while he says it is a matter best left to the courts, he made sure that Florida continued to drag it’s heels on the issue, long after other states had given up. More recently, Florida’s Children and Families Department began moves to remove sexual orientation and gender expression from the definition of bullying in care homes. As recently as March 2016, Governor Scott personally signed into power the state’s Pastor Protection Act, which shields churches and their clergy who refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. It took until the Thursday after the shooting for Governor Scott to even admit that the attack was targeted at the LGBT+ community.

When such vehemently anti-LGBT+ politicians come out with meaningless platitudes about offering “thoughts and prayers” for the victims, one has to ask if they truthfully mean it, or are they saying these things purely for their own publicity and ratings?

Likewise, on Sunday, 12 June 2016, the Vatican released this statement:

“The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred,

“Pope Francis joins the families of the victims and all of the injured in prayer and in compassion,” the statement said. “Sharing in their indescribable suffering he entrusts them to the Lord so they may find comfort.

“We all hope that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence which so deeply upsets the desire for peace of the American people and of the whole of humanity,”

I would ask all to study that statement carefully. Notice anything? There is not one mention of “gay” or “LGBT” anywhere in it. There is not even a mention of the Pulse nightclub, or even that the shooting took place in a ‘gay’ nightclub, or that the LGBT+ community was specifically targeted.  Little difference to Governor Scott’s initial response, and with spin that any career politician (which the Pope is, really) may be envious of.

This does not surprise me in the least. For a pontiff who has ‘opened a dialogue’ with and claims not to condemn the LGBT+ community, Pope Francis is vastly hypocritical on LGBT+ rights. The Roman Catholic Church, as ever under the mistaken impression that they have full rights over marriage – and families – has continually and consistently stated they will never recognise same-sex marriage, and the present Pope has himself called it “a major threat”. As recently as November 2015, the Vatican lambasted same-sex marriages and called attempts by same-sex couples to adopt children were “a great danger”. HA! And allowing their priests access to children isn’t?  Frankie; beam, mote, brother’s eye, Sweetie.

Of course, there have been other churches have similarly made sanctimonious statements about Orlando, while at the same time condemning LGBT+ people and continuing to oppose equal marriage and same-sex adoption, but as the single largest Christian communion in the world, it is the RC Church which angers me most. Not least because these are statements from a bloke in a dress, who is celibate, trying to make the rules for all humanity. Just a word Frankie dearest, if you’re not going to play the game, do not assume to write the rules.

Some Christians of course may try to claim it’s a matter of “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Another load of sanctimonious, platitudinous crap. I fail to see any difference between that particular Christian soundbite, and the half-assed and hypocritical apology Saddique Mateen offered for his son’s actions. But worse than that, every time a Christian comes out with an anti-LGBT+ statement, every time they speak out against equal marriage, every time they try to prevent a same-sex couple from adopting a child, they provide the fuel for the fires of hatred. They can put their hands on their hearts and say “Oh no, not me.” all they want, but the fact is that is starts with even one individual Christian saying that homosexuality is unnatural (unlike a woman emerging from a man’s rib, which, among other things in the Bible is obviously perfectly natural), and it ends with someone going on the rampage and killing people purely because of the sexuality they happen to have been born as. And in that respect, the homophobic / transphobic Christian churches are absolutely no different from Islam. Bigoted Christians can try to play at Pontius Pilate, attempting to wash their hands of the blood all they want, but the fact is that they are every bit as complicit in the murder of not just those in Orlando, but every LGBT+ murder – and suicide – as if they had carried out the attack themselves.

At this point, I was going to go on a tirade about prayer solving nothing and use it to illustrate how God does not exist. However, I have been humbled by an atheist friend who had a Roman Catholic upbringing, who has shown me that hate is never the way. Were I to go on my tirade, then I would be as guilty of abusing the Orlando terrorist attack as those I mention above, only from the opposite perspective. Also I fully realise that there are many Christian churches and communities who do not judge others, fully following the teachings of their saviour, but rather welcome LGBT+ people, and many others society has rejected, with open arms. The same can be said for Islam, but it has to be admitted, to a much lesser extent. I am equally aware that of the 49 dead, some were indeed believers in God, so for me to carry out a blanket condemnation of all religious faith would serve only to dishonour their memory.

And while I may be a hardened, cynical, atheist bitch who does not believe prayer does any good, I fully realise that those faithful who do indeed offer prayers do so with only the finest of intentions, and to throw them back in their face would be hateful indeed. So, genuine faithful, on behalf of the entire global LGBT+ community, thank you for your compassion and your kindness.

My article is therefore not directed at those faithful who accept all and turn away none. Rather it is directed at the hypocrites who on one hand seek to further, judge, vilify, oppress and persecute LGBT+ people, then on the other hand offer prayers and ask others to do likewise, which as far as I can see is for no other reason than their own self-aggrandisement.  Any of such who may be reading this, your false prayers and crocodile tears are not only not welcome, you actually do those who are genunine a huge disservice.  Shame on  you.

More than anything, it is in memory of the 49 young people, mostly Latinx – let us never forget that – who thought they were in a safe place, only to be gunned down in the worst anti-LGBT+ terrorist incident in history.

Goodnight, my sweet darlings. Nothing and no-one can hurt you any more.

Xandra.

XXX

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