On 12 June 2016, Orlando gay club shooting and the intense media reporting that followed prompted me to post a short note also on my Facebook page. It is very personal for I am a Muslim (so was the gunman). I am also gay (the attack happened in a gay nightclub and those murdered senselessly were my fellow LGBT brothers and sisters).
So here I am given the opportunity to expand and share with you aspects of my Islamic faith and upbringing and what it means to me to bear the Muslim title. I am not going to go into details telling you how I make peace between my faith and my sexuality. The only statement I make regarding the two seemingly opposites is I was born a Muslim and I was born gay. The two coexist within me since day one. But what I want to share with you here is a very important core value of my Islamic faith that receives miniscule or zip attention by the media of the West. And that is one of peace.
Religious belief (Islam in this case) is cited as the apparent motive for committing murder of many LGBT members inside a LGBT vicinity. And since12 June 2016, there had been all sorts of comments, perspectives, and/or opinions reported in the press. Some of these so-called comments, perspectives, and/or opinions amounted to once again branding Islam as a religion of violence and terror. Equally, and although not as widely reported in the media of the West, there were also people coming out applauding the violent shootings were just because it was getting rid of “sinners”, the “unnatural non-heterosexual people”. This felt like I am being attacked on two opposite fronts; for being Muslim and gay. And that angers me. I do not choose my sexual preference. It is part of me. And I am proud of my religion, to which I am born into. I always find it perplexing each time when I hear the words “Islamic terrorism”, or words to the effect branding Islam as a religion of violence and terror. Violence and terror (or committing acts of terror) has never been part of my religious upbringing. Fundamental to all Muslims calling themselves as Muslims are believing and upholding the Five Pillars of Islam. They are Declaration of faith in one God (Allah), perform prayer, compulsory charity giving, fasting during Ramadan and Pilgrimage to Mecca. Acts of terror and violence do not form part of the fundamental pillars. So why terror and violence is often mentioned together with Islam I do not understand. It is humans who use religion and interpret religious teachings in ways to further their own agenda. And this is why at the end of the day, it is my faith that guide me not to allow any hatred within me, but one of patience, tolerance and peace.
We are in the month of Ramadan. Not only do we Muslims fast. We are also not to incite hatred, or cause conflict without justification, let also taking lives of innocents. Anyone who uses my faith, or hides behind its banner inciting hatred, committing violence against innocents, or cause conflict without justification are not acting in the Islamic way in my view. The gunman took away the lives of people who apparently had not acted, or threatened to act against him. Taking the lives of innocents is a great sin in Islam. Arabic : إِنَّاللهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ (Transliteration: Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un ) is a part of a verse from the Holy Qur’an. It translates to “We surely belong to Allah and to Him we shall return”. The phrase is known and recited by Muslims when a person experiences a tragedy in life, especially upon hearing news that a person has died. It is especially the words “We surely belong to Allah” that resonates here. And I assume the gunman knew the phrase well. And I wonder why he still did what he did when he knew those lives are not for his taking. I pray for mercy on the souls for the victims and also of the gunman. At the end of the day, we Muslims believe we will have to answer for our deeds and be judged accordingly, Insha-Allah (In God’s will)
Words: YD, Photo at Vigil in HKG For Orlando Victims by Abby Lee