Friday, 17 June 2016

Thoughts on the Orlando Pulse massacre by a queer South African muslim

The mass shooting of defenceless LGBTQIA members of our society Orlando marks a collective stain on our humanity, make no mistake - where those already vulnerable in society are gunned down by a man with an automatic war machine and picked off like vermin in a space supposed to be safe. It is not just a problem for the US, but one for all of us at large. Thirteen years ago in South Africa 9 men were executed in a gay safe space in one of our country's own hate massacres. We are quick to forget about the Sizzlers massacre and the hatred of the two men who perpetrated it. We are not exceptional, we are not immune. Section 9 of South Africa's democratic constitution guarantees that nobody, including the state, should be allowed to unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth. Yet daily we hear stories of violence against members of our LGBTQIA brothers and sisters- corrective rape, stigmatisation, assault, abuse. It goes on. We allow those around us to foster casual discrimination, to say things that denigrate the LGBTQIA community and dehumanise the love between people. And the worst of it- just when the LGBTQIA community finds a safe space we have individuals and groups who are determined to destroy them. This is not us. This is no religion or faith. This is no teaching of love or spirituality. It is not Islam now or ever. It is not heroism or grandiose masculinity. It is the deepest and darkest of evils perpetrated by the worst of our society, designed to further divide us. We cannot allow people to claim their hateful causes in the name of us all. And we should certainly not judge a whole group by the actions of a hateful few. Perpetrators of violence are in no way unique to those who incorrectly profess Islam. They are found in all corners of society- in Sandy Hook, in Columbine, in Virginia Tech, in Norway. We cannot deflect from our failings to stop hatred, to stop access to war machines, to protect our most vulnerable. We are jointly and collectively responsible. And we bleed for it.

Say their names. Remember their faces. 
But we will not be divided. As Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, gay, straight, bisexual, black, white, coloured, Asian, Indian, woman, man, trans, and all the other shades of these. We are together against hatred and violence. We stand with Orlando, we stand on the side of love that knows no label. And our struggle will continue.

*Published with permission of the author - Ziyaad Bhorat.

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