Concern Over Extremist Views Toward Gay Community
DU expert says many religious extremists fear gay people could corrupt society.
The FBI continues to investigate what motivated an American Muslim to open fire inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people. Authorities have confirmed that 29-year-old Omar Mateen had pledged allegiance to ISIS, but there is no evidence he was directed by the terror group.
"Gays are viewed by extremists as sexual/immoral deviants who should be repressed or else they will corrupt society."
Investigators also continue to look at Mateen’s possible anti-gay sentiment and his own sexual orientation. In the days since the tragedy, law enforcement has confirmed Mateen visited gay chat rooms and even frequented the same nightclub where he carried out his attack. Authorities have also learned that Mateen had consistently made homophobic, sexist and racist remarks. This type of sentiment is not uncommon with those aligned with religious extremist groups, says Nader Hashemi, director of DU’s Center for Middle East Studies.
“Gays are viewed by extremists as sexual/immoral deviants who should be repressed or else they will corrupt society,” Hashemi says. “There are clear parallels here between this worldview and other extremist religious fundamentalist theologies.”
Mateen's father has told investigators he does not believe his son was gay. In fact, he acknowledged a recent incident where his son expressed outrage at a gay couple displaying affection in public.
“What we don’t know is whether this U.S. born assailant was foreign inspired, inspired by a domestic anti-gay agenda of some kind, or by the assailant’s own demons."
The acceptance of homosexuality is a problem among other religious groups, not just extremists. In 2014, the Pew Research Center analyzed the issue among religious groups. Only Jehova’s Witnesses, Mormons and evangelicals had a lower acceptance rate than Muslims. On the other hand, Buddhists, Jews and Catholics had the highest acceptance rate. To read more about the research, click here.
For now, the reason for the attack remains a mystery. Was Mateen struggling with his own sexuality or homophobia, inspired by ISIS, or simply mad at the world and looking for a cause to justify his actions? “What we know is that this mass murder is an act of terrorism,” says Ambassador Christopher Hill, dean of DU's Josef Korbel School of International Studies. “What we don’t know is whether this U.S.-born assailant was foreign-inspired, inspired by a domestic anti-gay agenda of some kind, or [plagued] by the assailant’s own demons. Often the answer and explanation to these despicable acts is all of the above, but in the meantime we must show patience and resolve as we move forward.”