Violent Jihad

Homosexual, Bisexual, or Otherwise, Omar Mateen Had Islamist Motivations

There are not infrequent cases of Islamists partaking in violence as a means of atoning for their previous iniquities.

BY Immanuel Al-Manteeqi · @Al_Manteeqi | June 21, 2016

On June 12th, 2016, the free world woke up to the shocking news that no fewer than fifty people were killed, and more than fifty people were injured, at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Since the morning of June 12th, reporting has uncovered previously unknown details about the attack and the mass killer. We now know that fifty-three people were injured, and that there were actually forty-nine people killed, not fifty; however, the death toll may change as four people are still being hospitalized and are in critical condition.

We have also learned that Mateen’s father was a Taliban supporter, and there are some indications that his then wife, Noor Salman, may have been a co-conspirator.

Furthermore, reporting at the moment indicates that a gun-shop owner had previously contacted the FBI to warn them about Mateen, and that Mateen had given away his home to family members prior to the attack. All this being said, there are still many things to learn in this quickly developing story, and the details are not yet clear.

Was Omar Mateen a Homosexual?

Recent reporting has  revealed something of a plot twist: there is good evidence that Omar Mateen had homosexual tendencies.

Some of the evidence for this is as follows: reports say that Mateen  used the gay dating app, Grindr; other reports say that he frequented  the Pulse nightclub. For example, Kevin West, a regular at the Pulse nightclub, reportedly said that Omar Mateen text-messaged him on and off for a year before the shooting, using the gay chat and dating app, Jack’d; Mateen’s ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, said that she would not be surprised if he turned out to have homosexual tendencies; Yusufiy added that “there were things he would do in his daily life that most straight men do not do.”

So what at first seemed like an Islamist attack is as a matter of fact an attack by a sexually conflicted and likely self-hating homosexual man who was disgusted by his previous lifestyle choices—the attack did not have much to do with Islam. That is what some in the media would have you believe, especially those who want to shift the blame from “radical Islam,” a term that they are strangely loathe to mention.

The first thing that needs to be said is that it is too early to make a judgment about Mateen’s sexuality, as the evidence does not just point in one direction. For example, contrary to Kevin West’s testimony cited above, the CEO of Jack’d says that they have not yet found any proof that Mateen had an account.

Furthermore, the Times also reports that Yusufiy said she never noticed anything in their sex life that would lead her to believe Mateen was gay. He was also married to two women throughout his twenty-nine year life—not something that one who is typically homosexual does.

Also, his recent visits to the Pulse nightclub may have just been to scope out the place. As the New York Times reports, “while some reports have suggested that he was gay, federal officials say they have found no evidence in his effects or online presence to back them up.”

Even If Mateen Had Homosexual Proclivities, This Was Still an Islamist-Inspired Attack

But that this attack was Islamically inspired is not incompatible with Mateen’s having homosexual tendencies, if the reports turn out to be true (which, as of this writing, the balance of evidence does favor, though not overwhelmingly).

There are not infrequent cases of Islamists partaking in violence as a means of atoning for their previous iniquities. One is reminded, for example, of ISIS’ heinous act of burning the downed Jordanian pilot Muath Al-Kassasbeh. In the video of the burning that ISIS members released to the public, they explicitly appeal to Qur’an 9:14,[1] which speaks of how violence against certain polytheists “heals the chests of the believers.” For ISIS, this verse implies that the sins of the believers will be atoned for through the violence that they perpetrate.

Unfortunately, ISIS’ interpretation that this verse states that violence against others leads to atonement is not that implausible. Indeed, this may be how one of the earliest and most important Qur’anic exegetes, At-Tabari (838 – 923 A.D.), interprets the verse. The following is my translation of his exegesis here:

[on “heal the chest of the believers”]: [this means] heal the chest pain of people who believe in Allah and his Messenger [such healing is brought about] by the killing of those  polytheists at your hands and by your humiliating and vanquishing them. That chest pain in the hearts of the faithful was the resentment they felt against the polytheists who caused them injury and affliction.

Here we see At-Tabari clearly stating that killing polytheists “heals” the chests of believers. At-Tabari is as mainstream and authoritative as an exegete can get. And ISIS’ interpretation of this verse is relatively in line with his. It is not implausible to suppose that Mateen, who had pledged allegiance to ISIS, was following this same type of Islamic atonement-through-violence reasoning.

Going from Being a Sinner to Devoutly Religious is Not Uncommon

Furthermore, people living (what is perceived to be) debauched lifestyles and renouncing them in favor of Islam is not that rare. Just as great sinners can “find the light” in Christianity (think of Augustine of Hippo), so too can sinners in Islam.

For example, Abu Musab Az-Zarqawi, the now-deceased leader of Al-Qai’da in Iraq, the predecessor of ISIS, used to be a tattooed and womanizing thug prior to turning to radical Islam. However, the facts about his previous life do not delegitimize the sincerity of Zarqawi’s renewed conversion, or show that he was not motivated to do the violence that he did for Islamic motives.

It should be emphasized that just because people who have violent tendencies become radical Muslims does not mean that their post-conversion violence is not in some way motivated by their Islamic beliefs. Contrary to what is often said, religion is not “all interpretation”—it is not all about what one brings to the text. Some interpretations of religion are plausible, others not so much. Indeed, sometimes the “violent mentality” from which one approaches a given religious text is legitimated by a plausible interpretation of the relevant text.

Unfortunately, in the case of Islam, there are many plausible interpretations of its religious source texts on which violence is condoned. For example, the idea that apostates should be executed is a very plausible interpretation of a doctrine in the Muslim religion; indeed, it is relatively uncontroversial amongst Islamists that mainstream Islam teaches that apostates should be killed.

Other unpalatable but very plausible interpretations of the Islamic source texts include that Christians and Jews should be violently subjugated and that Muslims should perpetually fight infidels until they convert to Islam.

Unfortunately, in the case of Mateen, there are also plausible interpretations of Islam on which contempt for homosexuals is justified. There are some ahadeeth (sayings) where Muhammad states that homosexuals should be killed, and where he tells people to expel “effeminate men” and “masculine women” from their homes.

Now, in fairness, the interpretation of Islam that licenses the killing of non-combatant “infidels,” such as the people gunned down at the Pulse nightclub, is considerably less plausible and mainstream than the aforementioned positions. However, Islamists who attack non-combatants are not entirely without justification here. There are Sahih (correct) ahadeeth, for example, where people ask Muhammad if it is permissible to kill the women and children of mushrikeen (polytheists); he replies by saying, “they are from them” (هم منهم), implying that it is permissible.[2]

Ramadan and Martyrdom

In any case, in Islam people who die as Jihadi martyrs, especially during the month of Ramadan, are virtually guaranteed paradise. Ramadan is a special month to Muslims because they believe it marks the month when Muhammad began receiving revelations on Mt. Hira.

Many medieval jurisprudents also took Ramadan to be a month for battles, when martyrdom in the path of Allah is deemed optimal.

It is no coincidence then that Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi declared the Islamic caliphate at the start of Ramadan. It is no coincidence that ISIS spokesperson, Muhammad Al-Adnani, released an audio recording on May 29th, calling for attacks in Europe and the United States during the month of Ramadan.

Given this, and that we know Mateen had Islamist leanings, that his attack fell during the time of Ramadan does not seem to be a coincidence. Rather, it seems like he intentionally chose to undertake a Jihadist-martyrdom operation during the Muslim holy month.

Ostensibly, Mateen believed that through his violent Jihad fi-sabeel-ilah (in the path of God), he would attain the status of a martyr (shahid), and  so purchase paradise.[3]

Homosexual, Bisexual, or Otherwise, Omar Mateen Had Islamist Motivations

So, we still need to wait for more details to come out regarding the attack. But some inferences seem safe to make at the moment: Islamic motivations did have a role to play in Mateen’s massacre, and the fact that he had homosexual proclivities, if it indeed is a fact, does not mitigate the role played by Islamic ideology.

[1] The full Q 9:14 verse states the following: “Fight them; Allah will punish them by your hands and will disgrace them and give you victory over them and heal the chests of the believers.”

[2] However, there are also some ahadeeth with equally strong isnad where killing women and children is strictly prohibited.

[3] Interestingly, in Sahih Al-Bukhari, the most trusted collection of Muslim ahadeeth, Muhammad says that paradise is under the shadow of swords.



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