Since the news broke of a mass shooting in Orlando that left 50 people dead and many more wounded, attention has been focused on both the victims—who were attending a party at Pulse, a gay nightclub—and the suspected killer, Omar Mateen, a U.S.-born Muslim whose parents emigrated from Afghanistan.
In the wake of the shooting, one group in particular—Muslims in the LGBT community—has reason to feel stuck between crosshairs. Islamophobia and anti-LGBT violence are both rampant in America, and tragic events like these tend to provoke backlash on both fronts.
Among the critics was Joe Walsh, a former Illinois congressman, who tweeted that "Muslims hate gays":
Of course, there are many gay Muslims who would disagree. And after the Orlando shooting, several gay Muslims shared their reactions with Fusion, including their concerns about the backlash that Muslims—and especially gay Muslims—might face.
Jassim, a 29-year-old gay Muslim drag queen (who asked to use an alias, due to safety concerns), told Fusion that the Orlando shooting was "devastating, especially as a gay Muslim." Jassim continued: "I knew for a fact when I heard the news that some people will target Islam and Muslims in general. People are already posting hateful comments on social media. Some now will view Islam as a religion of hate, and a religion against gay people, and that is devastating."
Although most say that homosexuality is forbidden in Islam, as in other Abrahamic religions, Jassim has a different take on the subject.
“I believe that Islam is built on love. People over time changed the translation of the Quran," Jassim said. "One should just read the Quran and understand it rather than reading that translations that were written by humans."
Sahar Ali Deen, 26, based the Philadelphia-based administrator of OUTMuslim, a Facebook page dedicated to gay Muslim news and discussions, spoke to Fusion about the struggle of being queer and Muslim.
“Being at the intersection of queer and Muslim identities has always been tough. Usually you are balancing along a fine line of misunderstandings and prejudices that each community has about the other,” said Ali Deen. "The LGBT-identifying people are the ones who continually face discrimination and oppression within a society in which patriarchal and hetero-normative stances are supremely held, which is generally the case with most of America, not just Islamic populations."
Aside from posting condemnations of the Orlando shooting on social media, many Muslims have organized vigils throughout the U.S.
“We've organized a blood drive, organized an online fund drive to raise funds for the victims," said Hassan Shibley, the chief executive director of CAIR Florida. "And also coalition-building to unite the community and send a very clear message that we, regardless of your race, religion or sexual orientation, will stand united as Americans and as human beings."
On Sunday, the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD), a pro-LGBT Muslim group, released a statement. It said: "Many of us woke up today to news of a mass shooting at Pulse, an Orlando nightclub serving the LGBTQ community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Our thoughts are also with our LGBTQ Muslim community which is feeling this tragedy and the response to it personally."
Alaa Basatneh is a human-rights activist and a writer at Fusion focusing on the Arab world. She is the protagonist of the 2013 documentary "#ChicagoGirl."