“Say: ‘Come, I will recite unto you that which your Lord hath made a sacred duty for you: That ye ascribe no thing as partner unto Him and that ye do good to parents, and that ye slay not your children because of penury - We provide for you and for them - and that ye draw not nigh to lewd things whether open or concealed. And that ye slay not the life which Allah hath made sacred, save in the course of justice. This He hath command you, in order that ye may discern.” (Quran 6:151)
Since last week’s massacre in Orlando the internet and public discourse in general have been awash in all sorts of arguments and discussions, of varying degrees of relevance, about counter terrorism, gun control, increased powers for security agencies, and “Mawzlems” who visit terror “hot spots” (i.e. countries of origin or of religious significance). Within the embattled and increasingly visible Muslim community some seemed more disturbed about the prospect of a “backlash” than anything else. Others looked at foreign policy issues while yet others, for some bizarre reason, sought to “shed light” on abstruse details of Islamic legal theory from medieval legal texts such as the distinction between discretionary versus textually stipulated capital punishments.
Yet what caught my attention amidst the deluge of mandatory condemnations and expressions of outrage was the tone and overall message from prominent sections of the American Muslim community, both advocacy and religious groupings.
What I observed from the statements of many if not most Muslim leaders who are in the public sphere was a demonstration of just how “mainstream” the rhetoric of the Muslim community's leadership appears to be. Particularly worrying was one message that mentioned “Abrahamic morality” though not so much, it seems, by way of unambiguously affirming it and demonstrating how the massacre was a profound betrayal of it, as by way of advocating and indeed normalizing its subordination to some other kind of morality ostensibly based on “diversity”, “social justice”, and other doctrines held dear by the American political left and that are apparently, as if by default, “Islamic”. And that was the religious groupings, indeed some Muslim advocacy groups went a step further and actually declared themselves to be standing “shoulder to shoulder” in solidarity with, what I understand are now called, LGBTQ2 groupings.
That posture, if I've apprehended it correctly, is undoubtedly the result of decades of leadership which have seen the Muslim community become more and more committed to the political left in that nation. Whatever the causes of that relationship may be, its apparent cost is unfortunate and unsettling particularly as it relates to the religious leadership. I say that because the massacre in Orlando, where it is absolutely clear that homosexuals were the target and almost as clear that the perpetrator was one himself, most certainly demonstrates, if nothing else, a profound moral failing not only on the part of the shooter but of the society itself. This mass murder, said to be the biggest in recent memory, has, after all, come on the heels, in historical terms, of the Obergefell v. Hodges case, a landmark triumph of advocacy and social experimentation which remains as emblematic of America’s deep moral confusion as it is of the inevitable political and social divides that must result from such confusion.
Were the crime perpetrated by a member of another, perhaps more indigenous, faith the terrorism “angle” would conceivably have been much less prominent likely in favor of an “America divided” one. While I can’t say that with certainty it does seem plausible. As it stands many media and even so-called global intelligence outlets, representative of America’s political right, are going to ridiculous lengths to cast ‘Umra trips and Facebook rants as “evidence” of the “radicalization” of a man who was actually investigated and cleared by the FBI, a professional organization that obviously gets far more things right than wrong about America’s security.
When one contrasts the right’s attempts to externalize Orlando as an attack from without with the left’s attempts to reduce it to violations of their own sacred moral and political doctrines, like diversity and inclusion (with the Muslim community firmly in tow), the true significance of the crime and its social impact emerge.
The Orlando Massacre and the incoherent, often bitter, and divisive wrangling that it has amplified are alarming signals that America is under threat and in danger though not nearly so much from ISIS or the proliferation of guns as from its own moral confusion and crippling political divisions.
To the extent that that is true, the very last thing America needs from its Muslims is the kind of timidity that results in representing one side of America’s polarized political discourse as the correct and truly American (and “Islamic”) side despite many of that side's values being in opposition to Abrahamic morality, so clearly spelled out in the verse quoted above, which is rooted in uncompromising monotheism and values such as decency, chastity and the integrity of the family. Such a stance would not only perpetuate America's moral confusion and political divisions but would also be profoundly unprincipled.
I should thus implore American Muslim leaders to not advocate to their fellow Americans, as it seems they may be unwittingly doing, that Abrahamic morality is merely a choice, even for Muslims. That is already fact in America today. It is the status quo that doesn't need advocacy. I should instead implore those leaders to advocate, by all lawful means, and with other like-minded citizens, that Abrahamic morality is a moral imperative which when compromised or abandoned, as it was by the perpetrator of the Orlando Massacre, can have appalling consequences.
And for those Americans who may be wondering what locus standi have I to thus implore them I would hasten to point out that the outcomes of America's internal moral, social, and legal debates do find, at times, unfavorable expression in the social, and legal affairs of other nations. I would also point out that as a Muslim I have a duty to assist my brethren when it seems they are erring. And so I am duty bound to remind my brothers in faith of the imperative to serve the morality of Abraham (peace be upon him) above any other, however dated, un-trendy, or politically inexpedient it may appear at any given moment in history. For that morality is part of the raison d'etre for the Umma in whole and in part, wherever it may be, whether in America or anywhere else.