One year after the mass shooting of 49 people in Pulse nightclub, we are still mourning. We grieve with friends and family who continue to feel the absences of loved ones, and those affected by the large ripples of one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent memory. Details of the shooting at the Orlando LGBTQ nightclub highlighted the many ways that borders, prisons, and other forms of racial and gender violence harm those who experience both and more. This only magnifies the loss because in many ways their joy and their lives were already testament to the resilience of our communities. The shooting caused us to think quickly and deeply about who our people are and how we want to heal and build power with them.
As Muslims, any incident of violence where the perpetrator is Muslim often fuels violence and surveillance against Muslims everywhere. As Muslims who recognize racial justice as the center of our struggle, we knew that this massacre was a symptom of a larger system of violence that makes it difficult for brown and black people to live with dignity and self-determination. Many in our community also know intimately that for survivors to be outed through such a violent, traumatic experience can have practical effects on housing, employment, immigration status, and general safety because there are currently few legal protections for queer and trans people in the state of Florida. There are, however, many opportunities for these same LGBTQ people of color to be caught up in the wide nets of surveillance, intimate partner violence, incarceration, and deportation. Providing support before and especially after such events requires that we as MASGD and as individuals commit ourselves to grabbing hold of all our relations and pushing together. Most importantly, it has required holding each other up with larger and more inclusive ideas of healing and joy as well.
Many racists attempted to use this tragedy as an opportunity to wedge Muslim, brown, black, LGBTQ, Latinx, and immigrant communities apart with sensational, Islamophobic storylines that obscured how we all, as criminalized communities, experience violence in common. We saw how the U.S. media sought sensationalism; we witnessed how this hunger for easy narratives decentered Black and Latinx voices and lives in the aftermath of the Pulse massacre (and, of course, completely erased Muslim Latinx LGBTQ voices).
However, we also saw positive impacts of years of progressive movement building. People of faith, LGBTQ people of color, and allies stood together to make sure no communities were left behind in the healing process. We are excited by the support we have received from our straight and cisgender Muslim allies in this past year. We hope and expect many more allies to stand up for us in the weeks and months to come. Muslim human rights cannot truly advance if any part of our community is left behind. Increasingly, we are hearing from Muslim allies that they recognize this, as well. One year after the Pulse shooting and nearly six months into a new presidency hostile to Muslim, Latinx, immigrant, POC, and LGBTQ communities, resistance continues to grow and change. Centuries-old programs to silence, erase, break apart, incarcerate, exploit, and deport our people gain ground as well. We, as an organization of LGBTQ Muslims, continue to assert that our freedom can only come within the context of freedom for all of our people. We are lucky to have seen people opening their hearts, arms, doors, and wallets to build us up; we hope that, as we grow, we do justice to everyone who can’t continue with us in the fight.
The emotional, spiritual, and cultural wounds left by the Pulse shooting remain; only time and practice will reveal future paths for healing. We see more clearly today who is willing to imagine a future where we and our people continue to exist and thrive. As always, at the center of our community are Muslims who are LGBTQ. However, our practices of Islam require us to think globally; our community includes those harmed by transphobia, ableism, anti-Blackness, imperialist war, and misogyny among other forms of oppression. We put the Pulse shooting within the white supremacist, homophobic and transphobic violence we’ve seen grow bigger and bolder in the past years. To grow community power and assert the existence and self-determination of LGBTQ Muslims requires that these systems of oppression break and fall.
We are grateful for the month of Ramadan as a yearly opportunity to practice and build the kind of community healing that we so desperately need during this time. We hope that those who fast and gather to build community do so with the knowledge that black lives matter, that migration is beautiful, that transgender people are a necessary part of Divine creation, and that we’re much stronger together than apart. MASGD continues forward with the knowledge that every life is sacred and the commitment to bring healing and justice to our world, both for those still living here, and especially for those who are no longer with us.