Law-enforcement officials are still sorting out Omar Mateen’s motive for killing 49 at an Orlando club. But note his father’s comments that his son was enraged by two men kissing in public, and his choice of venue: a popular gay nightclub 100 miles from his home. His ex-wife and Pulse club regulars suggest he struggled with his own sexual identity.
It’s pretty clear he had it out for homosexuals.
So: Does this mean Mateen’s attack had nothing to do with jihadism — that he was a run-of-the-mill homophobe or a self-hating gay man?
If only it were that simple. In real life, anti-gay hostility (among other hatreds) is widespread in the Middle East and beyond and helps fuel jihadism. True, LGBT persecution exists beyond Islamists. Uganda is one of several Christian-majority African countries that have outlawed homosexuality, and Vladimir Putin regularly sneers at gay people.
But the Middle East, and Muslim nations outside it, dominate a list of nearly 80 countries where homosexuality is outlawed and cruelly punished.
There are exceptions, like Turkey. But as a rule, the more a country’s legal system is based on Sharia laws (which forbid sodomy), the worse the persecution against gays. Even by men who are attracted to other men.
When the zealots of the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, a summary “trial” resulted in the use of a bulldozer to drop a brick wall on men accused of homosexuality. The “judge” who presided over the case would often return home later to be comforted there by a male teenage “friend” who’d warm his bed at night.
At times, anti-gay laws are used for the elimination of rivals: In Gaza, Mahmoud Ishtiwi, a member of an elite unit of the Hamas ruling party, was executed last spring on suspicion of “moral turpitude” — the local code word for homosexuality.