Orlando

There is no way I can hope to do justice to the horrific events that played out at The Pulse in Orlando. Let me first share Sydney’s response.

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See Candlelight vigils held across Australia to honour Orlando shooting victims.

Hundreds gathered with candles and rainbow flags in Sydney’s Taylor Square, where former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s sister Christine Forster and her partner Virginia held hands as they joined others who surrounded a nature strip at Taylor Square that was covered in flowers, rainbow flags and the word “Orlando” spelled out by candles.

A similar vigil was held in Newtown while landmarks, such as the Harbour Bridge, have been lit up to show support for the 50 people killed and more than 50 people injured by a gunman inside crowded Orlando club Pulse early on Sunday…

Then of many opinion pieces I particularly ask you to read Canberra Times journalist Michael Koziol:

…Omar Mateen chose a gay nightclub as the theatre of his warfare. He had expressed disgust at gay affection. This was a hate crime – and we should say so…

How does this become a point of contention? Whatever his sympathies or connections, Mateen had a choice of many targets that night. He chose to kill gays – that much seems clear.

In recognition of this fact, gay communities the world over are grieving. It is their safe space, the gay bar, that has been violated – a space made necessary by hundreds of years of persecution and hate. That is why it is the rainbow flag you will see bathed in candlelight at vigils this evening. That is why Sydney’s Town Hall will be lit up in pink, and Canberra’s Kings Avenue bridge covered in rainbow lights…

It’s hard to understand why some observers want to deny LGBTI people this ownership. But what it says is macabre. It shows how badly they want every act of terror to fit into a narrative of us-versus-them, Islam versus the West, hatred versus freedom.

For mine, I don’t see how Mateen’s attack undermines that narrative at all. Gay liberation should be a freedom cherished and celebrated by all. Straight white Christians should be as hurt and angry about this atrocity as any subway bombing or school shooting. And yet it seems it Is difficult for some people to empathise unless the attack is generalised and nationalised, post hoc, into a broad-based act of capital-T Terrorism.

Politicians who are actually gay saw things in a slightly different light. Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman, a factional ally of the Prime Minister, readily agreed the attack was “an assault on all of us”. But he also acknowledged it represented a new dimension in modern jihadism; the first time gay people had been targeted in the West…

Next, and rather depressing: Anti-Gay Senate Candidate Uses Orlando Killing To Push Anti-Muslim Agenda.

In perhaps the most egregious example, former Bob Katter staffer turned Australian Liberty Alliance Senate candidate Bernard Gaynor released a statement this morning, linking the mass murder to immigration policies and “political correctness”. In 2013, Gaynor was sacked from the army reserve and stood down as a Katter’s Australia Party candidate after tweeting that he wouldn’t “let a gay person teach [his] children”.

In his statement today, Gaynor failed to mention the fact Pulse was an LGBTI club, and did not pass on any condolences to the LGBTI community, locally or abroad.

After stirring controversy in 2013, Gaynor doubled-down on his comments and argued the Catholic Church must purge gay teachers from its schools. He reflected on the reaction by writing:

“Looking back in hindsight, I guess it’s all clear now. I had poo-poohed the right of sodomites to educate my children.”

In the same piece, Gaynor said that “the homosexual community views children as commodities to be traded around the planet. More recently, he argued that “laws allowing discrimination against homosexuals are good”.

Yes, it appears this atrocity was pretty much in the same abominable vein as those extremist Islamist attacks in Bangladesh in recent times. See for background Rising Religious Extremism in Bangladesh. As you may know, Bangladeshi authorities have now been cracking down on such extremism, following events like this:

On April 23, machete-wielding assailants killed Rezaul Karim Siddique, 58, an English professor at Rajshahi University, in an assault that copied previous attacks by Islamist militants on secular and atheist activists. On April 7, Nazim Uddin, who was openly critical of religion and Islamic fundamentalism, was hacked to death on the streets of Dhaka.

Mannan was an editor of Roopban, Bangladesh’s first LGBT-themed magazine, which began publishing in 2014. He was a visible and openly gay human rights activist who supported and protected LGBT people even in the face of threats against the community. Mahbub was also an openly gay activist.

Several bloggers and their publishers were similarly hacked to death by Islamist militants in 2015 for promoting secularism. Religious extremist groups have claimed responsibility for murders and even published a hit list of activists and bloggers. The government offered police protection for those on the hit list, but the protection has clearly been inadequate as several on the list have been killed since. Prime Minister Sheik Hasina advised bloggers to use restraint in their exercise of free speech or leave the country for their safety.

Mannan had participated in planning a diversity celebration slated to take place in Dhaka on April 14. The evening before the event, police asked organizers to cancel it due to threats against LGBT activists, and organizers agreed to the request. However, on the morning of April 14, police arrested four people and accused them of attempting to stage the event regardless. Mannan spent the day working for their release…

Human Rights Watch interviewed LGBT people in Bangladesh in recent months and found that they faced threats of violence, particularly after homophobic public comments by Islamic leaders. Activists working on gender and sexuality said that to ensure their personal safety, they conceal their identities and constrain their work. Those who were exposed in the media and public spaces felt particularly vulnerable.

Same-sex sexual behavior, dubbed “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” is criminalized in Bangladesh under section 377 of the country’s colonial-era penal code.

In recent years, LGBT people in Bangladesh have also been targeted with extremist rhetoric. For example, in November 2015, when activists began publishing a cartoon series featuring a lesbian character, religious groups issued hateful anti-LGBT statements, calling on the government to prosecute LGBT people under section 377 and Sharia (Islamic Law)…

That is from Human Rights Watch, where you may also see yet another aspect of the Orlando atrocity: Dispatches: Making Sense of Tragedy and Guns After Orlando.

But when it comes down to it, the real purpose of this post is to express solidarity with Orlando at this dreadful time.

Update

Wise words: Jonathan Green, Orlando shooting: Our culture war reaction doesn’t help.

There’s no point naming names, or reading through the blogs, columns and social media feeds: any new ghastliness flushes them from cover, flying righteously in the face of “virtue signaling” liberals, boldly confronting the empty handwringing of the socially concerned. A small army of the angry, triumphantly seeking validation in each new atrocity.

See: more dead. Now will you suspend your supine political correctness and name Islam as the true killer?…

But turning each new atrocity to a culture war scuffle that pits those who can clearly see the Islamist enemy against those who “dare not speak its name”, is a reaction that seeks nothing but the narrow denigration that is the obvious little sum of its parts. It attempts nothing beyond them.

It’s not an argument that takes us any closer to a rational and humane world. And nor is it intended to be. It does nothing to confront groups like IS with any sort of existential menace. It is a greater cowardice than the “politically correct” shirking it claims to deride…

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