Overcoming double prejudices

by Maureen Fiedler

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The killings in Orlando over the weekend were horrific, beyond words. But the motive of the killer remains an unknown.

Many commentators initially assumed that the perpetrator, Omar Mateen, was driven by allegiance to terrorist groups like the Islamic State (ISIS), to whom he apparently pledged allegiance by cell phone just before the attack. The U.S. government says there is no evidence that he was directed by terror groups outside the United States, but he could have been inspired by them online. However, other reports suggest that he confused various terror groups who are mortal enemies in the Middle East, like ISIS and Hezbollah. If they "inspired" him, he certainly did not know much about them.

But another factor has come to light. Recent reports suggest that Mateen frequented the Pulse nightclub himself and that he used male-seeking-male dating apps on his cell phone. This suggests that he may have been gay himself -- perhaps a self-loathing gay person who could not cope with what he knew about himself. And as a Muslim, he surely believed that was wrong. Mateen may well have been coping with two identities he could not reconcile.

But what has happened since the killings is fascinating and inspiring. Two groups of people -- American Muslims and LGBTQ people -- both of whom have suffered strong societal prejudices -- have come together to mourn, to ask for understanding, to decry prejudice. They are not groups that have naturally come together before -- as groups. Islam is as anti-gay as official Catholicism. But both American Muslims and LGBTQ people know the suffering that comes from being misunderstood and shut out. They may be tip-toeing around each other even now, but at some level, they understand the sting of societal prejudice.

The Catholic bishops might study this phenomenon. Several have condemned the violence in Orlando and expressed sorrow to the victims, but only a handful of them have explicitly mentioned the LGBTQ community. What is the problem, fellas? Are you afraid to acknowledge that this community exists? That Catholics are part of this community? If so, you are part of the problem.

Take a hint from our Muslim sisters and brothers, and come together with the LGBTQ community to mourn and search for solutions to societal hate.

Whatever the truth about Mateen's orientation or motives, this event is clearly calling all of us to condemn and eliminate double discriminations -- against either Muslims or LGBT people.

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