Don't let act of homophobia become excuse for Islamophobia
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The tears came when I walked out of Union Station in Washington, DC on my Monday morning commute and realized that all the flags - including the state flags along Massachusetts Ave - were at half staff in honor of the victims of the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. I passed the Senate office buildings and took the “long way” to my office in order to stop for a moment in front of the Supreme Court. I paused to reflect and to pray. I have stood here in demonstration and celebration so many times, and I paused to remember that for all the advances in LGBTQ rights since I came out in the mid-90s, there is still so much more to be done. I prayed for my community, and just as I had prayed when I learned on Sunday that the suspected shooter was Muslim, I offered a deeply felt prayer that there be no backlash against my Muslim brothers and sisters.

As a woman married to another woman, I know a thing or two about misplaced blame. My marriage is not contributing to the decline of the institution of marriage in this country. Though some may blame me for that, the reality is that I am contributing to strengthening the idea of family responsibility. Sadly, the Muslim American community has consistently been on the receiving end of misplaced blame and hate. Following the San Bernardino shootings, a Muslim store owner in New York City was attacked. Over the past year, a taxi driver was shot in the back in Pittsburgh and a woman was assaulted by two men outside of her children's school — all attacks based solely on their faith.

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I know about hate and discrimination, and part of my call to ministry is to speak up against bigotry in all of its forms. Misplaced blame itself can be an act of violence.  It has been used to justify murder, physical harm, hate crimes and everyday discrimination. Stereotyping and othering an entire people has no place in a society that is founded on ideals of freedom and democracy for all. As a member of the LGBTQ community, I have learned about the beautiful diversity of humanity. As a Christian in a majority Christian country, this motivates me to be an advocate for religious minorities in our communities. It is critical that we not turn an attack on gay people into an excuse for bigotry and hate towards Muslims. 

Recently in the United Methodist Church, because I am a woman married to a woman, I was denied the ability to take the next step toward ordination in the denomination. I could walk away from the church of my birth and its own entrenched bigotry, but I feel deeply called to remain present (and I continue as a candidate for ordained ministry). I remain because I am always thinking about some young 14-year-old in a rural community who could use a role model – someone very similar to the young person I once was. I think about what they are hearing, from our churches and indeed from our society more broadly. I think about the need to echo voices of hope and community in diversity, not fear and bigotry.

In my role at the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, I work to equip faith communities to stand in solidarity with Muslim Americans. This means speaking out when the media uses the word “terrorism” to describe certain crimes and not others. This means standing with Muslim colleagues and communities when they denounce heinous acts of violence. This means speaking out against detention without trial, torture, and faith-based surveillance. Most of all it means treating individuals as individuals and not vilifying them based on any one aspect of their identity.

Hatred in all its forms – whether transphobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, or racism – stems from the same need to tear down humanity, to disrupt the peace we build amongst ourselves as people. Let us not give in to hate, and instead, counter it with love. Let us be the best versions of ourselves.

T.C. Morrow is on the staff of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and a candidate for ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church