Following Omar Mateen's massacre of forty-nine people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, professors of Middle East studies reacted predictably by blaming guns, American homophobia, Christians, Deep South bigotry – anything but Islamic terrorism. Never mind that Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS, depicted himself as an Islamic soldier during the attack, had taken two trips to Saudi Arabia, and was interviewed three times by the FBI in connection with terrorism. Excuses must be made, willful ignorance enforced, and the American public bamboozled.
Cole questioned Mateen's allegiance to the Islamic State, given reports that Mateen frequented the Pulse nightclub regularly and drank heavily, claiming that "puritanical Muslim fundamentalists of the ISIL sort don't behave that way." In fact, Mateen's libertine lifestyle is a hallmark of Islamic terrorists in the West, who are instructed to blend in. In his case, there may have been several motivating factors, but Cole advanced only one conclusion: "To put all this on Muslims and Islam in general is frankly absurd."
University of Denver Center for Middle East Studies director Nader Hashemi placed the emphasis on the American public, predicting the worst: "There is a huge danger that in the coming days and weeks that American Muslims/Islam will be collectively targeted and blamed for today's massacre in Florida." He claimed, "The 1,400-year-old Islamic faith in itself has little to do with the modern jihadist movement."
Safi revealed his own bigotry and provincialism by chalking up the attack to imagined Southern perfidy: "Let us not lose sight of the fact that this horrible attack took place in the South, after years of demonizing gays and lesbians." Aside from the fact that Orlando is hardly a bastion of Southern culture, there is no moral equivalency between the debates over same-sex marriage and transgender bathroom use he cited and the mass murder of gays.
Sticking with the theme of blaming anyone but the perpetrator, Safi noted that "[t]he killer worked for the G4S security firm with a history of abuse in American prisons and the Occupied Territories/Israel."
Finally, Safi cynically urged Muslim organizations "to demonstrate the intersectionality of Muslim and LGBTQ struggles" and "the connection between Islamophobia and homophobia" by referring "media requests to self-identifying gay/lesbian/transgender Muslims." His acknowledgement that the latter should include only those "who feel safe to be publicly identified" indicates why there have been few takers.
Trying to shift the blame from the Muslim gunman to all Americans, Columbia University's Hamid Dabashi waxed poetic about "two people, Americans and Muslims, converging on the edges of their common destiny," who "now face two traumatic experiences of Islamophobia and homophobia together."
Dabashi encouraged Muslims to engage in "urgent soul-searching concerning homophobia" but then pivoted to "other factors involved here," including "the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq," "the major U.S. allies state sponsored fanaticism in the Arab and Muslim world," and "the obscenity of the availability of assault weapons in the U.S."
While acknowledging the existence of "homophobic Muslims," Dabashi avoided specificity with a litany of "homophobic Jews, homophobic Christians, homophobic Hindus, [and] homophobic atheists" before concluding, "There has been homophobic violence in all communities and among all religious denominations."
Muqtedar Khan, director of the University of Delaware's Islamic Studies Program, conceded that "reforms are long overdue" to Islam's views on homosexuality and admitted that one should "consider the possibility that he [Mateen] was radicalized." Yet apologetics followed: "What happened in Orlando is more about the accessibility of guns and their devastating power than about Islam or Muslims."
Kaukab Siddique, the Lincoln University English professor infamous for his anti-Semitic statements, Holocaust denial, and open support for ISIS, was characteristically bigoted. Evidently annoyed that President Obama had publicly addressed the attack, Siddique complained on his Facebook page that "[h]omos are the most important people in America" before adding, "Have you ever heard him talk of the 1200 children killed in Gaza by the Jews?" Elsewhere, he expressed dismay that the attack "got maximum publicity in the Zionist media."
Faced with an ideology committed to mass murder in the name of Islam, Middle East studies professors respond with willful blindness, vicious bigotry, and outright mendacity. In seeking to deflect blame from the Islamists responsible for these heinous acts, these ostensible experts on Islam and the Middle East lend cover to killers and disgrace their profession.