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What motivated the Orlando gunman to murder LGBT people?

This is a guest post by @MehrdadAmanpour

No one will ever know exactly what motivated Omar Mateen to commit such an evil and Godless act of terrorism. This afternoon, I discussed the matter with a relative of mine – a deeply religious Muslim scholar, who spent time in prison for his reformist and tolerant views. The following is a guess at what went on in Mateen’s mind.

It’s reasonable to assume Mateen grew up in an environment where homosexuality is loathed as something ‘filthy’ and ‘wicked’. He would have heard this throughout his life, from his parents and from every section of Afghan & Muslim community he belonged to.

Assuming he subscribed to aspects of fundamentalist Islamic thought, he would certainly have been believed God commands homosexuals to be killed. And assuming he was a practicing homosexual, he would also have believed that he was damned to burn in hell for his ’sin’.

It’s also likely Mateen would have believed that he had been tempted by Satan. He would have felt sinful, ashamed and weak. He hated himself and he hated the ‘wicked’ men he was attracted to.

Fundamentalist/Islamist Muslims believe that the only guaranteed way for a sinner to enter heaven is to die as a ‘martyr’ in the way of ‘jihad’. That’s why so many criminals become jihadists.

I believe that this was possibly Mateen’s motivation. Killing and dying in the way of ‘jihad’ was his way out of eternal damnation. It’s feasible that he was encouraged by a third party to ‘martyr’ himself – he would probably have been very susceptible to the idea.

Dying whilst killing ‘Crusader’ Americans for the ‘Caliphate’ would achieve the objective of ‘martyrdom’ in Mateen’s twisted mind.

However, even fundamentalist Muslims believe killing an ‘innocent’ is sinful. That’s why Islamists go to to great lengths to define their victims as not ‘innocent’ – labelling Israeli women and children as “militarised” is an example of this intellectual sophistry.

It’s possible Mateen’s motivation to target LGBT people addressed this issue – the ‘people of Lut’ would certainly not be ‘innocent’ by his warped logic. No doubt it would also have seemed like ‘payback’ to the ‘wicked’ people who had tempted him.

This is a uniquely Muslim issue. I’m not sure any significant numbers of people in any other major religion believe martyrdom to be the act of dying whilst killing others. Neither do other religions have the concept of a ‘slate wiped clean’ by dying in the way of a ‘holy war’.

It’s time Muslims everywhere thought long and hard about whether these attitudes towards homosexuality, punishment, martyrdom and ‘holy war’ have any place in a religion that we want to have the understanding and respect it deserves.