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Islamist Homophobia in the West: From Rhetoric to Violence

Hateful rhetoric and occasional acts of violence against the LGBTQIA+ community in the United States have increasingly come from Islamist actors.

The global LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual/aromantic/agender) community has historically been subjected to hateful rhetoric, discriminatory practices and acts of violence. In the West, this animosity has traditionally mostly originated from a heterogeneous array of actors that can broadly be identified with the far-right. And while in recent years the LBGTQIA+ community has received rights and a degree of acceptance largely unthinkable only a few decades ago, episodes of intolerance and violence are still very much present. Recently, for example, in June 2022, authorities detained 31 members of a white nationalist group called Patriot Front who were allegedly about to attack the Pride in the Park event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

If animosity against the LGBTQIA+ community from right wing circles is a well-known and fairly uncontested topic, less so is that originating from Islamist milieus. Yet, an abundance of evidence indicates that, over the last few decades, hateful rhetoric and occasional acts of violence against the LGBTQIA+ community in the United States and virtually all other Western countries have increasingly come from Islamist actors.

Both in the Muslim world and in the West, mainstream Islamists, such as those from Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist backgrounds, depict homosexuality as a perversion and a grave sin. Islamist anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric takes different angles. At times, it focuses on warning the Muslim community about engaging in homosexual acts, evoking the divine punishments that await those who do so. In line with some Christian fundamentalists, natural events such as hurricanes and earthquakes or diseases like AIDS are also painted as divine punishments against homosexuality. A substantial part of the messaging also views homosexuality and gay rights as a Western plot devised to pervert and weaken Muslims. This report documents several instances of preachers and top-ranking officials linked to prominent Islamist organizations in the U.S. and Europe, several of whom are engaged as partners by Western governments and civil society, that espouse such views.

Read the report at the GWU Program on Extremism

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