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. Most Islamists agree that punishment of homosexuals is the responsibility of God, and not of ordinary Muslims. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon for Islamist preachers to speak about homosexuals with extremely hateful characterizations and invoke brutal punishments against them, contributing to a hate-filled atmosphere which can influence individuals with more immediate violent intentions. Jihadist groups adopt even more extreme positions on homosexuality and justify killing those who engage in it. The Islamic State has been particularly ruthless in its persecution of homosexuals, enacting theatrical executions of individuals it accused of being gay and broadcasting them when it controlled territory in Syria and Iraq. Like antisemitism, anti-Shi’a sectarianism, and views on blasphemy and/or apostasy, homophobia is a bridge issue linking Western non-violent Islamists and their jihadist counterparts. Despite their disagreements about the precise conditions for applying the death penalty against LGBTQIA+ individuals, which remains a matter of great dispute between the factions, an emerging consensus connects Islamists of all stripes, particularly in the West. First, Islamists and jihadists alike view homosexuality--active or passive--as a grave sin, entailing some form of divine retribution. Second, figures on both sides have expressed their views that the promotion of “LGBTQIA+ ideology” is part of a grand conspiracy by Western countries to dissuade Muslims from living out their faith, and that calamities that befall Western countries are a result of divine judgement against them. Lastly, certain prominent Islamists concur with the jihadist viewpoint that, in an ideal Islamic state, the death penalty should be enforced against homosexuals. Against this backdrop, it is not surprising that in recent years the LGBTQIA+ community in the West has suffered a series of terrorist attacks perpetrated by individuals inspired by Islamist and/or jihadist ideology. Successful attacks against LGBTQIA+ targets were carried out in Orlando, Florida (2016, 49 killed), Dresden, Germany (2020, 1 killed), and Oslo, Norway (2022, 2 killed); other attacks were foiled in France, the Netherlands, the U.S. and the UK. In order to provide a general overview of these dynamics, this report will first outline the main Islamist viewpoints on homosexuality. It will then provide examples of how Western-based Islamist actors have framed the issue, examine the views and actions of jihadist groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and finally conclude with an analysis of terrorist attacks perpetrated or planned by individuals motivated by Islamist/jihadist ideology against LGBTQIA+ targets in the West.
Vidino, Lorenzo; Meleagrou-Hitchens, Alexander; Program on Extremism, George Washington University; and National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology, and Education Center, "Islamist Homophobia in the West: From Rhetoric to Violence" (2022). Reports, Projects, and Research. 14.