The tragic events at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando shed light on a lesser-known facet of the Islamic State (IS): the group’s virulently hostile views toward homosexuality, in particular its targeting of gay men. Thus far, no evidence has surfaced suggesting that IS directed the perpetrator, Omar Mateen, to conduct the operation, and jihadis usually have multiple motivations for taking action, including in this case possible mental health issues. Yet IS has published a vast corpus of justifications for killing homosexuals, and it has publicly targeted numerous allegedly gay men in Iraq and Syria in the past year-and-a-half alone.
To be sure, gay men were being targeted by the Iraqi and Syrian regimes prior to the announcement of the so-called IS “Caliphate,” and the region’s legal and religious climate is often inhospitable to that community. Moreover, other jihadi groups have executed homosexuals, including the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and its branches Jabhat al-Nusra and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). What stands out with IS, though, is the level of textual justification it has produced for such executions and the theatrical manner in which it conducts them, potentially inciting greater anti-LGBT violence.
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