FP: Though it was nearly 3,000 miles away, it was with great sadness and growing concern that I read the news about last weekend’s shootingby an American Muslim citizen at a gay bar in Orlando, Florida, that left 49 people dead and 53 others injured, with some still clinging to life.
That devastating attack has imparted an ironic importance to a conversation I’ve had more than once with my good friend Rob Wells, a human rights activist. We’ve talked about what would happen if such an attack befell a gay bar here in Edmonton, Canada. It’s the kind of winding speculation that inevitably leads us to wonder what the certain backlash against the Muslim community in Alberta might look like as well.
Though we’ve been friends for 11 years, in many ways Rob and I are very different — he’s a retired white man in his 60s and a committed Christian, while I am a Muslim gay man of color and an assistant professor of economics at MacEwan University.
But we both care deeply about the impact of hatred stoked in the name of our respective religions on vulnerable minorities. Rob goes out alone with his placards to protest issues that affect vulnerable LGBT youths, and I’ve spent the past decade studying the nexus of Islamic law and same-sex unions. We’re both volunteer members of the Edmonton Police Service’s sexual and gender minorities liaison committee in Alberta. Rob has served on the committee for some 12 years (I joined last year). During that time he has certainly amassed a depth of experience interacting with different communities, including Muslim, South Asian, black, and First Nations and has also noted the concerns of the Edmonton Police Service on backlash against the LGBT community when they were still struggling for their rights. And we have been especially concerned about the fallout of world events into our peaceful city of Edmonton, which many of us who live here see as the city of human rights.