Orlando massacre another wakeup call for all Americans to unite against homophobia, Islamophobia, and gun violence
On the occurrence of the worst mass shooting and act of domestic terror in U.S. history, this is the kind of diversity we don’t like to talk about.
The perp is one of us.
The alleged shooter is 29-year-old Omar Siddiqui Mateen, born in New York to Afghani immigrants. Mateen’s an American of South Asian descent, and by the selfies he posted online, he looks like a normal millennial. With his family, Mateen relocated to Florida where he worked as a private security guard.
But early Sunday morning, Mateen was anything but normal. Reports say after he unloaded his AR-15 automatic rifle into a crowd at an Orlando gay bar, Mateen called 911 and pledged his support to ISIS.
Despite being on the FBI’s radar for years for having contact with suspicious ISIS members, communicating with ISIS is no crime in a free country–not until you act on behalf of ISIS.
This weekend, Mateen, apparently, chose his suicidal path.
But it leaves us as an American society to deal with this scary reality.
The terrorists are doing a better job at recruiting a handful of South Asian Americans to do nefarious deeds than mainstream institutions are doing in assuring us all that we are indeed part of one great America.
Just look at the message of the great wall-builder Donald Trump. The GOP presidential candidate wants a ban on Muslims. And when he sees a federal judge with an Hispanic name, it’s just assumed he’s Mexican, a foreigner, disloyal, and definitely not an American, despite the judge being born in Indiana.
Add to all that the increasing inequality in the U.S., a vanishing middle class, and a growing sense that there are more “have nots” than “haves.” Is it any wonder that images of the Orlando crime scene looked like it could have been a bombing anywhere in what we used to call condescendingly the “Third World”?
That’s where we are in America these days when the “war” is here at home.
So, yes we must mourn and offer our condolences to families of the victims of this horrendous crime.
But we must also come to terms with what’s at stake in this tragedy–and how only by standing together do we have a chance to continue to be a great and free country.
It was a basic theme in statements from leaders in the greater Asian American community.
“Today was a terrible reminder that the fight against homophobia and discrimination is not over,” said Congressman Mike Honda, CA-17, representative of the Silicon Valley. “I echo President Obama’s words, ‘Attacks on all Americans whether it’s over race, gender culture, religion or sexual orientation is an attack on all of us.‘”
Honda quoted President Obama who gave a statement earlier in the day on what one media organization said was the 15th shooting he’s had to comment on during his two terms.
But for Honda, the Orlando massacre hit even closer to home. His congressional district includes Fremont, the city with the largest Afghani community in the U.S.
“It has been reported that the shooter was a Muslim American,” Honda continued. “We must remember that this individual does not speak for all Muslim Americans, and his violence is being loudly condemned by Muslim American groups across our country. We cannot allow fear to blind us with hate.”
“This month we celebrate the holy month of Ramadan and LGBTQ Pride Month – celebrations centered around compassion and community. We must stand shoulder to shoulder with our Muslim, gay, lesbian, transgender and queer brothers and sisters; and all Americans affected by this heinous act of violence.”
At a Washington, DC news conference, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was even more direct about what to call Orlando.
“This is a hate crime, plain and simple,” said Nihad Awad, CAIR national executive director. “We condemn it in the strongest possible terms. It violates our principles as Americans and as Muslims. Let me be clear, we have no tolerance for extremism of any kind.”
Awad called religious freedom a cornerstone of the community’s beliefs as Muslims and Americans. He said unity was the answer to the violence in Orlando.
“Today we must stand united,” Awad said. “For many years, members of the LGBTQIA community have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Muslim community against any acts of hate crimes, Islamophobia, marginalization, and discrimination.”
“Today we stand with them shoulder to shoulder. The liberation of the American Muslim community is profoundly linked to the liberation of other minority groups, blacks, Latinos, gay Jewish, trans and any other community that has faced discrimination and oppression in this country. We cannot fight injustice against some groups and not against others. Homophobia, transphobia, and Islamophobia are interconnected systems of oppression, and we cannot dismantle one without dismantling the others.”
Awad then had a specific message to Muslim Americans: “Now is the time to speak out and make clear that we will not give in to hate. And we will not give in to fear.”
And then he had a specific message to ISIS and its supporters.
“How would you stand before God and answer to your crimes against innocent people, thousands of innocent people, Muslims, Christians and other minorities. You do not speak for us. You do not represent us. You are an aberration, an outlaw,” Awad said. He added that the “1.7 billion people are united” in rejecting ISIS’s extremism, their interpretation of Islam, and their acts of senseless violence.”
Awad finished with one more message to public figures like the Donald Trumps of the world.
“And to those politicians who may try to exploit this tragedy,” Awad said, “we ask them to respect the victims and their families. This is not the time to score points. This is not the time to spawn fear. This is the time for unity and faith.”
Here’s an amen to all that, with one addendum.
The best way to deal with hate is to fill the world with love.