On Monday, June 13, I took part in a vigil sponsored by Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace and the Islamic Center of Southern California. As we reflected on the tragic mass shooting that took place in Orlando, Florida, hundreds of people took part in this media event, including religious leaders of diverse faiths--Jews, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, etc. Many condemned our culture of violence and called for gun control. Most expressed solidarity with the LGTBQ community. It was especially gratifying to hear Muslim leaders speak out so strongly in favor of gay rights since in many Muslim countries gays and lesbians are being persecuted. “There’s no room for LGBTQ violence in any of our faiths,” said Salam Al-Marayati, President of Muslim Public Affairs Council who called what happened in Orlando “the most vicious of hate crimes.” He passionately denounced ISIS and all it stands for. Check out this article:Voice of America on the ICUJP vigil
I felt honored to be among those who gave a two-minute reflection at this event. Pictured above are many of my dear interfaith friends and colleagues. In the front row: Sihk Nirigian, Rabbi Comes-Daniel playing guitar, Ruth Sharone, Salam Al-Marayati, Grace Dyrness and myself (behind Grace).
Here is what I shared during this gathering:
It was shocking to learn of the tragedy in Orlando, the 133rd mass shooting in the US since January 1st. My heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims, and also to the LGBTQ community. They need our prayers and our support. Let us not forget to pray as well for the family and friends of the shooter, and of the Muslim community. During these times of violence and fear there is a great temptation to scapegoat and blame whole groups for the actions of a dangerous and demented few. Our Muslim brothers and sisters need our prayers and support. That’s why I am here.
I am here with my friends in the interfaith community to let our fellow Americans know that we stand in solidarity with Muslims who are as appalled as we are by senseless violence. The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) has not only condemned this act of hatred and terror, it has called on Muslims to donate blood to aid the injured and to extend their giving and prayers for all those affected by this mass shooting, including the LGBTQ community. (See letter below.)
I stand here with people of conscience, people of many faiths, to speak out against all forms of violence and bigotry. Gun violence, and "violence of the tongue."
We should not tolerate intolerance, whether by a follower of ISIS, or by a Presidential candidate who says "Islam hates us" and Muslims should benot allowed to emigrate to this country.
I stand here as a Quaker and as a Christian who has committed my life to ending war and violence. For the past fifteen years, I have fasted during Ramadan to express solidarity with my Muslim friends and neighbors. I have vowed to continue fasting till there is peace in Israel/Palestine and the Middle East. Through fasting I have come to appreciate even more Jesus words: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice.” Let us redouble our efforts to work for justice and oppose all forms of bigotry so that those who died in Orlando will not have died in vain.
This is a statement by Salam Al-Marayati, the President of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)