Monday, June 13, 2016

Hundreds gather at the Islamic Center of Southern California to grieve, to express solidarity with the LGTBQ community and to call for gun control in the wake of the tragic Orlando shooting

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)

Today, our hearts are heavy with the horrific news of a hateful homophobic mass shooting targeting a gay club in Florida, which has taken the lives of 50 people and injured at least 53 others. We join with the LGBTQ community and all Americans in expressing our profound outrage, grief, and condemnation of this sickening act of senseless violence that violates all human decency. Hate, bigotry and violence are our common enemy.
We send our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the deceased and injured, and stand shoulder to shoulder with the LGBTQ community as we deal with the aftermath of the despicable crime. We are in touch with federal and local law enforcement about the investigation surrounding this tragedy.
We urge Muslim Floridians to donate blood to aid the injured and to extend their giving and prayers for all those affected by this mass shooting.
MPAC and many other American Muslim groups around the country have strong ties with LGBTQ communities and groups, and have worked together to oppose hate, intolerance, and bullying which impacts both of our communities.
As we all grapple with this senseless tragedy and we learn more about the motives and facts of the case, we will be reaching out to LGBTQ communities with condolences and solidarity. As President Obama said at his press conference this afternoon, let us stand together in our grief and outrage, and our solidarity with the victims and their families.
As Muslims, we believe in religious freedom, civil rights, and human rights. We reject violence, hatred, and discrimination toward anyone on the basis of race, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin. We support civil rights for all people. May God guide us all as we strive in His cause.


  1. Salam Al-Marayati, the President of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)wrote, "As Muslims, we believe in religious freedom, civil rights, and human rights."

    Wow, such a statement is great to hear. The vast majority of Muslim leaders reject religious freedom, civil rights, and human rights.

    For the past 40 years, my wife and I have been writing letters to Islamic governments for prisoners of conscience (for Amnesty International and other human rights organizations).

    If more and more U.S. Muslims reject Sharia Law, the Quran's war and hell passages, etc. and do support religious freedom, what a change could happen among Muslims.

    I wonder how Salam Al-Marayati reinterprets Islam's opposition to same sexuality.

    Thanks for posting this.

  2. Daniel, I am glad you are appreciating how important it is that the voice of moderate American Muslims be heard. When you and I call on reactionary Muslims to respect human rights, religious freedom, etc. they can dismiss us as infidels or as Western oppressors/imperialists. But when American Muslims call on their co-religionists to respect human dignity and freedom, and use the Quran as an authority, it has a much greater impact. That's why I stand in solidarity with organizations like CAIR and MPAC.

  3. We agree on supporting moderate Muslims, and liberal ones who reject Sharia Law, reject the terrible passages in the Quran, reject jihad, etc.

    However, you add "use the Quran as an authority." :-( I've read all of the Quran, and am half way through the book again. It has many horrific passages including ones ordering beheadings, cutting off of hands, crucifixion, the killing of non-Muslims, etc. Furthermore, orthodox Islam believes in Al-Qadar, fate or predestionation. They believe "Whatever God wills to happen happens, and whatever He wills not to happen does not happen. 4) God is the Creator of everything."
    That sounds exactly like the doctrine of Augustinians and Calvinists--that God wills evil.

    I stand with the Muslim Reform Movement and the liberal Muslim who invited me to her wedding:-)

    Keep up the good work of building bridges with everyone:-)