Muslims Join LGBT Rally to Show Solidarity with Victims of Orlando Attack
By Ras H. Siddiqui

 

Sacramento: Billed as the   #SacStandsWithOrlando   Rally, over a thousand people from all walks of life gathered at a venue located between Mangos Restaurant and Faces Nightclub on June 12 th, to jointly condemn the murderous assault on members of the LGBT community in Orlando, Florida the night before. 

Faces is a popularly known spot which members of the LGBT community frequent here in downtown Sacramento and was thus chosen as the location of the rally by them.

Invited speakers included   Basim Elkarra, Director of the local Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) office,   Mayor-elect   Darrell Steinberg, City Councilmember Steve Hansen, Sacramento LGBT Community Center Board President Carlos Marquez and a host of others. They all gathered to express a collective outrage on this terrorist act and to show unity in our Sacramento diversity.

It was also possibly for the first time that many members of the area Muslim clergy and community attended an event of this nature outside a gay bar, to add their share of outrage on this horrific act reportedly carried out by one Omar Mateen, a man with a Muslim name.

One has to share a level of difficulty here in expressing the collective sadness of American Muslims on this latest one in a series of bizarre incidents where members from this community have reportedly carried out mass murders. This one with nearly 50 casualties is the worst one thus far targeting another minority, the gay community. And with no hesitation that our community adds to the disgust and helplessness we feel here so we attended to share in the grief.

Basim Elkarra expressed our collective sentiments very well while expressing his deep condolences said that his thoughts and prayers are with the LGBT community, and that we are all grieving. He said that there is a narrative out there that is trying to make this issue an Islamic-Terrorist Act on the LGBT community.  “The reality is that this was a terrorist attack on ALL of us.” He added that that he just got back from Louisville, after attending the memorial of Muhammad Ali, one who embodied what it really means to be a Muslim, and what it means to be an American.

He said that there is no contradiction between the two as the memorial brought together people of all colors, faiths, sexual orientation and political persuasions. He added that it felt like a turning point for Islam in America. And then we were struck by this tragedy. Last week we lost a legend and this week we lost our loved ones, said Basim.

This was violence against one of the most caring communities in our nation. He added that the LGBT community has long been an ally of the Muslim community in our fight against fear and hatred. After 9/11 the LGBT community was there with us in solidarity with us, he said. We (Muslims)condemn both Islamophobia and homophobia. It is time to stop the hate.

Senior Rabbi Mona Alfi of   Sacramento's oldest Jewish congregation, the Congregation  B'nai Israel,  spoke next.   She said that the congregation was no stranger to hatred and bigotry as in June 1999 when her synagogue was one out of three torched in the middle of the night by white-supremacists who hated us because we were Jews. And, two weeks later, the same men murdered two innocent men because they were gay. She said that at the time this community came together and that we are one family and humanity. “Today, I call on all of us to draw upon the power of love once again,” she added. She also asked for a moment of silence for our brothers and sisters who were murdered in Orlando.

Sacramento’s first openly gay City Councilmember Steve Hansen in his speech said that this is personal. Sacramento, one of the most diverse communities in America, Latino, Gay, Straight, Woman, Muslims, Christians, Jews, we are always united. He said that the only answer (to this violence) is to be courageous and let everyone know that fear does not work. He said that he could only imagine the horror (in Orlando).

After Assembly member Kevin McCarty read a message of support from the Governor’s Office, Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg (joined by his wife Julie) started off by expressing his sorrow at the shooting death of a young man the day before, a Sacramento High football player who was going to be graduating soon (gun violence is everywhere). He also revisited the killing of a gay couple in 1999, the killing that Rabbi Mona had spoken of earlier and said that today we recoil in sadness at the fifty people who lost their lives in Orlando. He said that we grieve for them and their families and pray for the recovery of those injured. “Today, we are all from Orlando, Florida,” said Steinberg. He also spoke of the progress made in gaining rights for the LGBT community in the past few years, so that they could gather at places like Faces without fear. We must never retreat. In Sacramento and throughout our country, let us build bridges and not walls (a message for Donald Trump). He also asked everyone to take down the signs for his (successful) election recently and replace them with triple the number of signs that say “Pride over Prejudice” which he also turned into a slogan here and repeated several times supported by the crowd. 

In conclusion, it has to be mentioned that much of t he goodwill generated for Islam and Muslims by the news coverage on the death of Muhammad Ali was countered shortly afterwards by this insane individual. The Muslim and Pakistani-American community expresses and sends our deep condolences to the victims and their families. This act did not represent a religion or a community. It was a vile and murderous assault on ALL of us.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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