Orlando Shooting Offends Islam

The holiest month in the Islamic calendar - Ramadan - is upon us. It is a time when Muslims give up temporary pleasures of food and intimacy to focus on spiritual reformation of the self. Mosques overflow with volunteers and much is spent in the way of charitable causes. The Quran's teachings on forgiveness, love, peace, suppression of anger, rights of parents and neighbors etc. are oft-emphasized. Even seemingly minor acts of disrupting peace--such as contentious argument--are strictly forbidden. In fact, Prophet Muhammad taught that if abused or hurt in the state of fasting, a Muslim must not retaliate and merely respond by saying, "I am fasting."

Last Saturday, my Mosque - the Boston chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community - held its annual interfaith Ramadan dinner in Sharon. And as I awoke at dawn to start my fast the following day, social media went abuzz with news of an ongoing gun attack in Orlando. Sadly, with over 130 mass shootings in 2016 alone, Americans have become used to such tragedies. I ate a little, said my morning prayer, hoped there would be no loss of life, and went back to sleep. A couple of hours later, I woke up to disbelief and pain. Fifty innocent people had been gunned down in a horrific act of violence targeting the LGBTQ community. Many more had been injured. The shooter - Omar Mateen - was a young man who identified with my faith.

In no time, this maniac's homophobia metamorphosed into mass Islamophobia. While the Muslim community immediately called out the shooter, held prayer vigils and called for blood donations, some prominent right-wing figures shamelessly exploited this tragedy to attack the whole Muslim community. Ted Cruz issued a scathing press release falsely claiming Islam says to "kill gays." Other conservative talk show hosts and politicians echoed the same sentiment. New atheist writers like Ayaan Hirsi Ali - whom I have long invited for a public debate in Boston - also jumped on the tides, blaming the Orlando attack on "the Muslim doctrine."

As a Muslim youth leader, I know well that nothing can be further from the truth. The Quran unequivocally states, "Whosoever killed a person...it shall be as if he had killed all mankind" (5:33). This attack was not only utterly inhumane but also wholly un-Islamic. The Quran does not, in any shape or form, call for the killing of homosexuals and such vigilantism is nothing short of terrorism. When the head of the world's single largest Muslim Community was asked about gays in a recent interview, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad replied: "I have a feeling of care for them... And I don't hate them."

Of course, there are extremists who believe homosexuals must be killed. ISIS is one example. This Christian pastor whom Ted Cruz closely embraces is another. All such people who endorse discrimination against and seek to hurt our human family must be condemned without exception. Wrongly vilifying all Muslims, while endorsing Christian pastors who share ISIS's views on gays, shows Islamophobia - and not humanity - is in fact the motivation for Cruz's comments.

Latest reports suggest Mateen was not religious and might have lived a double life. He used gay dating apps and was seen getting drunk at the gay bar he attacked. Whatever his motive, it is unfortunate how this hate crime is being exploited by some to further their own bigoted agenda. This takes away from what should be the real focus right now - the 50 innocent victims and their families. As Muslim Americans, our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this senseless and barbaric atrocity. We are filled with sadness and anger. And as I write this in great pain, my Mosque is already planning a vigil for the Orlando victims.

It is true that the Orlando shooter identified with my faith, but the comparison ended right there. He had nothing more in common with my faith. His sacrilegious actions offended the most sacred teachings of Islam. #OrlandoStrong