From the moment authorities — and the general public — learned that the shooter in the Orlando nightclub massacre last weekend had ties to the terrorist group ISIS, there has been a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamophobia.
Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, there have been some who have blamed the entire Muslim community and Islam on the growing number of terrorist attacks around the world.
But members of the local Muslim community say this is not what their religion teaches.
Mahmood Khadeer, president of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) mosque in Redmond, condemned the attacks.
“We condemn in unequivocal, absolute and categorical terms the attacks in Orlando over the weekend,” he said in a press conference on Monday. “We are all very saddened and distressed by this attack.”
Khadeer continued, saying their community stands with their fellow Americans in expressing their sorrow and shock as well as their condolences to the victims and their families.
“I have repeatedly said, ‘The ideology of the terrorist and terrorist groups like ISIS is ignorant, wrong, destructive, twisted, sinful, murderous and has absolutely no place whatsoever in Islam!'” Khadeer said at the press conference.
He added that this is the Islamic holy month of Ramadan when Muslims are not even allowed to speak harshly to somebody. Committing such acts goes against every fiber of their faith, Khadeer said and “(they) are all at a loss.”
“The terrorist claims to be affiliated with Islam but Islam does not affiliate itself with him,” he said. “The 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, the American Muslim community and the Muslims in the great state of Washington do not affiliate with him.”
For Sarah Davis, seeing the media focus on her religion so negatively takes away her voice as a Muslim.
“We feel like our religion is being hijacked,” she said.
To counter this, the Redmond resident said she tries to be more active in the community to represent and speak for her religion herself and not let others try to do it for her.
One of the ways she is active in the community is as co-director for MAPS Youth. Her husband Ahsen Nadeem is the other co-director and together, the couple works with the mosque’s teen members, primarily focuses on community service projects.
Davis said when she and her husband learned about last Sunday’s attack, her heart fell.
Nadeem added that he was devastated.
The couple attended the vigil on Sunday evening at Cal Anderson Park in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
“That was amazing to attend,” Davis said
Nadeem added that they stand tall with the LGBT community.
“We’ve got their back,” he said.
And just as members of the local Muslim community are supporting the LGBT community, members of the latter are showing their support for the former, as well.
Redmond resident Karin Duvall, who is a board member for PFLAG Bellevue/Eastside — which provides support for LGBT people, their friends, families and allies — said she was horrified when she learned that MAPS had been threatened on Sunday.
“We have to support each other,” Duvall said, adding that people need to fight the urge to scapegoat or blame. “Scapegoats are just too easy.”
Nadeem said in Islamic teachings, it is important to respect every soul no matter what walk of life or faith they come from.
He likened life to a gathering with God as the host. No matter a person’s background, whether others agree with it or not, they are a guest of God, just like everyone else, he said.
Davis also noted that there are members of the Muslim community who also identify as LGBT, including one of the speakers at Sunday’s vigil.
Video footage shows community leader and organizer Sonja Basha addressing the crowd, stating that the Muslim and LGBT communities are not separate:
“I am Muslim, I am queer and I exist,” Basha said.
Khadeer also expressed his support for the LGBT community.
“An attack on the rights of a minority group including the LGBT community is an attack on the rights of other minority groups, like Muslims,” he said. “LGBT groups and Muslims have both faced prejudice and bigotry. This turn of event is very saddening.”