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Inayat Walli: We share the pain, vow to end the hate behind Pulse

June 27, 2016

Inayat Walli

Guest columnist

Like all of us in Orlando and across America, our congregation grieves deeply for those killed June 12 in the Pulse nightclub attack. We pray for those who lost their lives and for the full and speedy recovery of those injured. We also pray for the families of the victims to have the strength and courage to endure this heartbreaking tragedy.

But we recognize that prayers alone simply aren't enough. There is truth to the saying that the hands that serve are holier than the lips that pray.

That's why as Americans, we stand shoulder to shoulder with all people and communities in our society, including the LGBTQ community, to condemn hate and violence that targets anyone. We reject any form of belief, speech or action directed at harming others, as well as those who use their warped religious convictions to justify acts of hatred and violence.

The killing of innocent life is never justified by true religious faith. This attack was the action of a disturbed individual, filled with hatred for all of humanity. As people of faith, we believe that all human beings have the right to safety and security, and that all human life is equal and sacred.

When this horrific tragedy struck in our backyard, it rocked our entire congregation to its core. Our members immediately responded by organizing a concerted effort to donate blood and distribute food and water to those waiting in line at the blood banks. Soon after, the community mobilized by organizing prayer vigils, fundraisers and other programs in support of the affected families and our larger community.

Inayat Walli, president of the Husseini Islamic Center.

As earnest as our efforts to reach out and connect with the community are, we quickly found ourselves mired in controversy, bearing the brunt of much hateful discourse, focused on our faith. This anger was stoked further by widespread misinformation and false allegations that a guest speaker at our center fanned the flames of homophobia and inspired the attack at the Pulse nightclub.

Let me be clear: No preacher has ever advocated for violence or the killing of homosexuals from our pulpit, and the gunman was never a member of, nor ever visited, the Husseini Islamic Center.

Our center appreciates and respects diversity in all forms, including intellectual diversity. A full range of views are discussed and explored among our congregation, and it is in this spirit of learning that we hold our series of lectures.

As earnest as our efforts to reach out and connect with the community are, we quickly found ourselves mired in controversy, bearing the brunt of much hateful discourse, focused on our faith. This anger was stoked further by widespread misinformation and false allegations that a guest speaker at our center fanned the flames of homophobia and inspired the attack at the Pulse nightclub.

Let me be clear: No preacher has ever advocated for violence or the killing of homosexuals from our pulpit, and the gunman was never a member of, nor ever visited, the Husseini Islamic Center.

Our center appreciates and respects diversity in all forms, including intellectual diversity. A full range of views are discussed and explored among our congregation, and it is in this spirit of learning that we hold our series of lectures.

In March, Farrokh Sekaleshfar was invited to the Husseini Islamic Center as part of an academic discourse on religious theory and an open dialogue on religion and sexuality. The session focused on a scientific explanation of sexual orientation in children and promoted open communication in families on topics of sexual identity and gender. Participants were specifically encouraged not to isolate LGBTQ or gender-fluid youth within our community.

This session and others are designed to further Islamic intellectualism and enable our members to feel free to discuss issues in a compassionate, safe and judgment-free environment.

As American Muslims, we understand and feel the pain of the families who have lost their loved ones. Sadly, we are no strangers to bearing such grief. Collectively, we, too, are experiencing the trauma of war, terror and hate. At least 1.3 million Muslims have been killed and nine countries devastated by ongoing wars, creating the largest number of refugees in the world since World War II. Each mosque in America remembers and prays for this human loss and suffering.

We must, however, take it upon ourselves as a community to translate this pain into solidarity and stand united against the politics of division, fear, intolerance and hateful rhetoric. We can only do this by reaching out to build bridges with one another, increasing our civic engagement and constructing stronger coalitions that promote peace, unity and understanding.

The Husseini Islamic Center is embarking upon an expanded outreach effort in the Orlando area. We pledge to strengthen our role as a community partner and undertake a series of collaborative activities and educational programs aimed at fostering a greater understanding of our faith and culture.

Last week when vandals painted #stopthehate on an exterior wall of the Husseini Islamic Center, they intended to incite more misunderstanding, hatred and violence. We reject this notion entirely. Instead, we invite the Orlando community and all of America to stand with us and stop the hate together.

We invite citizens to open their hearts and minds, and visit our mosque to better understand our congregation, our education programs and how we observe our faith. We are open to all people, regardless of race, national origin, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation.

Our strength as a nation will always come from our diversity, never from division. Out of this tragedy must come unity, tolerance, compassion and wisdom.

Inayat Walli is president of the Husseini Islamic Center in Sanford.

Read full article at Orlando Sentinel


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