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Don't Give in to Islamophobia Spreading on Social Media After Shooting

Don't Give in to Islamophobia Spreading on Social Media After Shooting

Don't Give in to Islamaphobia Spreading on Social Media

Speculation fills the internet as officials determine if this is a hate crime, domestic terrorism, or both. 

It's been more than 12 hours since the brutal attack on the LGBT club Pulse in Orlando, Fla., and everyone is trying to figure out what motivated the gunman in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

"What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred," said President Obama in a news conference shortly after 2 p.m. in Washington. The really tough question, though, is where that hate came from.

Obama called it both "an act of terror and an act of hate," a nod to news that the FBI is investigating the shooting as terrorism. Authorities confirmed during a news conference today that a local 911 dispatcher received a call from someone pledging allegiance to the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. And ISIS-affiliated media say it was an Islamic State fighter who carried out the attack, according to NBC News.

Without question, ISIS hates LGBT people. Numerous videos have shown men accused of homosexuality being thrown off roofs or stoned to death. But there's also the idea to deal with that terror and hate are different. Labels matter and in times of confusion, this distinction matters as the story develops. Obama reminds us, "In the coming days we will uncover why and how this happened and we will go wherever the facts lead us."

When incidents like this happen, and they seem to happen frequently these days, people are quick to place blame, sometimes along racial or religious lines -- many times incorrectly.

That might be what the father of the identified gunman was saying when he told NBC News that the crime had "nothing to do with religion." The father said it was actually an incident when the gunman, Omar Mateen, saw two men kissing and being affectionate that brought out anti-LGBT hate.

As many have pointed out across social media today, though, the gunman's anti-LGBT hate might have been ISIS-inspired but it can still develop right here stateside.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations of Florida, a group dedicated to promoting positive perceptions of American Muslims, held a press conference via Facebook Live. Its leaders condemned the attack and showed solidarity with the LGBT community.

"We are utterly horrified and disgusted at the extremely disgusting inhumane terrorist attack against our fellow Floridians, our fellow Americans that happened in the early hours of this morning," says executive director of CAIR-FL, Hassan Shibly, via Facebook Live.

Shibly remarked about Muhammad Ali being the type of Muslim who people ought to associate with Islam, and not someone like Mateen. CAIR -FL and its national organization called on locals to donate blood, as did the mosque where the gunman is said to have prayed, and the group is raising money for the victims.

Solidarity from Muslim groups is very much there, and it's important to know that there are many LGBT Muslim people here and abroad. As Islamophobia swirls online, many LGBT activists are reminding everyone of that, and more.

And the two Muslims in the U.S. Congress, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Andre Carson of Indiana -- both liberal, pro-LGBT Democrats -- expressed sympathy for the victims and stood up against hate. Ellison posted on Facebook:

The horrific shooting in Orlando goes against every sense of humanity. As details continue to be made available, we must keep the victims and their families in our thoughts and prayers.

No religion justifies such a senseless act of terror. All decent people must condemn this hateful act that claimed the lives of 50 people and injured 53 more. Sadly, Orlando has now joined Aurora, Charleston, Newtown, Oak Ridge, and many other communities rocked by gun violence. This is yet another reminder that Congress must pass meaningful, common-sense gun reforms that include a ban on assault weapons, which have no place in civilian hands. Members of Congress must stand up to the NRA.

I am grieving with the LGBT community. The community has been a target for hate for decades, but has seen meaningful advances in the past few years. That progress could not be more evident than seeing millions of Americans, gay and straight alike, celebrate LGBT Pride this weekend. This tragedy will not suppress the love and compassion that the LGBT community is centered on. Going forward, we must continue to stand against all hate crimes. No one deserves to be harmed because of their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.

And Carson tweeted:

Federal and local officials have yet to identify that this was a hate crime by either set of statutes. It is known that the attack was carried out at a gay bar on a popular Latin-themed night, but what makes an act of terrorism?

According to the FBI website terrorism simply must include "acts dangerous to human life that violate state or federal law" that "intend to intimidate or coerce a civilian population" and occur within the U.S. A hate crime identifies an attack that has been motivated by hate or bias toward a given characteristic of the victim, which both federally and in the state of Florida includes sexual orientation; at the federal level, it also includes gender identity.

Because of the location and the night, former Florida congressman Alan Grayson, who is running for U.S. Senate, is combining terrorism and hate as he thinks about the crime. He says it's "no coincidence it took place where it did and when it did," and that "it might be that we've seen the commission of an awful hate crime last night."

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