Today is the 16th day of Ramadan.
On June 12 of last year we were still in the first 10 days of Ramadan.
On this day last year we woke up to the tragic news of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
A 29-year-old man named Omar Mateen killed 49 people, wounded another 58, in a hate crime against the LGBTQA community. After a three-hour standoff, Mateen was shot and killed by the Orlando Police Department.
It was all devastating.
I remember waking up and hearing the news. At the time the death count was not final. I shared the news wherever I could and then I called a dear friend of mine in Austin who was a civil rights worker for the LGBTQA community. Our conversation did not last long because we were able to communicate all of our thoughts and concerns with our ‘hello’s.
We were concerned for each other’s communities – their security, mental state, and overall well-being. At the time, we didn’t have a clue as to how the masses would react. All we knew was that we had to be there for one other, in solidarity and with unity against the odds. This tragedy put a mark on both of our respective communities. This hateful act was carried out in the midst of Ramadan and Pride month. We felt as if we were completely lost in the same dark ocean. Internally we were preparing for the worst.
Both of us coming from persecuted communities, we knew our history. We knew that when a crime was committed by a Muslim, the entire Muslim community was labeled by their actions. Similarly, when one aspect of the LGBTQA community was spotlighted, the whole of the community was labeled by said spotlight.
So we lent our support to one another, asked one another to stay safe and call if there’s anything that can be done, and then we mentally prepared ourselves for the labels to fly out calling all Muslims terrorists and the LGBTQA community overly promiscuous.
Yet that didn’t happen.
Mateen’s ex-wife was immediately interviewed and stated outright that Mateen was not a practicing Muslim by any means.
Greater than that, victims and families of the victims of the shooting immediately called for love and unity. They did not want to propagate hate, especially after the terrible ordeal that they would carry with them for the rest of their lives.
Muslims came together with the LGBTQA community to raise funds for the victims and their families, mourn the lives that were lost, pay their respects, and together they refused to allow history to repeat itself here.
They refused the labels.
CAIR-Houston was among the groups locally that came together for an interfaith press conference denouncing the killings and promoting solidarity.
Now a year later, that unity has held strong. That love is what we have seen time and time again as both groups have continued to fight persecution alongside other minority groups as well.
Slowly but surely, the rhetoric is changing.
Yet even with the progress that we were able to drudge up after the shooting last year, the pain of it all is still there. The lives lost will always be missed, will always be irreplaceable.
Today we remember the victims of the Pulse Night club shooting that occurred one year ago. We remember that hate is hate, and it has no place in any community. And we remember that love is stronger than hate, and that love always wins.
The 30 Days of Ramadan blog is written by Sobia Siddiqui, CAIR-Houston’s Operations Coordinator.