Condemning Terrorism, Questioning Gun Laws

Condemning Terrorism, Questioning Gun Laws

Michael Jacobs

Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.

Jewish organizations were quick to issue statements expressing shock and anger after 29-year-old Omar Mateen slaughtered at least 49 people at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., during a Latino-themed celebration early Sunday, June 12.

The attack occurred during LGBT Pride Month and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and Mateen, an American-born Muslim, called 911 during the attack and pledged allegiance to Islamic State, thus connecting the worst mass shooting in American history to Islamist terrorism. Mateen was killed in a shootout with police.

“Georgia Muslims join their fellow Americans in denouncing Sunday’s mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando,” Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the executive director of the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement endorsed by more than a dozen Georgia Muslim organizations. “Heroes like Muhammad Ali embody the world’s Muslim community, not this mass murderer.”

Imam Nadim Ali said on behalf of the Council of Masajid (Mosques) of Metropolitan Atlanta: “Islam does not condone wanton murder or individual vendettas. We ask the Muslim community to pray for the families of those who have lost ones in this senseless act, and we ask the general community to exercise patience and tolerance as the proper officials sort out the details of this senseless act.”

The following are among the official Jewish responses issued within hours of the killings:

  • SOJOURN: Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity — “It is highly unusual that we would send an electronic message on this festival day of Shavuot, but we all know that today is not usual. With the tragedy in Orlando and the potential horror in L.A. [a man from Indiana was arrested with several rifles on the way to a Pride Month event in Los Angeles], we felt compelled to connect with you. Our prayers are with all that are directly touched by this atrocity. Our hope is to reach out to the rest of us who know it could have just as easily have been us or those we love. We know the need to unify at this time.”
  • Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt — “This heinous attack on a nightclub serving the LGBTQ community is yet another reminder of the serious threat posed by the Islamic State terrorist group, which has inspired attacks against Jews in Belgium, journalists in France, civilians in San Bernardino, and now LGBTQ men and women in America. It also is yet another barbaric act of terrorism in a week that has seen brutal bombings across Iraq, an attack on a cafe in Tel Aviv and now this tragedy. It reminds us that terrorism is a danger to all. We must continue to fight this threat against democracy and pluralism with all of the tools available and by exposing those who perpetrate hateful ideologies of violence and extremism. We must remember that Americans should not blame all Muslims for the actions of one individual. … We urge all Americans to not fight hatred with hatred, but rather to come together around our common values of decency and respect.”
  • American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris — “We are simply speechless in the face of such an act of pure evil and hatred. We mourn the loss of innocent lives, who appear to have been targeted by the killer solely because of their sexual preference. We pray for the full recovery of those rushed to area hospitals and in need of urgent medical attention. And we know the authorities will leave no stone unturned in investigating the motives of the gunman and whether he acted alone, as initial reports suggest he may have been influenced by homophobia and perhaps radical religious teachings. … We again ask how can weapons be so easily found and used to such tragic ends in our beloved country.”
  • Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism Director Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner — “Despite the strides made toward equality, there is much to be done to address ongoing homophobia that was for too long acceptable in this nation. The attack is also further proof, as if any were needed, of the imperative to end the culture of gun violence that grips the nation. On this holiday of Shavuot, we engage in all-night study and reflection of the words and lessons of Torah. No lesson is more fundamental than that which teaches that the spark of the divine is present in every individual — gay and straight, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. In the face of tragedy, let us come together in a spirit of love and compassion for all and work together to create a nation that rejects violence and instead celebrates the holiness of every human being.”
  • World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder — “On behalf of world Jewry, I condemn this horrific act of terror and wish to express the Jewish people’s solidarity with the victims and with the LGBT community. No minority should live under a state of fear simply because of who they are, and we must work together to root out hate in all its forms. My prayers are with the families and friends of those who were lost. May their memories be a blessing.”
  • B’nai B’rith International — “The sheer number of dead (at least 50) and wounded (at least 53) defies comprehension. … B’nai B’rith stands in solidarity with the LGBT community, which patronized the popular club. With deepest sympathy, we mourn the lives lost to this act of depravity and offer our most sincere condolences to their families.”
  • Israeli President Reuven Rivlin — “This attack against the LGBT community in Orlando is as cowardly as it is abhorrent. The Israeli people stand shoulder to shoulder with our American brothers and sisters in the moral and just fight against all forms of violence and hatred. On behalf of all of Israel, I send my condolences to the families of the victims and prayers for a speedy recovery of the injured.”
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — “On behalf of the people and government of Israel, I extend our deepest condolences to the American people following last night’s horrific attack on the LGBT community in Orlando. Israel stands shoulder to shoulder with the United States at this moment of tragic loss. We send our heartfelt sympathies to the families of the victims and wish a full and speedy recovery to the wounded.”
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