East Lansing's Islamic Center reacts to Orlando massacre

Posted at 8:47 PM, Jun 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-14 09:31:15-04

The Islamic community has heard too many hateful comments about Islam over the years, and they know more will be coming following the terrorist attack in Orlando.

While the attacker in Orlando identified as Muslim, his actions were not.

"If you take even one innocent life, in the eyes of God it's as if you've killed the entire humanity," says Farhan Bhatti, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of East Lansing.

Yet, to many Americans, the shooter is seen as representative of Islam.

"We do not think that this person represents Islam or represents the Muslim perspective," says Imam Sohail Chaudhry. "We think that this person is a criminal and should be dealt with as a criminal and should not be labelled as a 'Muslim criminal.'"

His argument is that if a Christian attacked this club, it wouldn't be "Christian terrorism," while this attack is labelled as "Islamic terrorism." The tendency is to tag "Islam" onto acts of terrorism when there's an attack by an Islamic man or woman, but the attackers actions actually have no basis in the religion.

"Unfortunately, he identified as a Muslim," says Bhatti. "That does not mean that his actions are in any way indicative of our faith or who we are as a people."

To Bhatti, Muslims receive the same discrimination as the LGBTQ community. He says:

"The LGBT community is often a community that is singled out for hatred and bigotry and discrimination, as is the Muslim community. So we can very much empathize with the discrimination and the hurt that people in the LGBT community feel."

Imam Chaudhry thinks the key for Muslims is to show what Islam is about by interacting with others.

"If we get to know each other better, I think more and more people would be convinced of the reality that Islam is a religion of peace, Islam is a religion of tolerance, Islam is a religion of love."