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LA Muslim Leaders Demand Gun Control in Response to Orlando Shooting


People gather at the Islamic Center of Southern California to mourn the Orlando attacks. (E. Lee/VOA)

People gather at the Islamic Center of Southern California to mourn the Orlando attacks. (E. Lee/VOA)

At a multi-faith vigil at the front steps of the Islamic Center of Southern California, Muslim leaders said it is time to do something after the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States.

“It is time to be the change we want to have. Change starts with us. Enough with words. [It’s] time for action. [It’s] time for a national campaign to demand for gun controls and for the protection of the sanctity of life,” said Hedab Tarifi, Chair of the Islamic Center of Southern California.

Police said Omar Saddiqui Mateen, opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Forty-nine people died at the scene. Authorities said Mateen sprayed round after round at club goers with a semi-automatic rifle.

Twenty-nine-year-old Mateen was an American Muslim born to Afghan parents.

“We express our unequivocal and total condemnation of this act,” said Tarifi.

“There’s no room for LGBTQ violence in any of our faiths,” said Salam Al-Marayati, President of Muslim Public Affairs Council who called what happened in Orlando “the most vicious of hate crimes.”

U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday that Mateen represented a "kind of homegrown extremism that we've been concerned about for a long time."

President Obama said the internet played a role in how Mateen received extremist information.

Suspected Orlando shooter Omar Mateen. (Orlando Police Department)

Suspected Orlando shooter Omar Mateen. (Orlando Police Department)

A young Muslim man who will only identify himself as Waqas attended the interfaith vigil and said the internet itself is not to blame.

“It’s not about what’s on the internet. It’s about how you use what’s on the internet. The children need more guidance as to how to proceed with what they’re learning and how they’re doing,” said Waqas.

The mass shooting hits home for Gustavo Reyes Ramirez. He is gay and a resident of San Bernardino County. It has been more than six months since the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, where a husband and wife killed 14 people.

“This is a consequence of what we teach and every person of faith and every cleric of every religion must look at ourselves and see what do you teach? What does your religion teach? Are you teaching peace and if not we have to change things right now,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said he attended the vigil at the Islamic Center of Southern California because he wanted to spread the message of peace and love.

“That’s the message that we’re spreading today to Muslims, to gay, LGBT, to whether it’s Republicans or Democrats or Green or Socialists and everyone else. We’re saying we have to come together. There is no other option, to come together in peace and love.”

Politics became a focus at the vigil when Stephen Rohde of Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace spoke about Republican Candidate, Donald Trump’s response to the Orlando shooting.

"We cannot continue to allow thousands upon thousands of people to pour into our country, many of whom have the same thought process as this savage killer," said Trump to supporters in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Trump’s speech angered Rohde.

“When I saw the inflammatory words this morning, of Donald Trump feeding on this tragedy, extending and widening the hatred and the bigotry and the stereotyping of the entire Muslim community blurring lines between people who commit criminal acts and those devout Muslims who pray everyday for peace and justice, I was appalled,” said Rohde.

Muslim community leaders said unity among all faiths is important. They pledged to counter violent extremism and do their part in healing the nation from the tragedy in Orlando.

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