Mich. Muslim leaders ask Americans to ‘stand united’

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Muslim and state leaders on Sunday strongly denounced the acts of the shooter behind the mass killings in Orlando and called on Americans to stand united.

Authorities say Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida, referred to the Islamic State in a 911 call early Sunday before he opened fire with an assault-type rifle in a gay nightclub, killing at least 50 and injuring 53 others. New York-born Mateen, 29, had been investigated in 2013 and again in 2014 by the FBI after he made inflammatory comments to co-workers and for possible ties to terrorists. The gunman’s motives were unclear Sunday.

“There is no possible explanation or grievance that could ever justify wanton violence against civilians. It’s completely uncalled for and goes against the decency of any society,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Walid of the advocacy and civil liberties group for Muslims in Michigan noted just days ago that the country said goodbye to Muhammad Ali, who was Muslim. Violent extremism, he said, is an anomaly within the American-Muslim community.

“The values which we strive to live up to are values exhibited by Ali, which are courage, justice, charity and empathy,” he said. “That is what American-Muslims strive to live up to and that is what people of all goodwill in America attempt to live up to.”

Also pointing to Ali as an example of “what Islam stands for” was the American Arab Civil Rights League.

“Those who commit these heinous acts are void of any humanity,” said Nasser Beydoun, board chairman of group, in a statement. “The timing one day after the funeral of Mohamed Ali, demonstrates that this person and ISIS wish to only destroy Islam and kill innocent people in clear violation of the basic tenets of the religion and humanity. In such times, we need to stand together and not be divided by the politics of fear.”

Others also called for unity. Imad Hamad, executive director of the American Human Rights Council in Dearborn, echoed Walid’s message, urging solidarity.

“This is a tough reality, that terrorism and extremism are going to live with us for a good time to come and we have to be vigilant in America as well as the free world,” said Hamad, who has visited Orlando Islamic centers and community groups in recent years to take part in engagement forums.

“At this sensitive time, I call upon fellow Americans to stand strong and united. This is a threat against all of us and it’s not limited to any segment of our society. It’s about all of us and all of us are required to face it together.”

On Sunday, state leaders offered support for the community and families touched by the tragedy.

“My wife Cynthia and I, and indeed people across Michigan and America, extend our prayers to families who have lost loved ones in this brutal shooting in Orlando,” Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a released statement. “At this moment, the tragic shootings in Orlando appear to be an act of domestic terrorism. Law enforcement officials are working diligently to obtain evidence of what caused this act of violence.”

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, said she was “shocked and horrified” by the incident.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims as we try to find clarity in the wake of this senseless tragedy,” Miller, who acts as vice chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a Sunday statement.

Gov. Rick Snyder on Twitter added his voice: “Sue and I ask all Michiganders to join us in prayer for Florida today — victims, families and friends.”


The Associated Press contributed