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Despite Threats After Mass Shooting, Fla. Muslims Hope To Spread Message Of Unity

MGN Online

Since the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub, a number of Muslims and mosques in Florida have been receiving death threats. But, Florida Muslims want the public to know that they condemn these attacks and stand in solidarity with their fellow Americans.

Middle District of Florida, U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley spoke to reporters just days after the tragedy, saying he wants the death threats to Muslims and mosques to stop.

“Assistant Special Agent In Charge Ron Harper commented about the threats that had been made to members of Muslim of the community,” said Bentley, Wednesday. “Making these threats is not only wrong. In most cases, making these threats is illegal. Stop it! Any threats like this detract from what we’re doing in law enforcement.”

Echoing those sentiments is Rasha Mubarak, who says this is a time for everyone to be united, not separated. She’s with Florida’s Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR in Orlando, who spoke to a crowd during a recent vigil.

“This right here is a unity message, it’s a powerful message, that we won’t allow fear and hate to divide us,” she said to cheers and applause.

That message is something Florida’s Muslim community is hoping will reach their fellow Americans. But, some say comments from Donald Trump haven’t helped. Lately, the Republican presumptive presidential nominee has accused American Muslims of not reporting extremist threats—which federal officials say is not true. And, he’s also renewed his call for what he says is a temporary ban of Muslims from entering the U.S.—though the Orlando Shooter Omar Mateen was born in America.

“I called for a temporary ban in San Bernandino and was met with scorn and anger, but now…many are saying, I was right to do so,” he said, on Monday.

"When we look at Donald Trump, we see him as extreme as ISIS." -Ahmed Rashidi with the Islamic Center of Tallahassee

“When we look at Donald Trump, we see him as extreme as ISIS,” said Ahmed Rashidi, back in mid-December.

Rashidi, the Vice President of the Islamic Center of Tallahassee, spoke at a peace rally he helped organize with other faiths after the San Bernandino attacks.

“What ISIS was trying to do is trying to divide us from within, divide the country, divide our unity, make us suspicious of each other…if you look at what Trump is doing, it’s not that much different,” he added.

But, Tallahassee Imam Amro Abdalla says he believes there are many people who are well-educated on Islam and don’t share Trump’s sentiments. He adds when he first heard of Orlando’s mass shooting, he was heartbroken. And, Abdalla says there’s one thing that unites everyone about the tragedy.

“My first thought about what happened in Orlando before knowing who did it is this is a crime,” said Abdalla. “A criminal committed a crime against innocent people who did nothing. After I have discovered that the one who did so is a Muslim, still it is the same. A criminal committed a crime.”

And, Orlando Imam Muhammed Musri echoed those sentiments on WMFE’s Friends Talking Faith program.

“I was in tears because the worst nightmare has happened, and I couldn’t wrap my head around that right here in my city in Orlando that this many people lost their lives,” he said.

Musri says it’s also important those who seek to condemn all Muslims should look at the facts. He adds of the thousands of mass shootings that have occurred since the September 11th attacks, less than one percent of the attackers were Muslim.

“The majority were done by people who were mainstream, white, Christian, and the religion is not dragged in the mud because people understand that Christianity is not responsible for a person who lost their mind,” he added. “But, when it comes to Islam, no one wants to blame the killer, they want to blame the religion and blame all its inherrents. And, when they do that, they are perpetrating this myth that Islam alone has this evil gene, and we need to correct that.”

In addition to being skeptical at Mateen’s possible terrorist group connections, Musri also says he’s not sure the Orlando shooter was even a practicing Muslim.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.