Not long after the news broke that 49 people had died in a mass shooting at an Orlando gay club, Ghazal Tajalli began seeing the posts in her Facebook feed again. Just as had happened after the San Bernardino shootings, people were blaming Islam and suggesting that Muslims be banned from the country.
Tajalli, who moved to the United States from Iran at the age of 6, does not identify with any one religion, but her family back in Iran is Muslim, and she has faced prejudice as a Middle Eastern woman living in the United States. “I can relate to the feeling of being a target,” she says. “While I think it’s very important we condemn the acts of this shooter, we should never use this as an excuse for Islamophobia."
Tonight, she plans to take part in a rally and vigil in solidarity with the LGBT and Muslim communities in Wilton Manors.
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Sylvie Suri-Perez, who led the effort to plan the event, says Muslims have been unfairly categorized as terrorists in media accounts of the shooting, which have focused on the shooter’s potential ISIS ties, rather than on the people who lost their lives or his abusive behavior toward his family and others.
“Right off the bat, before we even knew who this person was, there was a knee-jerk reaction,” she says. “CNN in particular, they pointed out that he was Afghani right away. The headlines were saying that it was terrorism — rather than that it was a hate crime against the LGBT community.”
The organizers are asking anyone who wants to join the rally to meet at 6:30 p.m. at Hagen Park in Wilton Manors. At 7, the group will walk together to Java Boys, where participants will read the names of the victims and then give individuals a chance to speak. They plan to wrap up by 8:30. So far, almost 100 people have responded to the Facebook page for the event and said they plan to attend.
Suri-Perez added that while people are free to speak about whatever they want at the rally, the organizers want to keep the discussion of gun control to a minimum so the focus stays on honoring the people who lost their lives. “It’s a very divisive subject, and we want to make sure that solidarity is everything,” she said.