Muslim, Asian American, and Pacific Islander LGBTQ advocates spoke out in favor of solidarity and warned community members to be careful in the wake of the Saturday night shooting in Orlando, Florida. In what is being called the deadliest mass shooting in American history, officials report that at least 50 people were killed and 53 people were injured at the Pulse Nightclub. Authorities have identified the alleged shooter as 29-year-old Omar Mateen.
While preparing for a candlelight vigil for peace, Michigan LGBTQ civil rights activist Jim Toy told NBC News, "The freedom-seeking world will remember the lives of the dead and wounded in Orlando and the lives of their families and friends. The freedom-seeking world will continue to work for an end to violence. The freedom-loving world will continue to create the justice that leads to peace."
Asian-American and Pacific Islander LGBTQ advocates said that those who are both LGBTQ and Muslim are particularly vulnerable, and warned against backlash and narratives that try to pit LGBTQ and Muslim communities against each other.
"As many of us who are Muslim or South Asian — or perceived as such — brace for a backlash that is already underway, we recommit to creating safety," the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) said in a statement for NBC News, "For those of us who are LGBTQ and Muslim, we wait to see which of our identities we will be more fearful of disclosing in a world that questions our existence and intentions daily. We have found no contradiction in being both queer and Muslim, and reject the popular narrative that Islam or the Muslim community as a whole is homophobic and transphobic. We are proud to be both queer and Muslim, and cherish both of our communities."
Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity urged solidarity in a statement. "This tragedy cannot be neatly categorized as a fight between the LGBTQ community and the Muslim community," the group said. "As LGBTQ Muslims, we know that there are many of us who are living at the intersections of LGBTQ identities and Islam. At moments like this, we are doubly affected. We reject attempts to perpetuate hatred against our LGBTQ communities as well as our Muslim communities. We ask all Americans to resist the forces of division and hatred, and to stand against homophobia as well as against Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry."
Sikh, Muslim, and South Asian American advocates pointed to a shared history of advocacy and warned all community members to be careful.
"We stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community, and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families in the wake of this unspeakable act of violence," Sapreet Kaur, executive director of The Sikh Coalition, said in a statement to NBC News. Because Sikhs are often mistaken for terrorists due to the turban and beard that Sikh men wear as articles of their faith, The Sikh Coalition also urged that all Sikhs exercise extra vigilance and caution during this period of heightened anxiety.
"We take this time to honor our partnership with LGBTQIA communities to take on hate violence and domestic terrorism directed at our communities," South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) said in a statement. "We will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder to speak out, demand policy change, expect law enforcement to protect our communities, and lift up each other's humanity. We cannot allow tragedy to divide our communities when solidarity is more important than ever. And, for everyone who stands at the intersection of Muslim and LGBTQIA identities, we offer you extra love and support. We see you and we stand with you."
Other Asian America and Pacific Islander and Muslim advocacy groups used social media to offer condolences and issue statements of solidarity, including Southeast Asian American Resource Center, MPower Change, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Los Angeles. Council of American Islamic Relations held a press conference reiterating that the alleged gunman's actions are not consistent with any teachings of Islam.
AAPI legislators called for action and compassion.
Asian-American and Pacific Islander actors also spoke out in favor of families and love.
Asian-American and Pacific Islander LGBTQ community leaders also spoke out against racial and religious profiling, violence, and surveillance, and urged everyone to act as allies by listening and by voting.
"This is just one in a very long line of tragedies involving gun violence in the U.S. These shootings cannot be the new normal, and we must demand our lawmakers enact commonsense measures to end the bloodshed," NQAPIA said in a statement. "With Islamophobia in our country growing to greater and more dangerous levels, it is ever more important to be intentional about what narratives we choose to lift up. Furthering such rhetoric will only lead to more policies that normalize surveillance of and violence against APIs and other communities of color. NQAPIA advocates firmly against policies that profile and instill fear in our communities, and that tear families apart. Just last month, we held a #RedefineSecurity Week of Action to denounce such policies."
"With what has happened in Orlando, it's important for all to remember that an LGBTQ identity is not mutually exclusive from any kind of cultural or ethnic identity," Rohin Guha, executive editor of The Aerogram, a South Asian American literary arts magazine, told NBC News. "For those looking to step in as reliable allies, the simplest thing you can do is listen to the stories of LGBTQ individuals — and amplify where you can. Check in with friends you think might be affected by this tragedy — but respect any space they may need. And then of course, for those thinking about how to make a change on a larger scale, vote. Vote out ineffective representatives and vote for representatives who are attempting to engineer solutions."