HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Members of South Florida’s Muslim community came together Sunday night in a show of solidarity for the victims of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Dozens of worshippers observing the holy month of Ramadan gathered at the Baitul Naseer Mosque, located at 208 N.W. 7th Court in Hallandale Beach. What was originally planned as an annual interfaith service and dinner was transformed into a prayer vigil after an LGBT nightclub in Orlando came under attack.
Police said at least 50 people were killed and 53 were hospitalized after a gunman stormed into Pulse nightclub and opened fire with an AR-15 rifle, Sunday, at around 2 a.m. He was later shot and killed during a shootout with police officers.
Authorities said the gunman, identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, called 911 during the massacre and pledged his allegiance to ISIS.
The Miami chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community condemned the attack and is standing in solidarity with those who lost their lives, as well as their families and the injured. “I was praying that, ‘Oh, God, not again,” said Dr. Khalid Minhas. “It hurts us as Muslims, because our faith is being hijacked.”
Before Sunday’s prayer vigil, small U.S. flags lined the seats in the house of worship. Organizers were joined by more than a dozen political and religious leaders, and all of them focused on the similarities between their faiths.
“Religion is not violent. People are violent,” said the Rev. James Quinn as he addressed worshipers.
In the spirit of unity, Rabbi Barry Silver of L’Dor Va-Dor in Lake Worth showed off his T-shirt, which had one word printed on it. “Salaam, shalom, peace,” he said.
Minhas said he is especially heartbroken that the shooting happened during the holy month of Ramadan, a time in Islam meant for the faithful to strengthen their relationship with God and one another. “This month is to enhance your spirituality, as well as your relationship with your fellow mankind,” he said, “and this is contrary to the teachings of Islam, that somebody goes out and hurts innocent people.”
Word of the attack sent shock waves across the country and through the local Muslim community. “This kind of act of terror has no room or role in the teachings of Islam,” said Minhas.
While the FBI continues its investigation into what inspired Mateen to open fire, local religious leaders are holding on to hope. “So we pray today together for healing and for peace,” said Rabbi Tomas Heyn of Temple Israel of Greater Miami.
Local Muslims told 7News that discussing the shooting also gives them an opportunity to educate people of other faiths about the true pillars of Islam.
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