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Chicago Muslim and LGBTQ leaders unite against efforts to divide
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond
2016-06-21

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In a defiant statement of unity following the June 12 attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., staff members of leading Muslim and LGBTQ advocacy organizations expressed "solidarity against hate" during a joint press conference on June 20 at the offices of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago).

"We are here to join together to reaffirm a single set of civil and human rights for all with no exception," CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab said. "We stand against discrimination against any in our community. If one is targeted, we are all targeted."

The press conference was, in part, the result of a series of "open and honest dialogues" between CAIR -Chicago and the Muslim community along with representatives from leading LGBTQ civil rights groups such as Lambda Legal and Equality Illinois.

"In our many conversations over this past week, Ahmed and CAIR-Chicago have called out the shooting at Pulse nightclub for what it was—a targeted attack on the LGBTQ community," Equality Illinois CEO Brian C. Johnson noted. "We call on all Americans to reject efforts to divide Americans and, instead, join us in support of the Muslim-American community in Chicago, Illinois and across the country."

"We have been moved by the support from many Muslim leaders in the Chicago area," Lambda Legal Midwest Legal Director Jim Bennett added while affirming his gratitude to CAIR-Chicago for "reaching out to us so early in this tragedy."

Bennett also singled out actor, writer and producer Fawzia Mirza who was in attendance.

"I consider [her] a member of my chosen family," Bennett said. "In Monday's [Center on Halsted] vigil, she came out as a queer Muslim to all those assembled. Fawzia knows, all of us know, that by being visible and telling our stories our families and our communities can find our common ground and our common humanity. We will not be divided."

In the past week, there have been attempts by Conservative politicians and commentators to do precisely that.

While vilifying Muslims, calling for a ban on Muslim immigrants to the United States and increased profiling of Muslims already living in the country, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump made overtures towards the LGBTQ community asserting that he could protect them from further attacks.

"We reject the bigotry of those who try to take advantage of this tragic situation that has befallen the LGBTQ community to try and drive a wedge between us as we have seen with Donald Trump and others," Rehab said. "We will not take the bait. We stand together against all hatred and all bigotry."

Rehab thanked leaders and spokespeople from among the LGBTQ community "who have rejected the wave of Islamophobia in their names."

"Hate and discrimination impacts all of us," Bennett said. "The LGBTQ movement is founded on love and we will all stand together and continue these dialogues."

"We have seen many leaders in politics and the media attempt to link the tragedy to the Muslim community," Johnson asserted. "We know that the shooter was a delusional madman. He does not represent Islamic-American values."

For more information of Lambda Legal, visit www.lambdalegal.org .

For more information on CAIR-Chicago, visit www.cairchicago.org .

For more information on Equality Illinois, visit: www.equalityillinois.us .


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