CAIR on Orlando Attack: Homophobia, Islamophobia are 'Interconnected Systems of Oppression'

WASHINGTON -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations pulled together leaders of Muslim groups to condemn the Orlando terrorist and tie their sympathies to the LGBT community.

Nihad Awad, national executive director of CAIR, told reporters he "could not believe" the news when he woke up today and began to "worry about what kind of crime" it was.

"Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," Awad said, calling Omar Mateen's massacre at the gay nightclub Pulse "a hate crime, plain and simple."

"We condemn it in the strongest possible terms -- it violates our principles as Americans and Muslims. Let me be clear -- we have no tolerance for extremism of any kind. We must not tolerate hateful rhetoric that incites violence against minorities. Religious freedom is the cornerstone of our beliefs as Muslims and as Americans," he said.

Awad noted that "for many years" member of the LGBT community "have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Muslim community against any acts of hate crimes, Islamophobia, marginalization, and discrimination -- today we stand with them, shoulder to shoulder... we cannot fight injustice against some groups and not against others."

"Homophobia, transphobia, and Islamophobia are interconnected systems of oppression and we cannot dismantle one without dismantling the others," he continued. "Homophobia and other forms of phobias take lives in this country every day and we must stand up for the victims and for their families. The criminals, the terrorists, and extremists behind these kinds of attacks mean only to divide us and turn us against one another. We cannot afford to let them succeed."

Awad acknowledged that Mateen called 911 and pledged his allegiance to ISIS. He then directed comments at the Islamic State: "How would you stand before God and answer to your crimes against innocent people, thousands of innocent people, Muslims, Christians and other minorities? You do not speak for us. You do not represent us. You are an aberration. You are an outlaw... they never belonged to this beautiful faith."

The CAIR leader asked "politicians who may try to exploit this tragedy ... to respect the victims and their families."

"This is not the time to score points. This is not the time to exploit fear. This is the time for unity and faith," Awad said.