Islamic council offers condolences, reports threats to 2 mosques

SHARE Islamic council offers condolences, reports threats to 2 mosques

Members of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, including Director Syed Khan (from left), Executive Director Tabassum Haleem, board member Hani Atassi, and Chairman Mohammed Kaiseruddin, spoke at a press conference Monday. | Jacob Wittich/For the Sun-Times

Several Chicago-area mosques have received hate messages or threats in the wake of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

The shooter, Omar Mateen, 29, a U.S. citizen, professed his allegiance to the Islamic State group in three calls to 911 during the attack at Pulse nightclub, where he killed 49 people before being killed by police.

Mohammed Kaiseruddin, chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said the mosques receiving the threats are in Naperville and Wheaton.

At a news conference Monday, Kaiseruddin and other local Islamic leaders offered condolences to those affected by the tragedy and also asked that neither the LGBT or Muslim communities be targeted in the shooting’s aftermath.

“It’s unfortunate that the person that carried out this massacre was a member of the Muslim community, and that’s why we were very much concerned,” he said. “So we reached out to the LGBT community leaders here in the Chicago area . . . and sent our messages of condolences.”

Kaiseruddin said the emailed threats were forwarded to the local FBI, which said it would follow up on the issue. Security at area mosques has been increased since the shooting by one additional off-duty police, according to Tabassum Haleem, executive director of the council.

Kaiseruddin said whether or not Mateen actually was affiliated with ISIS is up to the FBI to determine and not of concern to the council. He emphasized that the Muslim community does not subscribe to the ideology of ISIS and that the Muslim community supports LGBT people.

“Muslims are not hateful of any community for that matter, and this was an act of an individual who unfortunately has tarnished the name of the Muslim community in general,” Kaiseruddin said.

Haleem thanked LGBT community members who have accepted their condolences and reciprocated support for the Muslim community. In a June 12 statement from the Gay Liberation Network, the LGBT organization condemned anti-Muslim behavior in the wake of the shooting. The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago has also organized blood drives at their mosques so Muslims can donate blood to the shooting’s victims.

“If there is any silver lining to this very heavy cloud, it’s that as people we are all trying our best to understand and get to know each other,” she said.

Hani Atassi, a board member of the council, said stricter gun laws are needed to prevent shootings like Sunday’s in the future.

Mateen also was interviewed twice by the FBI after making inflammatory remarks to a colleague in 2013–2014.

“It’s clear that this person was mentally ill and he needed some help, so it’s really shocking to see that he was able to get get a gun,” Atassi said. “We need a stricter gun policy in this country so people like Mateen would not be able to get a hold of a gun just because he was angry or mentally disturbed.”

Contributing: AP

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