Asian Leaders Condemn Orlando Massacre

BenarNews Staff
160613-orlando-reax-620.jpg Members of the LGBT community in Thailand place candles near the U.S. embassy in Bangkok during a vigil for victims of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., June 13, 2016.

Leaders from across South and Southeast Asia on Monday joined an international outcry against the weekend shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida that killed 50 people and was carried out by a gunman allegedly inspired by radical Islamic ideology.

Officials and leaders from Asian countries that represent the top four nations with the largest Muslim populations – Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – as well as Malaysia and Thailand, sent condolences to the American people over the killings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

“I condemn this dastardly act of terror in the strongest possible term and reiterate my government’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy against any form of terrorism and violent extremism,” Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Monday through her press secretary, Ihsanul Karim.

“Let’s redouble our collective efforts to eradicate these hateful menaces from our peace-loving societies,” added Hasina, whose government Friday launched a nationwide crackdown against suspected Islamic militant groups, in the aftermath of a spate of killings that have targeted secular writers, members of religious minorities and others.

The victims of those attacks included a gay-rights activist, Xulhaz Mannan, the editor of Bangladesh’s first magazine devoted to the coverage of LGBT issue in the country, who was hacked to death with another man by suspected Islamic extremists in Dhaka on April 25. Since the double-killing, the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has reportedly gone underground out of fear that its members could be targeted in more homophobic attacks.

“My government and people stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your government and the friendly people of the United States of America at this difficult hour, and renew our commitment to work together with you as partners to counter terrorism and violent extremism that have emerged as threats to human civilization,” said Hasina, who has not officially condemned the killing of Xulhaz Mannan.

The lone gunman in the Orlando shooting, who was killed in the incident, was identified by U.S. officials as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, an American citizen of Afghan heritage. He pledged allegiance to the extremist group Islamic State (IS) in a 911 phone call moments before carrying out the attack that also injured 53 others at the nightclub in the early morning hours of Sunday morning (local time), reports said.

IS, through its media arm Amaq, has since claimed responsibility for the attack in Orlando – the deadliest shooting in U.S. history – CBS News reported, but it remained unclear whether Mateen was directly linked to the Middle Eastern-based extremist group.

“I feel very sad, angry and shocked by the shooting in Orlando. I feel, that as a gay person from Indonesia – the country with the largest Muslim population – a place like a gay club is a safe place for our fellow gays to get together and socialize, but with this incident, we as LGBT people do not feel safe anymore,” Adamo Conners, a 32-year-old Indonesian who works as a nurse in Washington, D.C., told BenarNews.

“The incident reminds me that our struggle as an LGBT group is still long,” he added. “I am really angry with the perpetrator of this incident, regardless of the ethnicity, religion or race of whoever was behind this tragic event.”

‘Perversions of Islam’

American officials have declared the attack a terrorist act and a hate crime that targeted a group of people because of their sexual orientation, saying the gunman appeared to have been influenced by radical Islamic ideology disseminated online.

“[A]t this stage we see no clear evidence that he was directed externally. It does appear that, at the last minute, he announced allegiance to ISIL, but there is no evidence so far that he was in fact directed by ISIL. And there also at this stage is no direct evidence that he was part of a larger plot," U.S. President Barack Obama told reporters at the Oval Office on Monday, using another acronym for IS.

“At the end of the day, this is something that we are going to have to grapple with – making sure that even as we go after ISIL and other extremist organizations overseas ... that one of the biggest challenges we are going to have is this kind of propaganda and perversions of Islam that you see generated on the Internet, and the capacity for that to seep into the minds of troubled individuals or weak individuals, and seeing them motivated then to take actions against people here in the United States and elsewhere in the world that are tragic,” the president added, according to a transcript released by the White House.

‘Cancer of radicalization’

In India and Pakistan, both countries that outlaw gay sex, the prime ministers voiced shock over the killings in Florida.

“Shocked at the shootout in Orlando, USA. My thoughts & prayers are with the bereaved families and the injured,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said via Twitter.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the act as “just another representation of a cancer of radicalization – one that we promise to fight every day of our lives.”

The shootings In Florida went “against every principle of pluralism, tolerance and humanity. This does not represent the will of a vast majority of Muslims,” state-run Radio Pakistan quoted Sharif as saying on Monday.

‘Senseless deaths’

Elsewhere, officials and leaders from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand issued similar statements.

“Horrified by Orlando shootings. Our prayers are with families & friends of the victims. Islam abhors killing of innocent people,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak tweeted.

However, according to the Associated Press, a few Malaysians posted messages on social media that voiced approval for the attack because the victims were “sinners,” but many of their countrymen quickly condemned those messages.

In Jakarta, the foreign ministry issued a statement saying “Indonesia has condemned the Orlando shooting incident. We expressed our deep sympathy to the families of the victims, the government, and the people of the United States,” according to the state-run Antara news agency.

But Fahri Hamzah, the deputy speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) tweeted that “the mass killing happened because LGBT people are too visible,” AP reported.

Meanwhile in Bangkok on Monday night, members of Thailand’s LGBT community joined American Ambassador Glyn T. Davies at a candlelight vigil outside the U.S. embassy to remember victims of the Florida massacre. Other vigils were held in other major cities across the globe – from San Francisco to Berlin to Sydney and Wellington, New Zealand.

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) sent his condolences to President Obama and the American people via a statement issued by the royal palace.

“The Queen and I are deeply distressed by reports of the brutal shooting at the nightclub in Orlando, resulting in senseless deaths and injuries of so many innocent people,” the king said in conveying “our deep sympathy” for “their irreparable loss.”

Ika Inggas in Washington, Kamran Reza Chowdhury in Dhaka, Rohit Wadhwaney in Pondicherry, India, Razlan Rashid in Kuala Lumpur, Pimuk Rakkanam in Bangkok and Nurdin Hasan in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, contributed to this report.


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