Many of us have been reeling since learning about the premeditated massacre of LGBT night club goers in Orlando early Sunday, leaving 49 dead and 53 wounded, at the hands of an individual who appears to have been a deranged homophobic, racist, self-declared terrorist. The news media repeatedly reminds us that the massacre resulted in more lives lost and more people injured than through any other mass shooting in the United States.

Whether one life was lost or nearly 50 lives, the twisted hate that drove the gunman to plan and execute the slaughter specifically of persons who are LGBT has hurt all of us profoundly. The families and friends of all of those who died, overwhelmingly Latino Floridians, are suffering deep losses.

The LGBT community is reminded painfully that human rights and social justice still cannot be taken for granted by its members.

The Muslim community is once again placed in a horrible, precarious position as a result of their faith being blindly generalized and demonized by those who do not understand the actual tenets of the religion versus the radical interpretations and use of distorted teachings by ISIL and others. For anyone in America who appears to be or is from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries where Islam is dominant, these are fearful times, made more fearful by the insinuation that you are less American and more likely to be disloyal or even traitorous.

The suggestion that Muslims and others actively call out other Muslims whose behaviors they think may be suspicious raises the specter of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy-attorney Roy Cohn era as well as the period when FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover ignored the civil rights of and intimidated thousands, investigating persons presumed to be radical, subversive, or sexually deviant. The list of those Hoover had under surveillance is like a Who’s Who of post-WWII American history. It included Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Felix Frankfurter—who became a U.S. Supreme Court Justice—and many others. We cannot afford to create a society wrought with unfounded suspicions and assertions about others.

Sexual orientation. Race. Religion. Each of these has been overlaid with intolerant moral meanings that make anyone who is different from the dominant “norm,” “bad”—a person who is less than, not okay—and should be rejected, hated, feared, eliminated. This discrimination against those who are different is what strikes terror on every level.

We cannot have heightened hate and fear reign supreme. If ever there were a time to stand up against hate and fear and stand with the LGBT community, persons of color, Muslims who want a world in which they can practice their faith without intimidation, and communities like Orlando, it is now. The alternative is too horrific to imagine.

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For Columbia students seeking mental health support, professional counselors are available on the Morningside and CUMC  campuses (follow telephone prompts to reach practitioners after business hours). In addition, pastoral counseling and faith-based support are offered by the Office of the University Chaplain, with on-call chaplains available. We will provide referrals and meeting times for Columbia-based LGBTQ and other groups as they become available; please email if you would like to share a vigil or meeting.

A silent memorial service for Orlando is ongoing from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. in St. Paul’s Chapel through Friday, June 17.  

Columbia University’s Department of Public Safety offers important safety information for the University community, which you can find here. As a reminder, if you are ever uncertain of your wellbeing or a condition on campus, contact Public Safety 24/7/365 at (212) 854-5555.

Photo credit: Vigil to unite in the wake of the Orlando Pulse shooting, by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

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