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The vigil held in Honolulu, Hawaii. (photo provided)

As founder and president of the Gandhi International Institute for Peace in Hawaii, we have condemned the tragic shooting incident which took place in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016. This was an act of terrorism and a hate crime committed by a self-radicalized jihadist, not only against innocent gay people but it was a barbaric act against humanity. This was the worst mass shooting in American history. Every life on earth is precious. Killing innocent unarmed civilians is not an act of bravery but one of cowardice. It is due to a false belief system taken to its extreme, resulting in insanity. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Nonviolence is the ornament of a brave person.”

It is time to raise awareness about nonviolence, and the fight against terrorism, which is spreading like cancer across the globe. The radical extremists are using the internet to recruit young, unstable individuals prone to violence, and brainwashing them to become jihadists to carry out attacks/suicide missions in crowded areas in their local communities. These fanatic extremists have twisted certain passages of the Quran for their own selfish purposes to stay in power, create fear, and impose sharia law on the entire world.

Islam is a religion of peace. According to the Quran, "Jihad means a holy war against injustice in a peaceful manner against the oppressor or enemy but not taking the lives of those who are non- believers, or who belong to the LGBT community. The weapons are used only as a last resort when the lives of children, women and elders are in danger. The creator, whom we know and revere with different names, creates all human beings equal. No religion is superior to another religion. No religion teaches or encourages its followers to kill others. All religions teach love, kindness, truth, humility, hope, forgiveness, nonviolence, and peace. We must respect those who practice a different faith and teach our children to respect all religions, their spiritual leaders and integrate good teachings of other religions in their lives. Spirituality is beyond religion.

The real jihad was practiced by Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and several other world leaders who succeeded in removing oppressors from power, created equality, social justice, and achieved liberty and freedom without using violence. We have gone to the moon but have not learned to live in peace with one another on Earth.

It is also time to close loopholes, and make stricter gun laws to prevent more violence. New gun laws should focus on ending the purchase of a military style assault rifles. Since 2009, their use has led to yearly mass shootings and thousands of people including children have died in our communities across the USA.

After the mass shooting in Florida, a vigil was held near the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Waikiki, Honolulu. The LGBT community and people from all walks of life gathered to express their grief and sent their condolences to the victims and their families in Florida. Everything can be replaced but the loss of a loved one can’t be replaced with any material object in this world and it take years to overcome the grief.

The foundation of the Gandhi International Institute for Peace was laid on Sept. 11, 2001. Since then, GIIP has raised awareness about nonviolence, and promoting world peace. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." When we change, the world changes.

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