Washington: From Russia to Brazil, from Buckingham Palace and the Vatican, world leaders and public figures have expressed horror at the shooting in Orlando, Florida, and sympathy for the victims.
Tel Aviv’s City Hall was lit up in rainbow colors and with the American and Israeli flags in solidarity, while groups of people gathered in cities including Madrid, Rome, Paris and Sao Paolo holding banners and rainbow flags, and lighting candles.
Some of the strongest comments came from Pakistan and Afghanistan, two countries that have suffered hugely from extreme Islamist terrorism — although Pakistan is also accused of simultaneously supporting radical groups fighting in neighboring India and Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he was deeply saddened by what he called a “gruesome act of terrorism” and an “inexcusable act of inhumanity.”
“This is against every principle of pluralism, tolerance and humanity that we have been striving for,” he said. “This does not represent the will of a vast majority of Muslims. It is just another representation of a cancer of radicalization — one that we promise to fight every day of our lives.”
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, visiting Washington after attending the funeral of boxer Muhammad Ali, condemned the shooting in Orlando and called it “beyond any measure of humanity and decency.”
“We condemn it in the strongest possible words as an anti-human, anti-humanity murderous act,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post. “My heart goes out fully to the victims and to the American people. We know what it means in Afghanistan when civilians die; we know this pain very, very well.”
Karzai declined to comment on the alleged shooter’s links to Afghanistan.
Narendra Modi, who as prime minister of India leads a country that like Pakistan still criminalizes gay sex, tweeted condolences for the bereaved families and victims and said he was “shocked.”
British Queen Elizabeth II issued a statement from Buckingham Palace through Twitter. “Prince Philip and I have been shocked by the events in Orlando,” she said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been affected.”
From the Vatican, Pope Francis issued a statement saying he “joins the families of the victims and all of the injured in prayer and compassion.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that “the Russian people share the pain and grief of those who lost family and loved ones as a result of this barbaric crime.”
In Western Europe, French President Francois Hollande “condemned with horror” the killings in Orlando, while expressing the full support of France for the American people. British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “horrified” and that his thoughts were with the victims and their families.
Rio de Janeiro congressman Jean Wyllys, Brazil’s best-known openly gay lawmaker, took to Facebook to condemn the homophobia he said was also a deadly issue in his own country, and to express hope that it did not play into an already polarized American election campaign.
“We hope that the attack in the USA will not serve to stigmatize Islam nor immigrants from the Middle East going to live there,” he wrote. “Nor that Donald Trump does not resort to his well-known demagoguery and make electoral use of these deaths in favor if the American extreme right, who are profoundly homophobic and xenophobic.”
Mauricio Santoro, a professor in the international relations department at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, said the tragedy would raise the temperature on both the gun control debate and the American election.
“Clearly this is all going to result in a very heated debate in this presidential campaign which is already very tense, very polarized,” he told TV Globo. “It is a moment of great tension in the United States.”
Michael Oren, who used to be Israel’s ambassador to the United States, tweeted his condolences. In a live interview on Israeli TV, Oren, who is now a member of Israel’s parliament, said that the attack in Orlando would certainly help presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in his election campaign.
In China, Netizens mostly expressed horror and anger.
“Unbelievable! Do terrorists think they can threaten homosexuals to become heterosexuals with the gun. Unbelievable! I want to tell you, I am proud to be a gay!,” one person posted on the Weibo microblogging service.
But some expressed anger at Muslims or Islam in general, or chose to make political points. “It’s reasonable to ban guns in China,” one posted.
In India, reactions on social media ranged from grief to extreme denunciations of Islamic terror. Some noted with derision that guns featured prominently in a photo banner on the Twitter account of Indian-origin Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — the former presidential candidate who is always a subject derision here because of his ambivalence about his Indian roots.
Jindal tweeted that he was “horrified and saddened” by the deadly attack, but his banner photo shows the governor and two sons in hunting camouflage, the boys holding rifles and one the lifeless body of a dead duck.
Nor was all the reaction compassionate. A Turkish newspaper aligned with the current ruling party published a headline that called gay people “deviant.” Others have translated it as “perverted.”
On social media, some noted that, if you searched for it, you could find people celebrating the attack in various corners of the internet.
“Go to Al Jazeera Arabic Facebook page and read the comments about the #Orlando attacks and you will see 1000s of people celebrating,” Faisal Saeed AlMutar @faisalalmutar tweeted.
For many activists, it was a moment to point out links between homophobia and Islamophobia. People who belong to both the LGBT and Muslim communities argue that hate is hate, no matter who it targets.
“I’m gay and Muslim. I want to tell the Muslim community the Islamophobia being spewed now doesn” reflect my values as a gay man,” Shawn Ahmed tweeted as @uncultured. “I’m gay and Muslim. I want to tell the LGBT community that the Orlando shooter doesn’t reflect my faith as a Muslim.”
In one of several vigils around the world, around 100 gay activists gathered on Sao Paulo’s principal Paulista Avenue on Sunday evening despite the winter chill.
“It could have been me that was in that club. It could have been any other club. The blood that was spilled was blood of my blood. We are a population that suffers and we can’t stand more violence,” Agripino Magalhaes, one of the organizers, told the G1 news site.
© 2016 The Washington Post