On 12th June 2016, in Orlando, Florida, Omar Mateen walked into a nightclub called ‘the Pulse’ at 2am and began shooting those inside leading to 49 fatalities and 53 wounded. During the shooting, he holed himself up in the toilets of the nightclub along with some hostages. At some point, witnesses report that Mateen had been asking who in the nightclub was ‘black’, and it is alleged he wasn’t targeting african-americans, as he thought they’d “suffered enough”, the witness reported Mateen mention that he was “doing this for his country”. Another eye-witness reported hearing Mateen say that his actions were because the U.S. was bombing I.S. He allegedly made a number of calls to the 911 emergency call operators, and it emerges he also posted facebook messages, and it was during these calls and messages that he allegedly pledged his allegiance to I.S and threatened to kill more people.
The hostage situation was resolved by police blowing a number of holes into the nightclub to rescue the holed up hostages and shooting down Mateen in the ensuing firefight.
The Cynical Exploitation of a Tragedy to Demonise a Minority
No sooner had the bloody events come to an end, Islamophobes, right-wing Republicans, hardline Liberals and a number of other interest groups jumped upon the story and began speculation on the motives and causes of the attack, cynically trying to appropriate the tragedy for their own petty political causes.
Publications arose from Islamophobes who blamed Islam and argued this was yet another example of Muslim ‘Jihad’ against all non-Muslims. Right-wing Alarmists and populists argued it was ‘Radical Islam’ and another attack by ISIS on the U.S.A. Hardline Secular Liberals who are intolerant of traditional Islamic thought (some ironically calling themselves ‘counter-extremists’), argued that the shooting was inspired by ‘Islamism’, and ‘Islamic extremism’ within the Muslim community, some of these even argued that this exposed a “huge problem” of homophobia in the Muslim community – both used their articles to call for a Secular ‘Reformation’ of Islam. Lastly, some Feminists made the argument that ‘toxic masculinity’ was to blame for the Orlando shooting, arguing that mass shooters tend to be male.
Many politicians and writers raised the issues of the problem of the availability of guns in the U.S., the widespread Homophobia of American society that exists in the U.S. and the fact that killings from firearms in the U.S. greatly dwarf statistics of terror deaths in the US., yet received disproportionately less attention or concern.
In response, many supporters of these interest groups accused anyone who raised any explanation different to their narratives, as “denying Islam’s link to terrorism”.
Unfortunately, time wasn’t taken to wait for the evidence to come to light to make the causes clearer before people jumped to conclusions. Instead, various interest groups cynically used the tragedy to further their own political agendas, by making claims about the shooters motives, before touting their solutions which conveniently support their causes.
Was Mateen devout or radicalised by an interpretation of Islam?
A narrative that has been commonplace and cliched is the claim by Islamophobes and hardline secular liberals, especially those involved with the “counter-extremism” industry, that Islam, or the spread of an “extremist” interpretation of Islam, is the cause, or the main cause, behind an individual of Muslim background who resorts to violence.
Islamophobes and hardline secular liberals have blamed anything from street crime, domestic violence and political violence, upon Islam or an interpretation of Islam, if the perpetrator has a Muslim background.
Consequently, every violent public attack involving an identified Muslim is immediately interpreted and presented as the result of the individual’s ideology, and Mateen’s attack has been cited as another violent attack by a Muslim turned radical, and motivated by religion or a religious interpretation.
However, evidence has inevitably come to light about Mateen’s background that questions these presumptions. It has been reported that Mateen has had a long-standing history of mental health problems, instability, isolation and violence. He was reported to have lived a lifestyle of night-clubbing, drinking alcohol and seeking sexual encounters with men, suggesting his practice of religion was as nominal as many non-religious Americans.
Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, is actively involved online in Afghan politics, and has been blamed by some as a factor in Mateen’s radicalisation because he supported the Taliban by calling them ‘warriors’. This seems unlikely, however, because Seddique Mateen’s involvement in politics is notably upon an Afghan nationalist basis, not Islamic one. It has been pointed out that Seddique was mentioning the Taliban only from a nationalist perspective, as he regularly published youtube videos of himself with the Afghan national flag (the Taliban’s flag is white with Arabic script). Saddique also reported he desired to seek presidency of Afghanistan. Both Mateen and his father are clean shaven, and Mateen never appears in available pictures with a beard.
Seddique is reported to have said that Mateen’s actions had “nothing to do with Islam. Those killers, they call it ISIS in what I heard in the news. They are not religious people. They use the name of religion for their personal gain”.
When asked about Mateen’s motives, he reportedly said “I think he just wanted to boast of himself,”. When asked about his son’s radicalism, he responded “No radicalism, no. He doesn’t have a beard even…I don’t think religion or Islam had anything to do with this.”
Despite Mateen’s last minute pledge of allegiance of I.S on the phone and facebook posts, and the overheard demand for the U.S. to stop bombing ‘his country’ (which may refer to Afghanistan), the full details of Mateen’s personal opinions and ideas on religion and politics are not known as of yet. Mateen reportedly called a CNN affiliate during the attack and said “I did it for ISIS. I did it for the Islamic State” – but it is known that ISIS do not like the acronym “ISIS” after they changed their name to ‘Islamic State’ (I.S).
Despite some apocryphal reports, no credible reports currently allege Mateen shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ while he was carrying out his heinous deed. How do we know that Mateen was following any interpretation of Islam? As past cases have shown, an individual supporting I.S is likely to not be a devout Muslim (in fact, quite the opposite). Mateen’s ex-wife Sitora Yusufiy thought her husband wasn’t too religious, nor radicalised, neither did his father.
Strangely, during the attack, Mateen was reported to have asked if there were any ‘blacks’ in the club, to which he then allegedly said “I have no problem with blacks, they’ve suffered enough”. The theory, then, that Mateen’s sole imperative that day was to murder non-Muslims, or homosexuals, is thrown into doubt when it is reported that he seemed to want to distinguish his potential victims by race.
The cause of the violence, is therefore unlikely to be because Mateen believed in a religious imperative to kill ‘infidels’, but is most likely due to other causes. Likewise, we simply don’t know enough about his personal opinions or theology to describe Mateen as an ‘Islamist’.
Mateen’s pledge of allegiance to I.S. before he died, alone, does not tell us anything about his theological or political views or background, anymore than Timothy McVey’s justification for his terror attack in Oklahoma, as a revenge for the U.S. government handling of the siege of the Branch Davidian Christian sect at Waco, tells us anything about McVey’s theology (who was an alleged agnostic, who professed a Libertarian political ideology).
It is important to note that Mateen never appeared to invoke Islam, or say that he was doing this act ‘in the name of Islam’, as many journalists say when interviewing Muslims on TV or Radio about ‘Muslim terrorists’, asking them to condemn these acts.
Currently, Mateen’s only expressed views have been his criticism of American foreign policy in the Muslim world, and has made no reported mention of the word ‘Islam’. He reportedly published on facebook: “You kill innocent women and children by doing [U.S.] airstrikes… now taste the Islamic state vengeance”.
Donald Trump called the Orlando shooting ‘Islamic Terrorism’, but how does terrorism become Islamic just because a ‘Muslim’ does it? If a Muslim robs a bank, would it equally be called ‘Islamic Robbery’? Mateen, notably did not invoke Islam, or justify his monstrous behaviour by invoking Islam – rather, he invoked something else: American foreign policy, a militant group, and ‘vengeance’.
Mental Health Problems, Instability and reports of Child-hood bullying
An elementary school report about Mateen mentioned he engaged in “Much talk about violence and sex (obscenities)”, fighting and was disruptive in class. In a report published by the Washington Post, a number of classmates report that Mateen was bullied at school, “He got bullied a lot…It may have been because he was Muslim. But high school can be rough; people can pick on you just because of your name”. It was also reported that he didn’t have many friends, and on the day of the 11th September 2001 attacks, he cheered during class reportedly saying “that’s what america deserves”, he also claimed Osama Bin Laden was his uncle. It was also reported that when his father came to pick him up that day, he slapped Mateen on the face. Mateen was then reportedly expelled from the school. This suggests Mateen was not only isolated from his class, but also an attention seeker.
Mateen obtained an associate degree in Criminal Justice from Indian River State College. He applied to be a Prison Officer and at another time, for Police Officer training, but was unsuccessful at both. Mateen then reportedly became a security guard for G4S, would frequent the gym, and is rumoured to have taken steroids.
During this time, in 2013, Mateen was investigated twice for claiming he was a member of Hezbollah and had family contacts in Al-Qaeda. He also claimed he knew the Boston Bomber and a man who joined Jabhat al Nusra (Al Qaeda) in Syria. The problem with this is, at the time, Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda were mortal enemies fighting each other in Syria. Hezbollah has become widely hated amongst Sunnis because of this. Mateen clearly didn’t know this, which suggests he was just citing any militant organisations that appeared to be well known. When interviewed by the FBI, Mateen admitted that he had made inflammatory remarks only “in anger” at what he perceived was his co-workers teasing him.
A former supervisor to Mateen, while he worked at a GNC, reported Mateen’s preoccupation with his father, “He could do nothing right in his father’s eyes”, another former colleague, who is also Muslim reported that he would go out with Mateen for a drink, that Mateen would get so drunk he would “black out”. When drunk, the former-colleague reported that Mateen would get “crazy and violent”.
Another former colleague who worked with him at G4S remarked to a CNN affiliate “He was an angry person, violent in nature, and a bigot to almost every class of person”. He continued “He would hit things and as he was hitting things, he would yell, and of course there was always curse words involved…And this wasn’t seldom, this was all the time.” It also reported by a work colleague at G4S that Mateen allegedly complained after seeing an African-American driver, that “he wanted to kill all blacks”, adding “he was above and beyond. He was always angry, sweating, just angry at the world”.
Mateen was married to his first wife Sitora Yusufiy, but the marriage only lasted four months, with her reporting needing to be rescued by her family. Yusufiy reported that Mateen was “mentally unstable”, and reported to TIME that Mateen was abusive, prone to sudden and inexplicable violence. Yusufiy mentioned that Mateen’s father was very strict and “one of the directions of his [Mateen’s] life was to be a perfect son”, she also said “A few months after we were married I saw his instability…he would get mad out of nowhere, and that’s when I started worrying about my safety”.
A number of people, including the patrons of the nightclub featured at the scene of the shooting, reported seeing Mateen attend the club regularly, attempt to pick up men and drink. Mateen has a reputation at the club for being ‘odd’ and ‘strange’, and may have been without many friends there too. He was prone to getting very drunk, and making loud and violent outbursts.
During the attack, Mateen was reportedly searching for news on his phone of the attack, and calling news broadcasters. He didn’t have much to say beyond criticising American foreign policy and pledging his allegiance to ‘ISIS’. It has been noted by investigators that Mateen appeared to be very interested in the attention he would be receiving from the attack.
Hopefully, time may tell us whether Mateen was a sane individual driven purely by ideology, homophobia, “toxic masculinity” or just a mentally unstable and violent person who had repressed anger and found in identifying with Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and later I.S., a convenient outlet for his anger and violence. In the meantime, people should refrain from speculations and agenda-ridden discourses that obscure those who should be the real focus of any human tragedy, the victims themselves.
Was the Shooter motivated by Homophobia?
The target of the Orlando attack, The Pulse, was a gay nightclub, and many have argued that the attack was an act of hate against homosexuals and homosexual activity.
However, since the attack, a number of witnesses have come forward attesting to Mateen being actively engaged in homosexual activity himself and frequenting gay nightclubs.
A journalist from the right-wing media Breitbart, who also reported this story, argued that Mateen’s sexuality and frequent attendance at Gay bars “would be much harder to politicize, while simultaneously keeping radical Islam out of the discussion”.
Although Mateen was reported to have been homosexual himself, some have raised the possibility that the shooter was motivated by his own personal feelings of shame.
According to numerous reports from multiple sources, Mateen attended the nightclub as a regular and was himself homosexual, allegedly joining Gay dating apps and trying to pursue male customers of the nightclub. However, though there are reports by attendees at the nightclub who spoke with Mateen regularly before the attack, that Mateen spoke about his family, wife, child and father, there are not currently any reports of statements he made expressing hatred against homosexuals or same-sex intercourse, even during times he had reportedly become seriously intoxicated at the nightclub.
One of the club attendees, Ty Smith reported “We didn’t really talk to him a lot, but I remember him saying things about his dad at times…He told us he had a wife and child”.
It was widely reported in the media that the father of Mateen, said that Mateen may have been angered by seeing two Gay men kissing while they were in Miami. This seems unlikely, since Mateen would’ve presumably have seen Gay men kissing quite regularly at the night-club he reportedly attended as a ‘regular’. Furthermore, why attack a night club in Orlando for an incident that angered him in Miami? Later, Mateen’s father was reported in the Guardian to have suggested that the incident was overblown “But that was a couple of months ago and he never talked about it afterwards,” he said. “I don’t think that incident would trigger this kind of violent reaction.”.
Although the target of Mateen’s attack was a Gay nightclub, however it could be possible that the media assumed it was a Homophobic attack, because America and other Western countries have had a long history of violence committed against Gay Nightclubs (see below).
It is, however, possible we may be presuming the shooter attacked it because it was a gay nightclub, and not a public social venue he used to attend regularly, much like the killers behind the Virginia Tech and Columbine High School massacres and the Aurora Theatre shooting – who targeted venues they attended regularly and knew the layout of. In those incidents, the shooters were also socially dysfunctional and felt ignored by people.
The San Bernardino shooting also occurred at a venue that was the workplace of one of the shooters.
A former classmate of Mateen, during their training at Indian River State Police Academy in 2006 said “”He just wanted to fit in and no one liked him”. This would seem to fit the profile of other social dysfunctional individuals who committed previous mass shootings in America.
While it is possible that Mateen committed the attack for homophobic reasons, there are more questions that need answering. In the facebook posts, witness statements and phone calls currently released, there appears to be no mention of homosexuality as a motivating factor for the attack by Mateen. Instead, we hear messages of foreign policy and support for I.S. It was reported that Mateen posted facebook messages saying “Real Muslims will never accept the filthy ways of the West”, but then went on to talk about the civilians casualties sustained in Western bombing campaigns in the Muslim world “You kill innocent women and children by doing [US] airstrikes”. It is currently unclear what he was referring to by the phrase ‘filthy ways’, and perhaps further evidence will make this clear.
The US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, announced that transcripts would be released of the 911 calls Mateen made to the police. She was asked by CNN “Did he talk about his feelings about gay Americans?” She replied: “You know, he didn’t get into that. And so we’re still exploring why he chose this particular place to attack.”
If homophobia was Mateen’s intended message behind this attack, he didn’t make it clear in his declarations that we have available.
Is the American Muslim Community to Blame for Homophobia in the United States?
It is being argued quite hypocritically by many of the right-wing in America, that the Muslim minority of America is failing to assimilate into America and causing intolerance of LGBT people.
The media reported the story of a Muslim speaker visiting Mateen’s mosque and denouncing homosexuality, but this simply doesn’t fit with Mateen’s reported tendencies for violence and web-searches for I.S propaganda which pre-exist the speaker’s mosque visit.
The act of violence which occurred in an Orlando gay club is portrayed as evidence that the Muslim community is not ‘assimilated’ with the rest of American society. Leaving aside the ideologically loaded label ‘assimilation’ for a second, it should be clearly pointed out that anyone who knows the American context knows that in many parts of the USA, there is a pre-existing strong antipathy to individuals who have same-sex attraction or who identify themselves as a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.
Militant Secular Liberals, like Bill Maher, effectively blamed Islam for the Orlando shooting, and right-wing Republican senator of Alabama, Mo Brooks argued that Muslims want to kill every homosexual in the U.S. In response to a question on a radio interview on why the American left-wing is refusing to acknowledge that it is “mainstream Muslim thought” to put homosexuals to death, Senator Brooks replied “[the left-wing] are in a perplexing position. On the one hand, they’re trying to appeal to the gay community, but, on the other hand, they’re trying to also appeal to the Muslim community, which, if it had its way, would kill every homosexual in the United States of America”.
Republican Ted Cruz, commenting on the Orlando attack said “They will claim this attack, like they claimed every previous attack, was isolated and had nothing to do with the vicious Islamist theology…If you’re a Democratic politician and you really want to stand for LGBT, show real courage and stand up against the vicious ideology that has targeted our fellow Americans for murder”. This is rather odd and raised questions, considering that Ted Cruz, and other republican senators attended a political rally which saw an influential Christian pastor argue that the Bible demands the death penalty for homosexuals. What ‘vicious ideology’ or ‘theology’ was Cruz referring to, the one publicly proclaimed in his presence by his Baptist Christian supporters?
It is these examples, along with many others, that have been noted by independent journalists as clear cynical exploitation of the Orlando shooting and LGBT issues by hardline secular liberals and right-wing elements of the U.S. political establishment to demonise Muslim community.
Many LGBT rights activists have blamed the culture of homophobia perpetuated by Christian politicians in the U.S. and not Muslims (who have minimal representation in the media and political system of the U.S.A). Indeed, many non-Muslim Americans took to social media and expressed their support of the attack on LGBT individuals.
In the very state of Florida where the shooting occurred, it is forbidden for people with same-sex attraction, to donate blood if they haven’t been celibate for one year prior (instituted after the AIDs scares of the 1980s).
A number of Christian Baptist pastors have even praised the attack, causing outrage from other groups (and Christians) in the U.S. A right-wing Californian Lawmaker, Matt McLaughlin, in 2015 proposed a bill to execute all homosexuals called “the Sodomite Suppression Act“.
Are Muslims to blame because 39% of Americans would be upset if their son identified as being homosexual? Did Muslims create the huge preponderance of homophobia that has existed in the U.S. long before the Muslim community became an overly-focused minority to politicians?
According to a Gallup survey, 3.8 per cent of Americans identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). The Muslim population of America is only 1 per cent.
The Muslim community in America are clearly not the cause of the widespread homophobia in America. The local chapter of one of the largest Muslim organisations in America, CAIR, called for the Muslim community to donate blood to the Orlando victims – which did not receive any reprehension from within the Muslim community.
The fact that Republican and Hardline secular liberal portrayal of Muslims isn’t the case in reality, shows that these individuals are flagrantly attempting to whip up fear of Muslims amongst the American people.
The Orlando shooting incident has been used to argue that Muslims are bringing violence and hatred to the U.S. against the LGBT community. Donald Trump argued that this vindicated his stance on Muslim immigration.
Despite multiple statistical studies showing that immigrants (and second-generation immigrants) to America exhibit lower crime rates than the ‘native’ population, Trump’s statements seemed to obfuscate the fact that shootings, mass shootings, terrorism, and hate crimes committed against homosexuals, are not new to American life.
The History of Violence Against the LGBT Community in the U.S.
On the same day, police reportedly intercepted an european-american suspect, James Howell, who was preparing to go to a ‘Gay Pride’ Parade, armed with an assortment of assault rifles, large amounts of ammunition, and chemical substances used to make bombs – was not reported as a terror attack that was thwarted. Although he claims he had no bad intent, we may never know for sure what would have happened had he completed his journey.
However, what only many have noted, is that the LGBT community has had a long and recent history of being on the receiving end of violence in the U.S. (and other Western countries), which is still ongoing.
In 1972, an individual in New Orleans (USA) set fire to a gay nightclub called ‘The Upstairs Lounge’ while people were inside, leading to the deaths of 32 people. Time Magazine recently described it as ‘the largest massacre at a gay bar until the Orlando shooting’. It was rumoured to have been caused by a disgruntled patron who had been thrown out.
In 1980, Ronald K. Crumpley opened fire upon a Gay bar killing 2 and injuring 6. He was suffering mental problems and had claimed that ‘gay men were agents of the devil, stalking him’ and ‘trying to steal my soul just by looking at me’.
In 1997 Eric Rudolph bombed a Lesbian Nightclub, he was called a “Christian Identity extremist” by most outlets.
In 1999, in the UK, David Copeland detonated a pipe bomb in the Gay Bar, the Admiral Duncan located in the Soho area of London. He injured 81 and killed 2.
In 2000, Ronald Gay opened fire at a Gay Bar in Virginia killing one person and injuring six. He called himself a “Christian Soldier working for my Lord” saying in court he “wished [he] could have killed more fags”. Ronald’s brother William claimed that Ronald was a Vietnam veteran that had been suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome.
However, the vast majority of incidents against homosexuals do not involve mass shootings. For example, an Arab-American Christian, Shehada Issa, in April 2016 shot his son allegedly because his son identified as ‘being Gay’.
What interpretation of Islam, or ‘Radical Islam’ were all these perpetrators following?
FBI data on hate crime presents 18.6 per cent of incidents are committed due to the sexual preference of the victim (this was equaled with 18.6 per cent of incidents committed due to the religion of the victim).
As U.S history attests, violence against homosexuals are frequent have long occured before the Orlando shooting. The claim that the Muslim community or Islam is at fault for the endemic violence that has long occurred against homosexuals in the U.S. is plainly false.
Mateen, wanted to join the local police force at one time, drank alcohol, joined Gay dating websites and apps, and reportedly attended the same gay bar he heinously attacked. Mateen clearly wasn’t a cultural isolationalist, nor foreign born or unassimilated in American culture. It seems when a Muslim achieves success in an approved role in Western society, they are called ‘American’, or ‘Brit’, or ‘French’, but if they commit a crime, they are called a ‘Muslim’. Nothing of what Mateen heinously did is new in America unfortunately, nor rare, but part of an ongoing violent phenomenon in American society. Mateen, should be considered a Criminal, but an American one.
The Sad Reality of Gun Violence in the United States
This year so far, 6045 people have been shot to death in the U.S., and 12,387 injured. Using up-to-date medical technology, the survival rate has improved since years ago, mostly related to how quickly an injured person can be taken to a hospital. In the tragic Orlando attack, the attacker holed himself inside the club with hostages, preventing medical attention from being delivered to the injured for three hours, which could have saved more lives if it had not been the case.
Every year, around 13,000 people will die in the U.S. from shooting. On the day of the Orlando shooting, there were 43 shootings elsewhere in the U.S. that resulted in 18 deaths (5 were children), and 41 injuries. The day before Orlando, there were at least 5 mass shootings, and three more have occurred the day after. In the 72 hours after the Orlando attack, a further 93 Americans have died after shootings in the U.S.
In comparison, statistics show that over 15 years, terrorism has killed 517 people annually in the U.S. If the death toll from 11th September 2001 is removed, the calculation produces an annual average of 31 deaths from terrorism per year. Statistics also show that the majority of terror attacks in the U.S.A have been from White Supremacists, and prior to the Orlando shooting, had caused the majority of deaths from terrorism. However, White Supremacy still receives a fraction of the attention than attacks by so called ‘Muslims’.
Medical professionals at the local hospital in Orlando after the shooting, where many of the victims were treated, sadly remarked “increasingly we’re seeing gunshot wounds from high velocity military-type weapons almost on a daily basis. So this type of injury is something we see everyday, it is just not 44 patients”.
Many U.S. anti-gun lobbyists have argued that American gun crime kills vastly more Americans each year than terrorism, yet terror prevention takes a significantly higher priority than combating the easy availability of guns. Many analysts believe that terrorism receives attention disproportionate to the statistics compared with gun crime, because the issue is easily exploited for other political goals, ranging from foreign policy, to increased domestic powers for governments, and immigration and minorities. However the phenomena of mass-shooting is an American one, with a long history, and should be dealt with as such, and not obscured to attack a minority.
The deadliest Shooting Massacre in U.S. History?
President Obama described the Orlando attack as the “worst shooting in U.S. history,” and this was similarly echoed throughout much of the media, that the Orlando, Florida attack was the deadliest shooting attack in U.S. history.
However, Native American news outlets have expressed outrage, expressing that this description simply is not true.
In 1864, over 120 American Indians who had accepted U.S. suzerainty and protection were attacked in their village and (mostly) shot dead by attacking U.S. militia groups (and Army), in a mass shooting called the Sand Creek Massacre – over 100 of the dead were women and children.
In 1857, an American militia in Utah shot dead around 120 settlers travelling from Arkansas on their way to California – the incident is called the ‘Mountain Meadows Massacre‘.
In 1890, another mass shooting occurred, called the ‘Massacre of Wounded Knee’ when over 150 Lakota American Indians men, women and children were shot dead in their camp, when U.S. army attempted to disarm the Lakota tribes people – which seems to suggest that the much vaunted American ‘right to bare arms’ only applied to European-Americans at the time.
Autumn Depoe-Hughes, a Native-American descendent of one of the victims of the Sand Creek Massacre expressed exasperation at the disregard for her history “It looked to me like a rewriting of history,” she said. “I saw my family’s history disappearing before my eyes.”
Only a few new outlets changed their title in reaction to Native American history pointing out that Orlando shooting is not the deadliest shooting attack in all of U.S. history.
The choice of wording is significant, as it allows Islamophobes and others to argue that the American Muslim community are behind the deadliest terror attacks against the U.S.
However, if the origin of a terror attack is taken into consideration, then the deadliest domestic terror attack in U.S. history, involved no Muslims at all, and was committed by Timothy McVey, in Oklahoma City in 1995, who killed 168 people. His background was Agnostic, and he described himself and his motives as Libertarian (a school of thought within Liberalism) in attacking the U.S. government, whose policies he argued were oppressing American freedom.
None of the perpetrators behind the 11th September 2001 attacks were domestic citizens of the U.S.A. They were part of a foreign international terror network and had nothing to do with the American Muslim community.
While the Orlando shooting is the worst mass shooting attack by a single individual in U.S. history, the worst terror attack in Western history involving a single shooter, still remains the far-right terrorist, Anders Brevik, who killed 69 youth at a camp in Utoya Island in Norway in 2011.
The death tolls in all these cases should only demonstrate the extent of the tragedy, and not be cynically used as an argument to say terrorism arising from one community is worse than others. Many attacks have occurred where killers intend to kill as many people as they coulc, but are stopped short by circumstances and prompt police action – it did not mean that they lacked the intent to kill more, only than they were prevented from doing so. In the Orlando shooting, the extent of the death toll may have been due to many of the victims being unable to receive medical attention for 3 hours. Additionally, some people were reported to have been possibly caught in the crossfire as the police tried to break out the hostages.
In conclusion, as Native Americans point out, the Orlando shooting isn’t the deadliest shooting in American history – but, just because it isn’t the deadliest, doesn’t detract from its tragedy – in fact ridding political agendas and media sensationalism from this incident is exactly what keeps the focus on the victims of the event itself.
When a shooting happens, and innocent people are killed, why is it significant whether the shooting was the ‘deadliest yet’ or not? The Quran says, ‘whoever kills…it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely’ [Quran 5:32].
Is the U.S. media turning human life into a cynical point scoring numbers game?
Double-Standards in Reporting Attacks as Terrorism
The immediacy of the official declaration by American politicians and the media of Mateen’s violence as act of terrorism, was not mirrored in the reporting of the recent tragic attack in the UK on pro-EU MP Jo Cox by an individual with far-right links. During the attack, Thomas Mair reportedly shouted out according to two witnesses, ‘Britain First’, before shooting MP Cox. The attack hasn’t been declared a terror attack, but instead articles appeared in media outlets explaining Mair as an individual afflicted with mental issues. The Financial Times pertinently asked if the same caution would’ve been given to the case if the perpetrator had been Muslim.
American-Hispanic media outlets also raised the question at these double standards, and referred to the hesitant response of American politicians to the far-right mass shooter Dylann Roof, who killed 9 African-American people in a Church, compared with their quick response to the news of the Orlando shooting after the name of the perpetrator was published. Terrell Jermaine Starr, journalist at FUSION, commented: ‘One thing is clear about American politics in light of the massacre in Orlando: Muslims who commit mass acts of violence are easily and immediately deemed terrorists. White people who do the same thing are not’.
It has been noted by other independent media outlets that previous terror attacks by non-Muslim European-Americans and non-Muslim Europeans perpetrators have also been treated differently from Muslim perpetrators, with an emphasis on mental illness if the perpetrator is not Muslim.
Journalist and commentator, Glenn Greenwald also raised a critique of the double-standards on the treatment of attacks done by individuals with Muslim names, and Western attackers, posting “Orlando may be strongest example yet showing how mental illness is ignored as factor when mass shooter is non-white”.
Does the Orlando Shooting Demonstrate that Islam Requires a Reformation on the Issue of Homosexuality and Violence?
The vast majority of Muslim scholars, thinkers and notables in the U.S. published a statement condemning the Orlando attack.
This tragedy should not be used to demand Muslims change their belief in Abrahamic morality, and deny their right to believe in whatever morality is required by their worldview. Muslims don’t hate Christians because they eat pork, even though Muslims consider it sinful to do so. We do not hear reports of American Muslims going into bars or pubs and killing people because they drink alcohol, despite the Islamic prohibition against drinking alcohol.
It is not a necessity for Muslims to accept same-sex intercourse as moral in their belief system, in order to be kind, compassionate and helpful to others who may practice it in their private lives. Many Muslims in America donated blood to help the victims of the Orlando shooting, and do not have to agree with other people’s practices and tastes in order to show compassion.
To date, no terrorist has ever alleged or cited any Qur’anic verses or Hadith (traditions of the Prophet) that specifically justify killing civilians. This is because such verses simply do not exist, and it is well known amongst Muslims that Islam does not permit the targeting of civilians in war, much less permit a Muslim citizen to engage in such violence, let alone within a country that they are under covenant with (i.e. citizenship).
This understanding is borne out by polls showing that Muslims in the Muslim world are four times less likely to justify killing civilians than Americans are. A 2010 Gallup poll in U.S.A showed that American Muslims more likely than they co-citizens, out of all other American faith (and no faith) demographics, to reject violence against civilians. When asked the question whether “an individual person or a small group of persons to target and kill civilians is sometimes justified”, 89% responded “never”, compared with only 71% of American Christians, and 76% non-religious Americans and Atheists.
Clearly the Muslim community in America are the least to support heinous violent acts, and cannot be blamed as a problem community more prone to support terrorist violence than any other.
As the American Christian Pastor and writer says “The problem is that tolerant has changed its meaning. It used to mean ‘I may disagree with you completely, but I will treat you with respect. Today, tolerant means – ‘you must approve of everything I do.’ There’s a difference between tolerance and approval”.
Is Islam, or an interpretation of Islam, or the Muslim community somehow to blame for the Orlando shooting? The answer is no. If a man is mentally disturbed, unstable and violent, what need does he have of becoming radicalised? The evidence of the violence and mental instability of Mateen is overwhelming. Mateen enunciated contradictory beliefs and allegiances throughout his life, and seems to have been searching for an outlet for his violence.
NPR’s counter-terrorism correspondent, Dina Tempton-Raston noted that the investigations into the history of Mateen showed none of the typical signs of radicalisation, saying : “we’ve been talking to intelligence officials and investigators. And they’re becoming, as you say, increasingly convinced that the motive for this attack had very little or maybe even nothing to do with ISIS…they believe he may have invoked ISIS’s name…to get more publicity for the attack…he was searching the web to see if the Orlando shooting was getting publicity and trending on Twitter”.
Dina noted that investigators have “been struck by how closely Mateen’s biography adheres to profiles that they usually associate with typical mass shooters”, continuing, “He was bullied as a kid in school. He had well-documented behavioral problems. He was aggressive toward other kids. As he got older, things didn’t get much better. He took steroids. He jumped from job to job. He had a history of domestic violence. And all these things together fit into a mass shooter’s profile”.
In short, Mateen appears to have been a deeply mentally disturbed individual and a criminal, but a distinctly American one.
The day after the shooting in Orlando, the Eiffel Tower displayed the colours of the American flag and the LGBT ‘Rainbow flag’ in solidarity with the victims. Meanwhile in Syria on the day of the Orlando shooting, it was reported that 40 men, women and children where killed – 227 in first week of Ramadan. Despite Syria being almost half the distance from France than Florida, and incurring a higher death toll, the Eiffel tower notably didn’t display any flag colours for them.
Now, more evidence has come to light, including the full transcript of Mateen’s 911 calls to the police, which have not given much further information beyond what was already released, and the testimony of an alleged former-lover of Mateen, “Miguel”. Miguel argues that there were bigger gay nightclubs frequented by Mateen and claimed that “the truth is that he didn’t do it for terrorism. In my opinion he did it for revenge”, claiming that that Mateen had been angered when he was told after intercourse with a male, that the individual was HIV positive. Miguel continues “He adored Latinos, gay Latinos…but he felt rejected. He felt used by them, there were moments in the Pulse nightclub that made him feel really bad”. After Miguel’s testimony, CCTV footage of Mateen and a man entering a hotel named by Miguel, has also come to light.