Reflections on the Orlando mass shooting

Jun 18,2016 -JORDAN TIMES – Mahmoud N. Zidan

On June 14, I was watching the CNN coverage of the atrocious mass shooting that left 49 Americans dead and more than 50 injured.

As part of that coverage, Andrew Cuomo, a CNN anchor, was hosting Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of New York City at the time of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

In response to Cuomo’s questions, Giuliani provided vague answers while at the same time placing — in the clearest terms possible — the mass shooting within a constellation of terrorist attacks such as the September 11 and the Boston bombing.

Using his “expertise”, Giuliani claimed that the attacker, Omar Mateen, was inspired by Daesh.

He substantiated his claim by suggesting that the shooter was a devout Muslim.

The proof: Mateen used to “attend the mosque three times a week”.

The conclusion: He was an “informed” Muslim.

Giuliani assertively added that the perpetrator and people like him are “barbarians” and belong to a “different level of civilisation”. He even said that “ours” is a “superior civilisation”.

By so doing, Giuliani exemplified the American — or Western, for that matter — exceptionalist ethos.

His words were also an example of the responses of somebody who is actually ill informed of the world and its cultures.

For any person who knows the basics of Islam, Giuliani’s words are preposterous, to say the least.

As a matter of fact, Muslims pray five times a day. And if they choose to pray at the mosque, they go there 35 times a week.

The claim that Mateen was a devout or informed Muslim is even more preposterous, for Giuliani did not know that Mateen had pledged allegiance to diametrically opposed groups: Hizbollah, Al Nusra Friend and Daesh.

Despite Giuliani’s being ill informed and imprecise, Cuomo concluded the conversation by telling him: “We need your voice right now.”

The question that arises is why would anybody need such a divisive voice?

What is it about his voice that makes it desired?

It is exactly fear-mongering voices like Giuliani’s that are the least needed in such times.

Giuliani’s voice is in agreement with those of a phalanx of right-leaning or establishment “experts” who keep associating Islam with terrorism and think that the rest of the world is inferior, undeveloped, irrational and subhuman.

Such people are, of course, manipulating the public for the sake of elections and for other profiteering purposes.

Indeed, the facts defy such maligning of the religion.

What are the facts or clues?

The criminal was described by acquaintances as being “unhinged” and “unstable”.

His former wife accused him of physically abusing her.

He constantly made racist comments.

He worked for G4S (a multinational security company notorious for its brutality in Palestine, Abu Ghraib, and other prisons the world over).

AR15 — a semi-automatic assault weapon — is easily available to ordinary Americans.

An Arizona pastor and a few others in the American society itself wished that more had been killed.

The list goes on for what those “experts” turned a blind eye to.

They refused to entertain the possibility that Mateen was a disturbed individual, emphasising the idea that he “knew exactly what he did”, to use the words of Senator Marco Rubio.

The message and pattern are all too familiar to miss: it is Islam as a religion that is amiss, and so all Muslims are to blame.

If the perpetrator is racially and ideologically different, the whole discussion dramatically shifts: it centres on gun control and the sanity of the perpetrator of that terrible act.

For instance, very few remember or have even heard about the fact that a Christian vigilante killed three Jewish Americans two years ago.

In contrast, once the media gets wind of the fact that the perpetrator is a Muslim, much more attention is paid and the answers are already known.

The shooting is automatically subsumed in the rubric of terrorism. There is no need to reflect on the facts, and the verdict is ready.

Media outlets do not wait for the results of a full investigation, and some news agencies sometimes bombard their viewers or readers with fake stories, often even giving legitimacy to claims by Daesh, an amorphous entity.

When the San Bernardino massacre took place, Fox News immediately circulated the news story that the shooter posted terror-related messages on Facebook; the Federal Bureau of Investigation later announced that the perpetrator had not done that.

Another more pervasive example is the classification of the Orlando shooting as the worst ever in American history; massacres of Native Americans and African Americans do not bear that assumption out.

Thus, those answers are complete with hyperboles.

What those strategies indicate is that there is a consistent attempt at depriving people of the ability to think in such crises, making them refrain from asking deep and urgent questions, and eventually rendering the fight against terrorism all the more elusive.

Apart from regulations that control manufacturing and purchasing of guns, there is need for more brain work.

That brain work will enhance our knowledge of the root causes of such mass shootings and the ulterior motives of their perpetrators, extremely useful knowledge that cannot be attained without a careful investigation of the causes, not the symptoms

That brain work can pay off only if the truth is told, helping our reach greater awareness and understanding of what needs to be done.

The result would be that more lives would be saved.

The writer, a Fulbright scholar, contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

2 replies

  1. Omar Mateen, 29, seems to have deliberately targeted the venue because it was a gay club. His father said a recent incident in Miami in which a gay couple were kissing in front of his wife and son made him very angry. Omar Mateen who lives in Fort St Lucie is the shooter. He family was from Afghanistan. There is only one developed country in the world that allows civilians to buy military style automatic weapons. There is only one developed country were massacres with those type of weapons happen again and again and again.

    Killing innocent peoples is nothing to do with Islam.”In Islam there is no commandment to kill people by making such allegations against them. The cartoonists had exercised their freedom of expression, and freedom of expression is totally allowed in Islam. Even during the Prophet’s time there were several instances of ridicule, however the Prophet and his Companions neither punished such persons nor asked anyone to do so. On every occasion of this kind, the Prophet’s Companions always tried to positively disseminate the message of Islam. They never tried to punish these people. The killing of those people who had published the cartoons is a gravely un-Islamic act in the name of Islam. What did killing Saddam Husain do. What did killing Osama Bin laden do? NOTHING!!!. There is a long long line of replacements. I don’t know the answers. He was asked by MI5 to join them…so you know he is working for them.

    The killer is the product of western education, which makes a man stupid, selfish and corrupt. He was brought up as an American but the society considered him as a Muslim. He adopted all the evils of American culture. He suffered from identity crises and did not know where he belonged. I do not think that he could speak his read and write his mother tongue Persian or Pashto or Duree. He married twice and divorced twice just like other Americans. It is just possible that he inclined towards homosexuality. I think that this is one of the reason why he entered the Gay club for shooting the innocent.

    Mateen was a mentally ill individual who committed a heinous, cowardly HATE CRIME. And now thanks to paranoid fear mongering, we are playing into Mateen’s twisted ploy to ELEVATE his snivelling sick act, transforming him and his crime into some international terror event. Mateen, knowing his country so well, has succeeded. We are turn this into something far more insidious than it really was. The act of a mad man carrying out his hatred of gays.

    None of 7/7 bombers and British Muslim youths who are in Syria and Iraq are the product of Muslim schools. They are the product of British schooling which is the home of institutional racism with chicken racist native teachers. It is absurd to believe that Muslim schools, Imams and Masajid teach Muslim children anti-Semitic, homophobic and anti-western views. It is dangerously deceptive and misleading to address text books and discuss them out of their historical, cultural and linguistic context. It is not wrong to teach children that Jews are committing the same cruelty in Palestine what German did to them before or during Second World War. It is not wrong to teach children that anti-social behaviour, drinking, drugs, homosexuality, sex before marriage, teenage pregnancies and abortions are western values and Islam is against all such sins. This does not mean that Muslim schools teach children to hate westerners, Jews and homosexuals.

    The British establishment is wrong in thinking that Imams are to blame for extremism. Imams are not solution to the problem for extremism. Extremism is nothing to do with Imams. Extremism is not created from abroad, it is coming from within. Britain fails to help Muslim communities feel part of British society. Race trouble is being predicted by the Daily Express, because of an ethnic boom in UK major cities. Muslim communities need imams for the solutions of their needs and demands in their own native languages. Muslim parents would like to see their children well versed in Standard English and to go for higher studies and research to serve humanity. The fact is that majority of Muslim children leave schools with low grades because monolingual teachers are not capable to teach Standard English to bilingual Muslim children.

    A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village. He/she does not want to become notoriously monolingual Brit. None of 7/7 bombers and British Muslim youths who are in Syria and Iraq are the product of Muslim schools. They are the product of British schooling which is the home of institutional racism with chicken racist native teachers. It is absurd to believe that Muslim schools, Imams and Masajid teach Muslim children anti-Semitic, homophobic and anti-western views. It is dangerously deceptive and misleading to address text books and discuss them out of their historical, cultural and linguistic context. When a native Brit goes to Middle East, he is called a voluntary fighter. When a Muslim goes there he is called a terrorist. Double standard by the British society. Also lot of British Jews went to Israel to fight but on their return no action was taken against them.

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