A look into different aspects of the Orlando nightclub shooting
Early on Sunday morning a man named Omar Mateen entered Pulse, an Orlando nightclub, with an assault rifle and a handgun and proceeded to open fire on the occupants of the club. Before the ordeal ended, Mateen had taken approximately 30 hostages and a SWAT team was forced to enter the building forcefully with the use of an armored vehicle.
Omar Mateen, 29, was shot by the engaging officers after a standoff. He had allegedly pledged allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and had been investigated by the FBI after he made inflammatory remarks at his place of work.
This shooting has been reported to be the deadliest shooting in American history. This may or not be the case depending on the way that one looks at the shooting. In the year 1917 Marcus Garvey reports in a speech that in “East St. Louis, July 2nd. Negroes are being shot down like rabbits and strung up to telegraph poles […] The official police estimate at 9 o’clock put the number of dead at 100. one of the largest in American history.” What can be said for certain is that the Orlando shooting is still one of the deadliest in American history.
President Obama commented with respect to the shooting that “it is increasingly clear […] that the killer took in extremist information and propaganda over the internet. […] These lone actors or small cells of terrorists are very hard to detect and very hard to prevent […] We are doing everything in our power to stop these kinds of attacks.”
Frequent club goers have stated that they saw Omar Mateen at the club on multiple occasions. On some of these occasions Mateen was apparently heavily intoxicated. Other reports state that Mateen had a profile on a same-sex dating application and that he had exchanged messages with multiple persons while using it. Mateen’s father stated that his son had witnessed two males kissing and that this was the source of the anger that drove him to carry out the shooting at Pulse.
Mateen’s father is also reportedly a very strict Muslim and it is difficult to determine whether or not his influence had anything to do with the shooting either directly or indirectly. It is also still unclear whether or not the Islamic State was actually involved in the attack.
Imam Muhammad Musri who is president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida stated with respect to the shooting that “It’s a horrible tragedy. We are mourning. We are sad. We are heartbroken,” also saying that it “is the worst nightmare, and we are sorry to know that it happened to us.”
The Islamic State has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to carry out or support extreme acts of violence in pursuing its desired ends. Violence is a quick way to gain attention and the Islamic State has ensured that its image will be forever connected with violence and bloodshed. The Islamic State has done this for a reason, specifically to brand itself on the face of history.
What Mateen did is no different. Mateen, in pledging his allegiance to the Islamic State allowed it to claim responsibility for the act. What this did was to allow the Islamic State to assume a role globally that it does not yet necessarily occupy.
The Islamic State may not possess anywhere near the capability to carry out acts of terror and violence within the United States that it appears to. In the case of Mateen, an individual who was already a U.S. citizen was able to associate himself with the Islamic State independently.
The Islamic State has striven to enforce social standards which remove all validity from homosexuality, which perpetuates a culture that gives to heterosexual males power and control, and which, in many ways, makes the interests of females subordinate to those of males.
The Islamic State fundamentally desires a heteronormative culture based on what it has determined the tenets of Islam to be. The Islamic State considers homosexuality to be an aberration that threatens to challenge or destabilize the position that heterosexuality has held in traditional societies.
Daesh wishes to restore values that it has identified as essential to Islam. One of these core values is the preservation of the traditional form of marriage which has for thousands of years been continually defined as an institution which only exists between males and females.
The LGBTQ community faces the threat of violence every day. As society grows to accept this community over time it is likely that acts of violence like this will become increasingly infrequent. Resistance to the acceptance of LGBTQ equality is evident, most recently in the worst mass shooting in US history.
It is evident that some still view the LGBTQ community with suspicion and distrust. It is also evident that there are individuals who view this community as a threat and who are willing to carry out acts of violence in order to resist its right to exist free and unhindered.
The LGBTQ community faces discrimination for many reasons. Among these reasons is its minority status with respect to the entire population. This minority status has been reinforced in societies across the globe for thousands of years. It is evident that historically in Islamic societies homosexuality has often been defined as aberrant and harmful and that, like in Christian societies, it has been given the status of a persecuted minority.
On the day of the shooting, a Baptist preacher in Sacramento Roger Jimenez made statements which praised the shooting and which seemingly called for more violence:
“Are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today? […] Um no, I think that’s great! I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida is a little safer tonight […] We don’t need to do anything to help. As far as I’m concerned, Orlando is a little bit safer tonight […] If we lived in a righteous government, they should round them all up and put them up against a firing wall, and blow their brains out.”
This is a kind of sentiment that is most definitely represented among American Christians. It is likely, however, that there are many American Christians who would prefer that this type of violence never occur in society. The type of conservative thinking that fuels the ideology of the Islamic State is the same type of thinking that inspired this sermon.
Other conservatives seem more interested in thwarting than in inspiring terrorism. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) recently made statements that were critical of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the issues of Islamic terror and the current position of the Islamic State in its relationship to the international community, arguing that none of them truly understand how the continuing war on terror should operate, commenting that:
“Mr. Trump’s idea that we’re going to win the war against radical Islam by banning all Muslims, I guess now American citizens, Muslims, makes it harder to win the war […] I’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan 37 times. Most Muslims are not buying what radical Islam is selling. It is our job to partner with people in the faith like the king of Jordan, the president of Egypt to destroy radical Islam over there before it comes here […] The FBI stopped following this man because they couldn’t prove a crime. They should have followed him as long as necessary to gather intelligence to see if he was sympathetic to the enemy and would one day do what he did. Obama has turned the war into a crime […] I’m not fighting a crime, I’m fighting a war. And if we find an American citizen associated with suicide bombers and expressing allegiance and sympathies to radical Islam in any form, we should follow them for intelligence-gathering purposes to protect our country […] This is what Obama doesn’t understand, this is what Clinton doesn’t understand.”
Progressives must seek to place the cause of LGBT equality and acceptance in that category which is occupied by those causes determined to be most important. Only in continuing to encourage and support the LGBT community will progressives aid it in its own struggle for autonomy, stability, and recognition. An essential part of this support and encouragement will be the spread of awareness about acts of violence like the Orlando shooting and the motivations behind them.
Violence like this is something which progressives will likely seek to resist. Active resistance to occurrences like these may indeed decrease the probability of their occurrence in the future. One of the few difficulties in attempting to combat events like the Orlando shooting is in predicting them. It is here that awareness and constant vigilance become significant. It is also probable that the effort toward greater social acceptance for LGBTQ communities around the globe will, over time, decrease the influence that social pressures have to cause internally conflicted individuals to lash out, as this may have been the case for Omar Mateen.