Early on Sunday, June 12, chaos once again erupted in Orlando, Florida. In the earliest reports, the gunman was reported to have killed around 20 people, and injured another 40. Since then, 50 have been declared dead and another 50 are in the hospital with injuries with varying severity.
There is no denying how heinous these actions were. Nearly 320 were in attendance during a Latino night at Pulse, a night club in Orlando which caters to the LGBTAQ+ community. Reports describe gunfire exchanges, huge amounts of blood, and scenes reminiscent of horror movies.
The actions at Pulse were horrific, despicable, heartbreaking and sickening. However-
In the earliest reports, before even the name of the (deceased) shooter had been released, there were suggestions of ties to radical Islam. That was all that was stated. Many people had been killed, little to no information was known/released by authorities, but it was suspected the shooter might have been a proponent of radical Islam.
I will not try to pretend that there is no possible way Omar Mateen sympathized with radical Islam. I can not pretend to know all the information authorities had access to in the early parts of this investigation. However, the early reports to the public merely stated the shooter possibly, maybe, supposedly, might have had ties to radical Islam, without any genuine information.
In later reports the shooter’s name, Omar Mateen was released, along with his Afghan descent.
Having Afghan decent is not the same thing as being a radical jihadist.
Mateen’s father released a statement that his son became angry in former months after seeing two men kissing, suggesting a homophobic rationale.
Being homophobic is not the same thing as being a radical jihadist.
There have been reports that Omar identified as Muslim.
Being a Muslim is not the same thing as being a radical jihadist.
I am not writing a defense of Omar Mateen; he deserves no sympathy. However, we live in a culture which cries ‘terrorist’ every time there are ties to the Middle East or Islam.
Below is the definition of terrorism as defined by the FBI:
18 U.S.C. § 2331 defines "international terrorism" and "domestic terrorism" for purposes of Chapter 113B of the Code, entitled "Terrorism”:
"International terrorism" means activities with the following three characteristics:
▪ Involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
▪ Appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
▪ Occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S., or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.*
"Domestic terrorism" means activities with the following three characteristics:
▪ Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
▪ Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and
▪ Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.
There is no part of the definition which states that one must be of Middle Eastern descent, nor practice Islam, nor any other religious, national, cultural ties in order to be a terrorist.
Since then, there has been information released suggesting Omar Mateen did hold ties to IS, or more information suggesting it, though there has been nothing to formerly validate these claims as of late. This is not written in defense of Mateen.
This is written for those who practice Islam, and are immediately labeled as a terrorist due to ignorance and hate which is perpetuated by the media. This is in defense of men who choose to wear a taqiyah in public, or women who opt for a hijab. It is for immigrants who are feared of having ties to terror groups because they come from countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria.
This is for those offended by Donald Trump calling for President Obama’s resignation for not calling the event an act of Islamic terrorism without adequate information for such a suggestion.
My heart breaks for those affected by the events of Sunday morning. I grieve for the fear the LGBTAQ+ community faces every day. I grieve for those who will be profiled further due to their religious or cultural affiliations. Pray for Orlando. Pray for peace.
TL;DR — Omar Mateen's crimes are not excusable, but the immediate decision to label his actions as Islamic terrorism perpetuates a cycle of hate and ignorance surrounding the Middle East and Islamic culture.