The Orlando attack — Fundamentally American

June 15, 2016


Could a more accepting environment have prevented Omar Mateen from doing what he did? —Photo: Rex/Shutterstock
Could a more accepting environment have prevented Omar Mateen from doing what he did? —Photo: Rex/Shutterstock

The Orlando shooter turned out to be a Muslim. In all honesty, that threw me off a little.

It surprised me because there has never been a terror attack of this scale on the LGBTQ community in the West that involved a Muslim perpetrator — I don’t think anyone else saw this attack coming either.

There are of course communities who have been targeted for their identity, such as the Jewish community in France recently. But the attack in Orlando was perplexing simply because there is nothing to suggest that IS or Al Qaeda see a gathering of LGBTQ Latino people in the US as perpetual threats to Islam, and would thus want to make them a target.

But, no matter what, terror has been spread.

The American government is now being asked to protect its citizens from further such attacks. A perfectly logical and inevitable request because modern states are security rackets which, in return for allegiance, are to provide safety to their constituencies at all cost.

And now that the logic of the state is in full swing, it should come as no surprise that mud will be slung in the direction of Muslims and Islam since the attacker belonged to that identity, even though there is no conclusive evidence that religion was the prime motivator of the massacre.

But can we expect America to do better?

Can we expect America to look at the features of the American society itself that are conducive to making such horrors happen?

For how long will regular citizens, no matter their criminal, psychological or emotional background, be allowed to own guns in America?

The infrastructure for violence is already available in America. The country has one of the most well-armed civilian populations in the world, the largest army in the world and some of the most militarised police forces, as well as numerous private security companies.

Also read: US constitution — A hurdle in the way of gun reform

The attacker worked for G4S, a notorious private security firm involved in managing prisons, detention centers, and which is implicated in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. He was also a fan of the NYPD, apparently.

In other words, he already had plenty of outlets to channel his anger, frustration and masculinity.

Can we then also ignore that this attack follows a long list of attacks against the LGBTQ community in America by the country’s Right?

The attacker is fundamentally a domestic terrorist and the attack fundamentally American.

Militarisation is also pedagogy and a culture, and paradigm change is required to prevent individuals from resorting to violence.

How to deal with mental trauma, emotional instability, and identity crisis — these are questions that require care and attention. They require an openness and willingness to talk about them, an avenue where they can be discussed.

It is not clear how much nurturing help the attacker had. It appears that he may have been a repressed homosexual himself.

Could a more accepting environment have prevented him from doing what he did?

Had his father not been a homophobe himself, had his home not been so strict as it was, would it have led to something less disastrous?

There is no absolute guarantee but what we know for sure is that creating more humane environments is far better than any heavy-handed response.

Religion, even though it is doubtful how much of a part it played in the attacker’s motives, does play a role in potentially countering these attacks since organised religion is part of social organisation as a whole.

What can mosques and Islamic community centers in America do?

Muslims form a part of the LGBTQ community in America but their own religious community largely shuns them. This is why mosques need to stop being the insulated spaces they are and become the sanctuaries they are supposed to be for all. If you start accepting others, you are likely to be more invested in their well-being.

I cannot say for certain that if this had already happened, the Orlando attacker would not have done what he did. But I do know that the more you get to be around others who are different, the more chances you have of getting to know, understand, accept them as they are, and most importantly, see your common humanity with them.

The Muslim community is understandably hurt that the attacker was one of them. But I hope that more and more Muslims will realise that a part of the LGBTQ community in America is also a part of their faith community — and they should be just as hurt by who was killed.