As the sun set over New York on June 12, hundreds of Muslims gathered in Hudson River Park to break their Ramadan fast together.
Iftar, the evening Ramadan meal, is often a joyous celebration of faith and family. But the mood that Sunday was solemn: That morning, news had broken of the ghastly massacre of LGBTQ revelers at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
A lone Muslim had allegedly perpetrated the attack. Here by the Hudson, over 200 knelt in prayer.
“We’re praying for those who were lost,” one woman explained in a video circulated by the Huffington Post, her voice breaking. “As Muslims, we’re united in our outrage over this senseless act of violence.”
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Last weekend, America regrettably witnessed one of the deadliest mass shootings in the country’s history at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in which 49 people were murdered and over 50 injured. The atrocity was carried out by a fanatic who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, using a civilian semi-automatic rifle, the Sig Sauer MCX. (Early reports that it was an AR-15 were mistaken.)
In the wake of this attack, many people have laid the blame on America’s relatively lax gun laws, arguing that so-called “assault weapons” (more appropriately known as semi-automatic rifles) and high-capacity magazines should be banned from civilian use.
They note that many of the deadliest shootings in American history have involved rifles like the AR-15, and they propose that such rifles should be banned to prevent heinous crimes like the Orlando massacre from occurring in the future.
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The massacre in Florida and latest killings in France are connected to the United States-led assault on the self-declared caliphate.
The carnage in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida on 12 June 2016 is one of the very worst of the so-called ‘lone wolf’ assaults. Though it was certainly an anti-LGBT attack, it is still not clear how much it was inspired by ISIS. That connection is evident in the case of the killing of a police commander and his partner in front of their 3-year-old son, near Paris on 13 June, which has so affected opinion in France.
What is becoming apparent is that ISIS is now fully engaged in encouraging if not instigating attacks across north Africa and western Europe, sometimes extending to north America. This wide-ranging effort comes at a time when the movement is under serious pressure in Iraq and Libya. Some analysts are also concerned with developments only indirectly related to ISIS and al-Qaida. These include an increase in pro-ISIS support in Kosovo and the southern Philippines, the onset of more frequent attacks in Bangladesh and the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.
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Before the blood was cleaned up, the propaganda machine was already in full swing. In this case it’s difficult to tell if it’s intentional or simply ineptitude. For the reader whose been watching the minute-to-minute coverage, which consists of lists of facts with absolutely no context, the picture seems complete. The lack of context is painting an inaccurate portrait. Omar Mateen was not a hardened terrorist from an ISIS-supporting family. He was a perfect example of a radicalized member of the disaffected American-Muslim population. This is the very phenomenon academics, terrorism experts, and the terrorists themselves have been warning about.
The Islamic State’s strategy for the “far enemy”, which is how the US and the western powers are described by the Islamic State, is not to infiltrate. It is to use propaganda to radicalize people already within the United States. The propaganda counts on exploiting those who are prone to violence, weak-minded, despondent, and searching for a sense of belonging.
Omar Mateen wasn’t a militant when he was married or joined a mosque. He was a wanna-be cop and a wife-beater. His social media accounts show him proudly sporting NYPD clothing, an organization he never belonged to. He was employed with G4S, a private security firm known for victimizing Muslims the world over, which is hardly a company a good jihadist would work for. That started to change around 2012 or 2013 when he began expressing sympathies. He was tagged by the FBI and interviewed. He was determined to not be a threat. He is said to have seen a gay couple kissing in Miami. This incident apparently incensed him. He bought his weapons and became a mass-murderer.
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