Americans wreaked in horror once again as a radical Islamic terrorist gunman – who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State Caliph – recently killed and wounded 102 people while they were enjoying ‘Latin Night’ in a popular Orlando, Florida gay night club.
It was the deadliest attack on the lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender (LBGT) community in American history and followed other recent urban terror attacks on innocent civilians by Islamic jihadists in Paris, France; Brussels, Belgium; and San Bernardino, California.
The Orlando jihadist terror attack was launched by a practicing Muslim, Omar Mateen. He was the 29-year-old U.S.-born son of Muslim parents Seddique and Shahla Mateen, who came to the U.S. from Afghanistan around 1980. He regularly attended the Fort Pierce, Florida Islamic Center to pray. For the past nine years he worked as a security guard for G4S – the U.S. subsidiary of one of the world’s largest security firms – where he was authorized to carry a company-issued .38 caliber handgun.
According to FBI Director James Comey, Mateen was previously investigated by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 for allegedly making statements about ties to the al Qaeda and Hezbollah terror groups, but the cases closed. As he slew and wounded innocents at the night club, Mateen alternatively claimed loyalty to the Islamic State’s terrorist leader, solidarity with the Boston Marathon bombers, and a suicide-bomber from Florida who died in Syria while fighting for the al Nusra Front terror group. A night club survivor said he claimed to carry-out the attack because he wanted “Americans to stop bombing his country.” Although he was a ‘home-grown’ American citizen, his loyalties clearly laid elsewhere.
As victims’ families and friends cope with the latest mass murder, U.S. President Barack Obama and his political minions are trying, once again, to turn the terror attack into a political gun control issue rather than focusing on, and combatting, the radical Islamic ideology which caused it. They have, among other things, tried to scrub the perpetrator’s Islamic-related rantings from official phone conversation transcripts; proposed banning Islamic words sharia and jihad from Homeland Security Department programs; and engaged in a congressional sit-in demanding a gun-control vote which violated House rules and disrupted the legislative body.
Mateen’s religion and background notwithstanding, President Obama – born to a Muslim father, raised by a Muslim stepfather, and spending his early years in Indonesia, the most populated Muslim country on the planet – has long-refrained from acknowledging Islam as anything other than a religion of peace. He suggests that using terms like “radical Islam,” “extremist,” or “terrorist” unfairly paints all Muslims, serve as a recruiting tool for extremists, and is a “political distraction.”
CIA Director John Brennan provides a more sober view on the threat than President Obama. In recent congressional testimony, he informed Congress that the Islamic State has a “large cadre of Western fighters (like the Orlando terrorist)” that could attack in the U.S. and its terror threat remains as dangerous as ever, despite efforts to crush it militarily.
Contextually, the Pew Research Center reports there are some 1.6 billion Muslims representing 23 percent of the total global human population, with Muslims comprising the majority in 49 countries. The United States has about 3.4 million Muslims, worshipping and being educated at about 2,600 mosques and Islamic schools. FBI Director Comey stated his agency has ongoing investigations into the Islamic State’s radicalization of Muslim men in all 50 states. It is unknown how many Muslims have been radicalized or are sympathetic to groups like the Islamic State.
What is known is that, globally, Muslims are currently involved in more terrorist activity and have criminalized and penalized LBGT behavior with persecution, death, and imprisonment more than any other group. For example:
- The U.S. State Department Annual Report on Terrorism lists 59 Foreign Terrorist Organizations which, among other things, are deemed to threaten U.S. citizens and U.S. national security. 44 of them (75 percent) are Islamic groups in Muslim countries – including al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the Islamic State – which the Orlando jihadist mentioned in his various rants.
- The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA) Report on State-Sponsored Homophobia – used by the United Nations and U.S. State Department – identifies 38 Muslim-majority nations, or areas controlled by Islamic terror groups, where LBGT behavior is considered a crime punishable by the death penalty (e.g., hanging, beheading, stoning, or thrown from rooftops) or imprisonment. Ironically, government officials in some Muslim majority countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan quickly condemned the Orlando massacre even though their governments legally mandate the death penalty for LBGT behavior.
- A Pew Research Center survey of Muslims in 36 countries disclosed that they overwhelmingly considered homosexual behavior morally wrong, including three-quarters or more in 33 of the countries. The late Taher Jaber al-Alwani – a highly trained, greatly respected, mainstream Muslim international authority on Islamic Law – issued a June 2003 “fatwa” making plain that homosexuality is a “moral atrocity” punishable by death in the corporeal world, and eternal torment in the hereafter.
The U.S. President’s most important job is to keep U.S. citizens safe from domestic and foreign threats. A few, not all, actions President Obama can take to educate the American public and counter radical Islamic threats at home and abroad follow.
One, acknowledge that the vast majority of global terror attacks emanate from countries with Muslim-majority populations, and from individuals and groups within Islam who become radicalized.
Two, explain the difference between an Islamist and jihadist. An Islamist is any Muslim who wants to impose and enforce Sharia law, whether by violent or non-violent means. A jihadist (holy warrior) is an Islamic terrorist.
Three, explain that Sharia law (religious legal system governing Islam adherents and derived from Quran and Hadith precepts) is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution. Among other things, it totally subordinates women and mandates many other human rights violations, such as dispensing cruel and unusual punishment on those engaging in LBGT behavior.
Four, direct Federal agencies – like the CIA, FBI, NSA, State Department, Homeland Security Department, and Defense Department – to reincorporate radical Islamic awareness into training curriculums, and proactively mitigate threats whenever actionable intelligence deems it necessary. Unfortunately, that type of training, essential for keeping Americans safe, has been gradually phased out during the Bush and Obama administrations.
Five, convene a meeting with American officials and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (association of 56 Islamic nations and Palestinian territories) leaders asking for their assistance in eliminating the Islamic-bred terrorism and bigotry existing in their countries and communities, and promising consequences if it is not forthcoming.
In his final months in office, President Obama still has a chance to reverse the rising threat of radical Islamic extremism threatening humanity. The president’s strategic patience and politically-motivated focus on gun control in fighting an enemy which has little regard for human life or who will use any type of non-gun weapon to achieve objectives clearly hasn’t worked. And maintaining the same approaches and strategies will likely lead to more urban terror attacks like those witnessed in Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino, and Orlando. Let’s hope he listens to the cries of the survivors and families of those who suffered at the hands of radical Islamic extremism and changes course before more innocent lives are needlessly lost.
Fred Gedrich is a foreign policy and national security analyst. He served in the U.S. departments of State and Defense.