Was it gun culture, homophobia or radical Islam that caused Orlando massacre?

In the wake of the violent extremist homophobic terror attack in Orlando LGBT nightclub, the Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has made a new push for ‘Gun Control Measures’ seconded by a considerable number of American liberals. In her speech on the Orlando massacre in Cleveland, she averred that ‘gun control is the only way to hinder terrorists from getting the tools they use to carry out terror attacks’. Terming the guns used in Orlando and San Bernardino as “weapons of war”, she stressed the need to close loopholes that allow firearms to be sold online and at gun shows without background checks.

The ‘gun culture’ underpinned by a nefarious ideology has been playing havoc in the spate of terrorist atrocities from Brussels, Paris, Pathankot to San Bernardino and lately in Orlando’s LGBT nightclub. The obnoxious act of violent extremism in Florida, as anywhere else in the world, is not just a law and order problem. Neither it is practically expedient to paint it as a political incident. The ‘gun culture’ coupled with an exclusivist, retrogressive and chauvinistic ideology is the actual stimulus for the extremist zealots to go haywire. Emanating from the medieval era’s warring cults in West Asia to the modern American and European nations engaged in the ‘war on terror’, the role of this intolerant, xenophobic ideology cannot be overlooked. Therefore, it is essential for the world governments to stop the extremists and potential terrorists from getting the ‘guns’ they need to peddle their inherent hatred, be it ‘faith-inspired’ or otherwise.

 Was it gun culture, homophobia or radical Islam that caused Orlando massacre?

People hold a vigil after the Orlando shooting. Reuters

In an academically vigorous effort to debunk the common misconceptions about the ‘gun culture’ and the mentality of mass shootings in the USA, the noted criminologist Frederic Lemieux reviewed current researches in this context. As a criminologist, his study conducted on the mass shootings in the US is worth deliberating. It indicated that although the frequent mass shootings are not confined to America, as numerous mass shootings took place in other developed nations between 1983 and 2013, but the US witnessed the biggest number of mass shootings.

It is a common knowledge now that the ghastly mass shooting of Orlando has been recorded as ‘the deadliest use of gun in the most brutal manner’ in the US history. It has struck the entire heritage of peace and pluralism in the country. As the American civilians continue to howl in pain and distress, the most grieving part of the story is that the long-built moderate position of America as a “melting pot” is on the verge of destruction. The common Americans deeply wonder that the country’s plurality might lose its credibility with such wanton killings and mindless mass shootings occurring repeatedly for decades.

According to many American criminologists and counter-terrorism experts, one of the vital factors in the Orlando mass shooting was that Florida puts few restrictions on gun ownership, compared to other states. Going by the state scorecard annually issued by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Florida is ranked 25th in terms of gun law environment score.

Ziming Xuan, a noted American academician recently led a study of state gun laws and gun-carrying young people in the US. He explored that the states without background checks requirement had greater chances of mass shootings as compared to the states that require background checks for all handgun sales. “States with more restrictive gun laws tend to have lower level of gun ownership, lower gun-related nonfatal injuries and lower gun-related fatalities including homicide and suicide”. He contended that the less restrictive state gun laws in Florida made it easy for the shooter to get an assault-style weapon. Clearly, this analysis corroborates Clinton’s recent statement.

Apart from the gun-related factor, many other causes were behind the shooting in Orlando. Many analysists including the US President Obama himself has called it ‘an evident example of the homegrown terrorism’. But the choice of guns used in this mass killing makes it patently clear that the attack was pre-planned and well-thought-out. It was not simply a homophobic and hate-filled assault. Rather, it was motivated by an entirely lethal ideology exhorting that anyone who commits the ‘grave sins’ like alternative sexual behaviour must not be spared to survive as a member of the society.

This is patently clear from an article entitled "Kill the Imams of Kufr (disbelief) in the West" published in the online English-language magazine, Dabiq (April - May 2016). In this article, a jihadist ideologue blatantly writes addressing the misguided Muslim youth living in the western countries: "….wage jihad by yourselves with the resources available to you: guns, explosives and even knives, and kill the crusaders and other disbelievers and apostates”. “If they [note that ‘apostates’ also includes lesbians, gays and bisexuals etc] are not sentenced to death by the ruling authorities, their throats may be slit by anyone who has perfect faith and righteous character”.

The above brutal ideology of hate was on the rampage in Orlando’s nightclub which resulted into gunning down the people with alternative sexual behaviour in the most vicious manner. Regrettably, the less restrictive state gun laws in Florida made it easy for the homophobic and wife-beater butcher of Orlando, Omar Mateen to get an assault-style weapon.

Even more surprisingly, the former senior imam of the K’abah, the Grand Mosque of Mecca and the holiest site in Islam, Sheikh Adel al-Kilbani has asserted in his televised interview that “IS ideology comes from our own books, our own principles; we follow the same thought—Salafism”. He even dismissed the prevailing cliché that ‘IS is creature of the American intelligence agencies’ and went on saying that “the ideology behind IS is the Salafist thought that many Muslims follow, but the only disagreement is with the way in which that ideology is acted out from a public relations perspective”.

As discussed above, the age-old pluralistic history of America positioning it as a “melting pot” in the world is the worst hit in Orlando terror attack. US has long been known as a bastion of peace and pluralism, welcoming all faith traditions, myriad cultures, different races and ethnicities. People from different nations turn up in this multi-cultural country in high hope to land up lucrative jobs, while enjoying religious freedom, socio-cultural liberty and a better and free lifestyle.

But the current spate of violent atrocities and anti-pluralism strikes frequently shattering the US image, its pluralistic historicity and sanctity of its democratic legacy is more antithetical to the ‘religious immigrants’. Mainstream Muslims, not the Radical Islamists, are going to suffer an irreparable damage, especially at a time when the Republican politicians like Donald Trump are on the lookout for fanning the fire of Islamophobia. Nevertheless, the ‘blackout ban’ on Muslims and other religious minorities will only strengthen the hand of radical jihadists and extremist elements in the US as well as in the wider world. At the same time, it will endanger the life and career the law-abiding American Muslims. At this juncture, we are reminded of what Barack Obama has explained in his latest statement: "….there's no magic to the phrase radical Islam. It's a political talking point… Groups like ISIL and al-Qaeda want to make this war a war between Islam and America or between Islam and the west. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions. That they speak for Islam. That's their propaganda. That's how they recruit…. And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion, then we are doing the terrorist's work for them."

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Updated Date: Jun 15, 2016 09:39:38 IST