Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Of Hate, Guns & Hubris

Orlando Shooter Was Reportedly a Regular at Pulse and Had a Profile on Gay Dating App. This should not be surprising. Many of the hate crimes perpetrated against members of the LGBTQ community involve disturbed individuals who are having difficulty, due to societal pressures, accepting the fact that they might belong to this community as well. But, does that take away from the involvement of other factors as well, in this case, Islamist extremism and the easy access to assault weapons (not to mention steroids and bipolar disease)? I don’t think so.

But while outreach to people with mental problems is hampered by the sheer demographics involved, and countering violent extremism is complicated by a variety of geopolitical considerations, gun control is impeded only by our unwillingness to learn, and by pressures from the NRA. A country that can remain divided on the issue of gun control after so many tragedies have taken place in such short period of time is one that is heading towards a period of serious social instability, despite its status as the world sole superpower, and its role as a defender of democracy. Like all such developments, this one is made inevitable only by our hubris. Hate, guns and hubris are quite the dangerous mix.

But leave it to Samantha Bee to put things in proper perspective

And while we are waiting for more clarity on Orlando attacker and his motivations, I hope this story doesn’t fall off the radar: Man Armed With Assault Rifles, Explosives Intended to Target California Gay Pride Parade, Police Say. The young man’s name is James Wesley Howell, a 20-year old from Indiana, and he was arrested just as the Orlando attack was unfolding. Coincidence or Coordination? If coincidence, then, it’s a reminder so timely it’s divine of how widespread anti-gay sentiments are still at this stage in history, and of how difficult the challenge towards obtaining equal rights for all remains.

As for those who want to ignore the pervasive Islamist dimension in this situation, these videos might help provide some context. The imam in the first is a Shia figure from Iran.

Bilal Qureshi is right to speak of a Muslim silence on gay rights. It’s been deafening so many of us in the human rights community for decades now.

Muslims don't need to apologize for the lives lost in Florida. Not every Muslim is responsible for today's tragic incident. They however need to stop lying that violent Muslims are not Muslims. Instead of coming up with lame excuses whether Hitler was a Muslim or whether Muslims were responsible behind initiating the two world wars and nuking Japan, try identifying the problem. The problem of violent extremism, the problem of growing homophobia in the Muslim world... but since it is difficult to stand up, take responsibility and work for reformation of specific doctrines through counter narratives, therefore people go for something easier which is to simply get away with it by saying "no Muslim can do this" and "terrorism has no religion." The more we stay in denial, the more we will be isolated.

The reason why Dylann Roof, the young white man who murdered nine people in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, was not identified as terrorist is a matter that deserves further analysis. Personally, I believe that the existence of an ideological motivation, to go along with whatever personal motif is involved, makes whatever crime committed worthy of being identified as an act of terrorism. And yes, to me, that does mean that the line between hate crimes and terrorism is imaginary.

Attacks in Dijon, France | 23.12.2014

The Roots of Lone Wolf TerrorismWhy the West's Homegrown Jihadists Are All Sunni.” Andrew L. Peek notes that “Essentially, there is an inverse correlation at work here: the more state support a terrorist group receives, the more limited and geopolitical are its objectives.” This corollary, according to Peek, seems to hold true for Shia terrorist groups supported by Iran, but he hopes that, if Saudi succeeded in getting the various radical Sunni Jihadi groups currently operating in Syria and Iraq to accept its authority, that the corollary will apply to these groups as well.  

The problem in this argument lies in the fact that such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda are really amorphous networks that have accepted multiple sponsorships, including from Iran, despite existing sectarian differences, and are, therefore, ultimately beholden to none. In fact, it is not always clear whether the different groups claiming to be affiliated with ISIS and Al-Qaeda are in fact truly committed to that. As precedents set in Iraq and Syria show, there are units within the networks that seem to be run, if not completely manned, by security agents working for the Assad regime, or even directly for Iranian and even Russian intelligence. As such, acts that might initially appear as Lone Wolf attacks could in fact constitute sophisticated false-flag security operations coming in the service of certain geopolitical interests. Differentiating between the two kinds of operations is important, but is something that various governments including the American and other Western governments, may not want to do publicly for their own geopolitical considerations.   

Finally, and as the Pulse Attack itself indicates the involvement of personal individual factors seem to play a major role in this matter. State sponsorship, therefore, may not be effective here, not unless these states were willing to monitor the mental health of their recruits and to provide mental health benefits, including counselling to those who needed.

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