Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Orlando: A New Stain on the Conscience of the Muslim World

Orlando: A New Stain on the Conscience of the Muslim World

  • Ahmed Charai
  • June 16, 2016
  • Middle East Program
  • Center for the Study of Terrorism

The murder of forty-nine and wounding of fifty-three at an Orlando, Florida night club last week is a new stain on the conscience of the Muslim world.

It has not been particularly common to say so since the tragedy. Condolences have poured in from around the world, including Muslim countries and their ambassadors to Washington. But they mostly avoided mention of religion at all—aside from the occasional, ritualized assertion that the killer had “nothing to do with Islam.” The fact that the killer, an American citizen of the Muslim faith and Afghani ethnic origin, claimed to have committed the attack in the name of ISIS has been well reported. So has the possible grand-jury indictment of his wife, also Muslim, on charges of knowing about his plans without alerting police—and perhaps even serving as an accomplice. But in American media coverage, there has been a tendency to deemphasize discussions of Islam per se, due to a combination of valid social concerns and competing political agendas.

Among the valid concerns is of course the safety and security of the American Muslim community. “Islamophobia,” at one time a politically loaded theory advanced by pressure groups, is now a social reality, provoked by international terrorism and stoked by domestic jingoism.

As to the competing political agendas, they include the rivalry in a presidential campaign, the debate over gun violence and gun ownership in the United States, and the historic struggle of the LGBT community to achieve their due civil rights and freedom from violence. The assailant, Omar Mateen, may well have been a closet homosexual suffering from that acute and dangerous form of homophobia which stems from self-loathing. And indeed, it would have been more difficult to carry out the attack had more stringent laws complicated the purchase of his weapons and munitions. His complex identity and motives speak to the complex pathology of terrorism, which always involves a mixture of personal, communal, political and ideological factors. The debate over gun laws speaks to a crucial aspect of the problem as well, which is the need to combat the means of perpetration.

And yet, religion—beyond even religious-political ideology—remains the only common denominator that has…

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