Saturday, June 18, 2016

Orlando Shooting: Is US Gun Lobby Empowering Terrorists?

Yet another tragic mass shooting in America--this time in an Orlando gay night club with the heaviest recorded death toll in a mass shooting in American history. The culprit: Omar Mateen, a young AR-15 high-powered assault-rifle-wielding American-born Muslim reportedly self-radicalized remotely by ISIS via the Internet.

Could the Orlando night club tragedy have been prevented if America had fewer Muslims, as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggests? Would the results have been less tragic with smaller death toll if America had stricter gun-control laws, as President Obama argues? To answer these questions, let's consider the following excerpt from a recent New York Time column written by Nicholas Kristof:

"Over the last two decades, Canada has had eight mass shootings. Just so far this month, the United States has already had 20........Could it be, as Donald Trump suggests, that the peril comes from admitting Muslims? On the contrary, Canadians are safe despite having been far more hospitable to Muslim refugees: Canada has admitted more than 27,000 Syrian refugees since November, some 10 times the number the United States has.......More broadly, Canada’s population is 3.2 percent Muslim, while the United States is about 1 percent Muslim — yet Canada doesn’t have massacres like the one we just experienced at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., or the one in December in San Bernardino, Calif. So perhaps the problem isn’t so much Muslims out of control but guns out of control."

Source: New York Times

Although the Orlando shooting is the deadliest to date, it is one in top 5 mass shootings in America. The other four were carried out by non-Muslim shooters. One thing common among these mass shootings is that each of these involved the use of the AR-15 automatic assault rifle that was designed for use by the US military in Vietnam war to kill a large number of people quickly. 

A third of the world's 15 deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the United States. Orlando shooting with 49 dead ranks third in the world on this list. The world's deadliest mass shooting was carried out by a Norwegian named Anders Behring Breivik who is not a Muslim. To the contrary, Breivik was motivated by hatred of Muslims and Islam

Source: New York Times

It appears that the Norwegian white supremacist terror suspect Anders Behring Breivik's manifesto against the "Islamization of Western Europe" was heavily influenced by the kind of anti-Muslim rhetoric that is typical of the Nazi-loving Hindu Nationalists like late Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar (1906-1973), and his present-day Sangh Parivar followers and sympathizers in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who currently rule India. This Hindutva rhetoric which infected Breivik has been spreading like a virus on the Internet, particularly on many of the well-known Islamophobic hate sites that have sprouted up in Europe and America in recent years. In fact, much of the Breivik manifesto is cut-and-pastes of anti-Muslim blog posts and columns that validated his worldview.

After the Oregon mass shooting in October 2015, President Barack H. Obama finally asked the questions that many American Muslim victims of Islamophobia have been asking for a long time: How many Americans have been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade?  And how many Americans have died in gun violence.

Here's the exact quote from Obama's speech after mass shooting in rural Oregon:

“I would ask news organizations – because I won’t put these facts forward – have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who’ve been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence, and post those side-by-side on your news reports. This won’t be information coming from me; it will be coming from you. “We spend over a trillion dollars, and pass countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so. And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?”

The President's question got the media attention. CNN, among others, compiled the data and put the following graph on its website:

Sources: CDC and US Security Officials Via CNN

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 316,545 people deaths by firearms on U.S. soil from 2004 to 2013. This figure is 1000 times higher than the total deaths of 313 Americans by terrorism at home and abroad in the same period.

Aided by the gun lobby and its conservative supporters, anti-terrorism and Islamophobia have emerged as major new US industries in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 911. Anti-terror industry is worth trillions of dollars. Islamophobia industry, estimated at $200 million, reinforces and promotes the fear of Islam and Muslims for its own gains. With their entrenched vested interests, the growth of these industries has served to distract attention from the 1000X bigger problem of gun violence. The National Rife Association, also know as the gun lobby, has taken full advantage of the situation by buying out the majority of US Congress which opposes even most modest gun safety regulations.

In addition to distracting Americans' attention from growing gun violence, increased spending on Islamophobia is having a significant impact on Americans' perception of Muslim Americans. Results differ by political party, with the majority of Republicans holding negative views of both Arab-Americans and Muslims. Democrats gave Arab-Americans a 30 percent unfavorable rating and Muslim-Americans a 33 percent unfavorable rating, while Republicans gave Arab-Americans a 54 percent unfavorable rating and Muslim-Americans a 63 percent unfavorable rating, according to public opinion survey conducted by Zogby Analytics.

I'm glad to see President Obama finally highlighting the issue of gun violence as the biggest public safety issue in America, far bigger than the issue of terrorism. I hope the President will continue to use his bully pulpit to highlight the problem of gun violence and persuade Americans to not vote for those to US Congress who oppose gun control legislation. I also hope that other individuals, organizations and the mass media will support Mr. Obama's campaign to bring about a sea change in American thinking about gun rights.

 Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Anders Breivik Inspired by Hindutva Rhetoric

Trump's Dog-Whistle Politics of Islamophobia & Racism

Silicon Valley Stands Against Islamophobia

US Gun Violence 

Money is Free Speech in America

King's Hypocrisy

FBI Entrapping Young Muslims

Saudi Prince Funding Hate in America


Riaz Haq said...

Mohammad Malik: "I reported #Orlando shooter Omar Mateen to #FBI. #Trump is wrong that #Muslims don’t do our part."

Donald Trump believes American Muslims are hiding something. “They know what’s going on. They know that [Omar Mateen] was bad,” he said after the Orlando massacre. “They have to cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad. … But you know what? They didn’t turn them in. And you know what? We had death and destruction.”

This is a common idea in the United States. It’s also a lie. First, Muslims like me can’t see into the hearts of other worshipers. (Do you know the hidden depths of everyone in your community?) Second, Trump is wrong that we don’t speak up when we’re able.

I know this firsthand: I was the one who told the FBI about Omar Mateen.

I met Omar for the first time in 2006 at an iftar meal at my brother-in-law’s house. As the women, including his mother and sisters, chatted in the living room, I sat with the men on the patio and got to know him and his father. Omar broke his Ramadan fast with a protein shake. He was quiet — then and always — and let his dad do the talking.

as news reports this week have made clear, Omar did have a dark outlook on life. Partly, he was upset at what he saw as racism in the United States – against Muslims and others. When he worked as a security guard at the St. Lucie County Courthouse, he told me visitors often made nasty or bigoted remarks to him about Islam. He overheard people saying ugly things about African Americans, too. Since Sept. 11, I’ve thought the only way to answer Islamophobia was to be polite and kind; the best way to counter all the negativity people were seeing on TV about Islam was by showing them the opposite. I urged Omar to volunteer and help people in need – Muslim or otherwise (charity is a pillar of Islam). He agreed, but was always very worked up about this injustice.

[Trump’s new favorite slogan was invented for Nazi sympathizers.]

Then, during the summer of 2014, something traumatic happened for our community. A boy from our local mosque, Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, was 22 when he became the first American-born suicide bomber, driving a truck full of explosives into a government office in Syria. He’d traveled there and joined a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, the previous year. We had all known Moner; he was jovial and easygoing, the opposite of Omar. According to a posthumous video released that summer, he had clearly self-radicalized – and had also done so by listening to the lectures of Anwar al-Awlaki, the charismatic Yemen-based imam who helped radicalize several Muslims, including the Fort Hood shooter. Everyone in the area was shocked and upset. We hate violence and were horrified that one of our number could have killed so many. (After an earlier training mission to Syria, he’d tried to recruit a few Florida friends to the cause. They told the FBI about him.)

Immediately after Moner’s attack, news reports said that American officials didn’t know anything about him; I read that they were looking for people to give them some background. So I called the FBI and offered to tell investigators a bit about the young man. It wasn’t much – we hadn’t been close – but I’m an American Muslim, and I wanted to do my part. I didn’t want another act like that to happen. I didn’t want more innocent people to die. Agents asked me if there were any other local kids who might resort to violence in the name of Islam. No names sprang to mind.

After my talk with the FBI, I spoke to people in the Islamic community, including Omar, about Moner’s attack. I wondered how he could have radicalized. Both Omar and I attended the same mosque as Moner, and the imam never taught hate or radicalism. That’s when Omar told me he had been watching videos of Awlaki, too, which immediately raised red flags for me. He told me the videos were very powerful.

Riaz Haq said...

Funding #Islamophobia : $206m went to promoting 'hatred' agaist #American #Muslims, report finds. #Trump

Council on American-Islamic Relations and University of California Berkeley report names 74 groups they say contributed to Islamophobia in the US

Inciting hate toward American Muslims and Islam has become a multimillion-dollar business, according to a report released on Monday.

Released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) and University of California Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender, the report names 74 groups it says contribute in some way to Islamophobia in the US. Of those groups, it says, the primary purpose of 33 “is to promote prejudice against, or hatred of, Islam and Muslims”.

The core group, which includes the Abstraction Fund, Clarion Project, David Horowitz Freedom Center, Middle East Forum, American Freedom Law Center, Center for Security Policy, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Jihad Watch and Act! for America, had access to almost $206m of funding between 2008 and 2013, the report said.

Corey Saylor, author of the report and director of Cair’s department to monitor and combat Islamophobia, said: “The hate that these groups are funding and inciting is having real consequences like attacks on mosques all over the country and new laws discriminating against Muslims in America.”

Saylor added that the Washington-based Center for Security Policy and Act! for America have the most impact, because they are trying to push their anti-Muslim rhetoric beyond their formerly fringe following.

Two groups on the list, the Center for Security Policy and the David Horowitz Freedom Center, have given awards of recognition to Jeff Sessions, a US senator from Alabama who chairs Trump’s national security advisory committee and is a possible vice-presidential pick.

On Monday, the headline on the David Horowitz Freedom Center website was “Muslim privilege killed 49 people in Orlando”, a reference to the mass shooting on 12 June in an Orlando LGBT nightclub by Omar Mateen, a Muslim American from Port St Lucie, Florida.

Two other Trump foreign policy advisers have ties to groups named in the Cair-UCB report. The Center for Security Policy lists Joseph Schmitz as a senior fellow; Walid Phares reportedly served on the board of Act! for America.

The Guardian contacted Brigitte Gabriel, the founder of Act! for America, and the Center for Security Policy, which is led by Frank Gaffney, who advised Ted Cruz on national security during the Texas senator’s presidential campaign. Neither group responded immediately.

The Trump campaign and Sessions’ Senate office also did not respond to requests for comment.

Act! for America Education runs the Thin Blue Line Project, a password-protected database of information about Muslim communities in the US. According to the group’s website, the project “provides educational and informational content about issues relating to national security and terrorism and how the call to Jihad is accelerating homegrown terrorism”.
In a 2 June article, Stephen Piggott of the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that the Thin Blue Line Project’s key component is a “Radicalization Map Locator … which lists the addresses of every Muslim Student Association (MSA) in the country as well as a number of mosques and Islamic institutions – all listed as suspected national security concerns”.

The Cair-UCB report also tracks anti-Islam bills, which it says have become law in 10 states, and 78 recorded incidents in 2015 in which mosques were targeted. Saylor said this was the highest yearly number of attacks on mosques since Cair started tracking in 2009.

Rakesh said...

All Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslim!!

Riaz Haq said...

Rakesh: "All Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslim!!"

It's true if you define acts of violence committed only by Muslims as "terrorism" AND exclude violence by non-Muslims from the definition as is often the case these days. For example, more than 90% of mass shootings are done by white men but these perpetrators are not called terrorists and their murder and mayhem not defined as terrorism.

Also read the following:

Overwhelmingly, those who have committed terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe aren’t Muslims. Let’s give that a moment to sink in.
Now, it’s not your fault if you aren’t aware of that fact. You can blame the media. (Yes, Sarah Palin and I actually agree on one thing: The mainstream media sucks.)
So here are some statistics for those interested. Let’s start with Europe. Want to guess what percent of the terrorist attacks there were committed by Muslims over the past five years? Wrong. That is, unless you said less than 2 percent.
As Europol, the European Union’s law-enforcement agency, noted in its report released last year, the vast majority of terror attacks in Europe were perpetrated by separatist groups. For example, in 2013, there were 152 terror attacks in Europe. Only two of them were “religiously motivated,” while 84 were predicated upon ethno-nationalist or separatist beliefs.
We are talking about groups like France’s FLNC, which advocates an independent nation for the island of Corsica. In December 2013, FLNC terrorists carried out simultaneous rocket attacks against police stations in two French cities. And in Greece in late 2013, the left-wing Militant Popular Revolutionary Forces shot and killed two members of the right-wing political party Golden Dawn. While over in Italy, the anarchist group FAI engaged in numerous terror attacks including sending a bomb to a journalist. And the list goes on and on.
Have you heard of these incidents? Probably not. But if Muslims had committed them do you think you our media would’ve covered it? No need to answer, that’s a rhetorical question.

Even after one of the worst terror attacks ever in Europe in 2011, when Anders Breivik slaughtered 77 people in Norway to further his anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and pro-“Christian Europe” agenda as he stated in his manifesto, how much press did we see in the United States? Yes, it was covered, but not the way we see when a Muslim terrorist is involved. Plus we didn’t see terrorism experts fill the cable news sphere asking how we can stop future Christian terrorists. In fact, even the suggestion that Breivik was a “Christian terrorist” was met with outrage by many, including Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.
Have you heard about the Buddhist terrorists? Well, extremist Buddhists have killed many Muslim civilians in Burma, and just a few months ago in Sri Lanka, some went on a violent rampage burning down Muslim homes and businesses and slaughtering four Muslims.
Or what about the (dare I mention them) Jewish terrorists? Per the 2013 State Department’s report on terrorism, there were 399 acts of terror committed by Israeli settlers in what are known as “price tag” attacks. These Jewish terrorists attacked Palestinian civilians causing physical injuries to 93 of them and also vandalized scores of mosques and Christian churches.

Back in the United States, the percentage of terror attacks committed by Muslims is almost as miniscule as in Europe. An FBI study looking at terrorism committed on U.S. soil between 1980 and 2005 found that 94 percent of the terror attacks were committed by non-Muslims. In actuality, 42 percent of terror attacks were carried out by Latino-related groups, followed by 24 percent perpetrated by extreme left-wing actors.

Riaz Haq said...

Stats Show #whitesupremacy is a Bigger Threat to #America Than Radical #Muslims. #Trump #terrorism … via @YahooNews

Despite what Donald Trump and many other politicians have told you, the major threat to America isn’t Muslim extremism. In fact, statistics show that the real danger lies with domestic extremists who aren’t of the Muslim faith.

The New York Times reported back in June that since Sept. 11, 2001, almost twice as many people have died at the hands of white supremacists and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims. Using data compiled by New America, a Washington Research center, a study found that 48 people have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim—including the mass killings in Charleston, S.C.—compared to the 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists. However, this does not factor in yesterday’s tragic shooting or less publicized incidents like the Las Vegas couple who murdered two police officers and left a Swastika on one of the bodies.

These stats reveal a vast difference between public perception and the number of actual cases in which Muslim extremists have claimed American lives. So why aren’t more people outraged about domestic terrorists? Because then we’d have to admit that white supremacy is still a problem.

While the public hasn't quite caught on yet, scholars say that the issue needs to be addressed. “There’s an acceptance now of the idea that the threat from jihadi terrorism in the United States has been overblown,” Dr. John G. Horgan, who studies terrorism at the University of Massachusetts said. “And there’s a belief that the threat of right-wing, antigovernment violence has been underestimated.”

That’s an understatement.