Dilip Chaware, US
Orlando shooter Omar Mateen has shaken up politics in the United States in particular and western world in general never before. In response, Shares in America’s largest gun manufacturers jumped after the Orlando massacre in anticipation of a rush to buy weapons ahead of a possible crackdown on firearms ownership. In another reaction, fire broke out at the entrance to the Islamic Center of Palm Springs, while a small number of members were engaged in prayer and the incident is being investigated as a hate crime. The reactions by possible presidential candidates also reflect on the state of mindset in the Western world over growing threat of radical version of Islam. While Trump symbolises growing fear of ‘Islamic Threat’ among Anglo-Saxon civilisation, the response of Democratic leadership is a typical ‘liberal’ response of throwing the real issue under carpet by rejecting it as a mere ‘phobia’. Both these approaches are nothing but the root cause of the chain reaction. As this chain reaction is not happening in isolation and spreading over large parts of the Western world, time is ripe to analyse and understand this phenomenon factually, which has radically shifted the political discourse in the West.
While Mateen has left no doubt about the kind of message he wished to send, the two camps created over the perceived fear of Islamisation of the West, particularly in the US and the UK, are slugging it out, warning each other of the probable repercussions of their respective stands. Howsoever, one views the dastardly act of Mateen, it is clear that he was an ‘Islamic radical’. The massacre he wreaked was an act of terrorism. It is not possible at this stage to comment on his exact connection (or not) with ISIS or other extremist groups. Even if he was a lone wolf, that will not diminish the gravity of his crime against humanity.
Unlike in Bharat, commentators in the US and UK are blunt in expressing their views. They do not sugarcoat their statements, neither deny them if proved inconvenient. Equally important is the fact that such commentators are not dubbed as ‘communal, retrograde or reactionary’ just because they speak in favour of the majority community or condemn acts of terrorism, irrespective of the religion of the perpetrator. Such has been the tradition till now. But the Orlando shooting has threatened to damage this liberal fabric. People expressing their stands are perforce compelled to take sides.
The tragedy has posed the perpetual question: What was first – the egg or the chicken. Who to blame in this situation? The killer or the US Second Amendment that allows people to buy and hold firearms freely. The so-called Gun Lobby in the US is considered quite powerful and has traditionally stayed, by and large, with the Republican thinking. At the other end is the anti-Gun Lobby, which is supported by Democrats, so-called Liberals and Leftists. The Orlando shooting will doubtlessly prompt thinkers to have a fresh look at the amorphous relationship between Islam and the Left. Analyses, allegations and innuendos to suggest that the two are connected are abundant. The easy availability of guns in America has thus opened a new dimension to the present furore over the mindless violence against homosexuals and their kind.
The stands taken by President Barack Obama, Democratic presumptive candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump are at the heart of the furious debate that has been unleashed by the terrorist killing. One side claims that since there is abundant evidence to prove that what happened in Orlando was an act of the home-grown Islamisation, how one can blame any other factors for the massacre.
This camp argues that whenever there is a mass shooting in the US, the motivation for the killings is ignored and only the Second Amendment is blamed. The stock argument is: If people didn’t have guns, there could be peace. The familiar pattern followed after Orlando as President Obama, Hillary Clinton and others called for immediate ban on sell of guns. The fact Mateen was on a FBI terror watch list provided fodder to the fire.
Along with the familiar fracas over firearm ownership initiated the blame game on homophobia. Some right-wing Christian preachers were blamed for creating a hate wave against gays. It was inferred that this must have led to the massacre. Some recalled a history of domestic attacks against gays and their places of meeting and the subsequent police raids on gay nightclubs a half a century ago. There was no shortage of experts, who tried to find some vague socio-cultural connection between the attack and the religion of the killer.
The ‘Left’ responded to this tragedy on expected lines. But it was hardly surprising. Many in America abhor the word ‘Islam’ and in view of political correctness, care is taken not to say anything against them. So much so that President Obama had to clarify himself, on June 14, that there was nothing deliberate in not saying ‘Radical Islam’ in his statement in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting. History will show that Democrats shun the usage for obvious reason, according to several analysts. Many of them have documented how the self-proclaimed ‘Progressives’ enlighten the public on how ISIS is not ‘Islamic’ in the given sense of the term and blame White supremacists for every Jihadi strike.
This was seen when some such advocates warned against the haste to “politicise” the terror attack but refrained from condemning the font of terrorism. Neither could they offer any guidance on how to prevent any such future attacks. They refused to see any link in the killings by Mateen, the massacres in Paris, San Bernardino and Brussels. They put blame on everything else, from guns to religious freedom, but not terrorism.
A number of experts have warned Americans to be prepared for grim reality that attacks like Orlando will probably become a more common occurrence. The experts say that misleading and radicalising the youth in a short time is now easily possible due to the internet. Many people in the US avoid speaking against suspicious behaviour in their neighbourhood fearing that they will be charged with engaging in racial profiling. It must not be overlooked that this happened in San Bernardino when the terrorists’ neighbours did not report. Now there are allegations that Mateen’s security company did not sack him in spite of his threatening behaviour, fearing of charges of religious discrimination. However, more details in this regard as yet are not available.
President Obama has been urged by many to utilise his remaining seven more months in office to provide the country with an effective and robust new strategy. He responded on June 4 by reiterating that the country’s enemies will be dealt with ruthlessly. He, however, deplored the tendency to attach motives for his use of certain words or lack of them in his initial reaction. He reaffirmed the stand to impose a strict gun control but the possibility of that happening appears receded, for the time being at least.
The West so far has failed to stem the rising tide of Islamic terrorism. The number of terror victims around the world has increased manifold. The multiple waves of displaced persons have been trying to enter Europe from the West Asia and Africa, carefully avoiding any Islamic country in the quest of their new home.
America is at a crossroads now. Its leadership, present and future, will have to candidly discuss about its future course of action. Republicans and Democrats will have to sit together to hammer a plan of action, which is just and fair to American people first. Policy imperatives will have to be identified and implemented to sternly handle the jihadist terrorism as the common man is now expressing apprehensions about his safety and security. It is high time some bold decisions should be taken.
While President Obama and Hillary Clinton spoke in guarded terms, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump did not mince his words while attacking the Orlando shooting. Trump, disregarding the impact of his words, said the US has to start telling the truth about Islam. He again spelt out his plans to stop Muslim immigration until a proper screening process was put in place.
Trump said that political correctness is killing this country and “if we don't get tough… smart… and fast, we're not going to have a country anymore—there will be absolutely nothing left.” Trump spoke about the killer’s Afghan parents who immigrated to the US, that the father reportedly supported the Afghan Taliban, and once ran for president in the country. “The bottom line is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here,” Trump said. “That is a fact, and it’s a fact we need to talk about.”
Trump’s call for a ban on Muslim integration after the San Bernardino terrorist attack was met with “great scorn and anger,” the presumptive Republican nominee said. “But now, many are saying I was right to do so.” He also openly declared his policy statement that “When I am elected, I will suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we understand how to end these threats,” he said.
These two perspectives clearly depict the dilemma Western world is going through. They propagated the ‘liberal democratic’ values which stand for human rights and giving financial support to refugees. The fear on the other hand is, the same stock of refugees is using camps to spread the radical ideas and generate threat to the ‘liberal democratic’ fabric. With the spread of internet, this phenomenon is growing in the US and Europe. As first proponent of understanding and addressing the ‘Islamic threat’, Daniel Pipes explains in the West Asia Quarterly, “TheReligionOfPeace.com counts 20,000 assaults in the name of Islam since 9/11. The establishment denies that Islamism—a form of Islam that seeks to make Muslims dominant through an extreme, totalistic, and rigid application of Islamic law, the Sharia—represents the leading global cause of terrorism when it so clearly does. Islamism reverts to medieval norms in its aspiration to create a caliphate that rules humanity. “Islam is the solution” summarises its doctrine. Islam's public law can be summarised as elevating Muslim over non-Muslim, male over female, and endorsing the use of force to spread Muslim rule. In recent decades, Islamists (the adherents of this vision of Islam) have established an unparalleled record of terrorism.”
This clearly suggests that though there is nothing called uniform Islamism, the roots of extremist and monolithic thinking can be found in the radical version of Islam. The Western world used this version to counter the communists but now the same radicals are playing the ‘victimhood’ card by propagating the ideology of ‘terror’. As the common masses are experiencing this emanating threat in their day to day life, whether the Western world is ready to accept the challenge of taking on this monster created by them while carefully handling the sentiments of ‘moderate’ versions within Islam is the real question. Perhaps, Indianised version of Islam can guide in this endeavour.
Orlando Influences Brexit
While the US is in turmoil, the scenario in the UK is becoming murkier by the day. The polling on June 23 on whether to stay in the EU or walk out will have international impact since the main issue is now the entry of Turkey into the EU and what happens if its Muslim population decides to migrate to EU members. Although Prime Minister David Cameron has tried to clarify that such a possibility is not imminent at all, the “Leave EU” camp is forcefully highlithting the perceived danger.
Though there are many issues at stake in this vote, the most emotional question is regarding the future demographic complexion of Britain in particular and Europe in general. The result of the vote, popularly called a referendum, will be felt on the contest between Europe and the Islam, many Britons feel.
Most of the supporters of the political right feel that leaving the EU will benefit the Western resistance of Islam. The popular view is that the EU currently favours large-scale legal immigration from the third world but does not seem to be willing tostop unbridled illegal immigration from the third world into Europe.
In the first ten months of 2015, at least 1.5 million illegal immigrants have been estimated to have entered the EU, most of them from Muslim countries, especially like Syria, Eritrea, Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2014, the number of such illegal entracts was around only 2.75 lakh. This sudden spurt continues to be unabated in 2016 as well.
Population experts point out that if this continues for a decade, the demographic face of Europe will have changed totally. The Muslim population will rise to an unprecedented proportion. The experts regret that the leaders of the EU have paid no heed to this concern. Instead, the EU has been passing legislations to permit massive asylum quotas in all member states. Leaders like Angela Merkel, David Cameron and Francois Hollande have remained mute spectators to this development owing to the dominance of the combined European purse. The EU looks, potentially ruinous as far as Islam and immigration are concerned, accordint to them.
A strong lobby has been cautioning that staying in will weaken British resistance to Islam. The ‘Leave EU’ camp says that Brexit (Britain’s Exit) will reduce the amount of immigration to the UK. But this bitter truth has another face, too. If Britain stays in the EU, it will mean that most of the immigration into UK will be mostly White and Christian since it will comprise Poles, Bulgarians, Romanians and Slovenes. This will be preferable to welcoming Pakistanis, Iranians, Saudis and Bangladeshis, supporters of this theory claim.
But the real problem is not with these nations. The true grievance is the case of Turkey. As the Leave campaigners have shown, the EU administration appears keen on integrating Turkey. Its present population of about 70 million Muslims and its potential entry into the EU is the main cause of anxiety.
How will this impact the future? A prelude to this integration will be issuing visa-free access to Turkish citizens in Europe. In case this becomes a reality, the number of Muslims permitted to enter and reside within Europe will increase substantially, affecting Europe’s demographic profile.
But their access to the UK will not be so free. The reason is that Britain is not part of the Schengen Zone, inside which people of all EU member nations can travel without passports. Therefore, even if the Turks are admitted into the EU, their entry into Britain will have several restrictions and supervision.
Considering all relevant factos, it is clear that the issue of Islamic immigration will remain a serious problem for the UK. The EU vote will not solve it, but will only show the future path.
The US and the UK will be the torch bearers in the face of the threat of radical Islam. As a major victim of fundamentalist terror, Bharat’s decision will prove vital in this scenario. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s warning to the US Congress a week ago against global terrorism needs to be viewed through this perspective.
(With inputs from Saurabh Chaudhary in London)
Key Facts about the Orlando killer: Omar Mateen
*Mateen called 9/11 and pledged his allegiance to the ISIS leader
*He was a security officer with a gun license whose father once tried to run for the Afghan Presidency and supported the Taliban
*His ex-wife says Mateen beat her and she was rescued from their marriage after only a few months
* He exchanged fire with a police officer outside the club before going inside and taking hostages
* He was killed by a SWAT team in an effort to rescue hostages