Ashgabat, 13 June 2016 (nCa) — A heavily armed gunman opened fire at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando (Florida) in the early hours of Sunday. According to the reports so far, there were 50 deaths and more than fifty of the injured were being treated at various hospitals. The death toll is likely to rise.
The gunman has been identified as Omar Mateen, a US citizen born in 1986 in New York to parents of Afghan descent.
CNN reports that before opening the fire he called 911 and pledged allegiance to ISIS and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. During the call he also mentioned the Tsarnaev brothers (Tamarlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev) who were involved in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. They were from the Dagestan oblast of Russia.
Amaq, the ISIS media organ, says that ISIS accepts the responsibility of the Orlando shooting and that Mateen was one of its fighters.
He was a trained security officer, held two college degrees, and had statewide license to carry arms. He was working as a security officer since 2007.
Mateen was a registered Democrat and was married from 2009 to 2011 to Ms. Sitora Yusufiy, a woman of Uzbek origin who is believed to be fully adapted to American way of life. The divorce took place because of complaints of domestic violence and other issues.
Mir Seddique, the father of Mateen, used to host the “Durand Jirga Show,” which broadcasts from California. It aired on a channel called Payam-e-Afghan. Seddique recently announced candidacy for Afghan presidency.
The Daily Beast and ABC News report that the FBI questioned Mateen in 2013 and 2014 because of his links to some known extremists but no case could be established for lack of evidence.
Flaws in profiling process
The profiling of suspects is a widespread practice now. The system is still far from perfect as we can see from the case of Mateen. He was a registered Democrat, mostly remained clean shaven and picked a fully westernized woman as his wife.
On the other hand, he had expressed on at least one occasion his hatred for the gay lifestyle and was friendly with some people of extremist ideas.
Hatred for the LGBT community was what made him to buy a Glock a few days before the massacre (in addition to what weapons he already had) and travel some 120 miles from his home to the Pulse night club.
However, the strong dislike for the LGBT community cannot be the sole reason for what he did. The Daily Mail reports that Dan Patrick, the Lt Gov of Texas, tweeted a couple of hours after the massacre – “Don’t be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” He was quoting from the Bible (Galatians 6:7). Patrick is a fierce opponent of gay lifestyle. His media team posted the same message later on his Facebook page. Basically, the sentiments of Mateen and Patrick on gay community are identical to each other.
Mateen had friendly relations with some extremists but he never expressed affinity with or loyalty to the ISIS leadership or ideology.
As far as the process of profiling is concerned, his known traits were inadequate to label him in any definite way. His meticulous planning for the massacre failed to trigger any alarm bells.
For all we know so far, he was a lone wolf.
This is what Central Asia governments need to take into account. The current tendency of harassing the young people with beards and regular worshippers in the mosques is counter-intuitive. Anyone, especially a lone wolf, will not sport any obvious signs of a religious identity.
Perhaps there is the need for a global study, incorporating all we know about the tipping points that can make a person to go to the extreme end. If profiling is supposed to be a reliable tool of prevention rather than an excuse for petty harassment, it must be based on a wide range of sciences.
With the recent of Aktobe in mind, Central Asia needs to engage in genuine, scientific profiling rather than crude crackdown on Islam.
Sooner or later Central Asia would need to confront this question. Probably sooner, because the gay lifestyle is being very aggressively pushed forward worldwide by some vocal sections of the media and the civil society.
There is the need to formulate a coherent strategy considering that certain percentage of any given population will always prefer this choice as a default lifestyle. However, those who favour a gay lifestyle and those who oppose it, don’t have the right to impose their will on the other side through violence or social pressure.
ISIS as inspiration
The Orlando incident was certainly inspired by ISIS, though there is no reason to believe that it was directed or planned by ISIS.
It is important for Central Asia to understand that in the absence of any means of free expression of religion, the individuals or small groups will look for inspiration to ISIS or any other high-profile, extremist group.
The space for practicing Islam has shrunk considerably in the recent years and this is bound to nurture extremism in the hearts of some individuals or groups.
There is the need to promote Sufi school of thought to maintain the harmony and balance in the Central Asian societies.