As the death toll rises from the Orlando mass shooting that left at least 50 people dead and 53 more injured, the usually quiet Sunday for Americans has turned into a nightmare. Americans are now facing a situation similar to that of the Paris attacks seven months ago. Why did this happen? How was it executed? And could this attack have been prevented?
The Security Failure
The shooter, Omar Mateen’s known information and the circumstances of the massacre provide unmistakable elements of security failure for the local, federal and private security authorities.
First, Mateen (meaning solid in Arabic) was brought to the FBI’s attention twice in 2013 and 2014 when he made some extreme statements and for having an alleged connection with an American suicide bomber. Protected by the U.S. Constitution, Matten pursued a career as a security guard and obtained an assault weapon.
Second, the nightclub in Orlando, which can accommodate 300 people, lacked the security procedures that could keep the club’s customers safe and prevent an armed person from entering.
Third, the lack of information sharing between the FBI and the local police in Orlando regarding the shooter is troublesome. The failure of the FBI in not only keeping Mateen under surveillance, but in sharing his information with Orlando police constitutes a multiple failure on the part of the FBI.
Fourth, this massacre took place during gay pride week in several American cities. This celebration of homosexuality coincided this year with the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan that usually witnesses a surge of terror attacks. The FBI could have warned the public of the possibility of an ISIS-inspired attack on gay gatherings, based on the inhuman way the terror group and other radical Islamists treat gays. A Los Angeles man was arrested for plotting attacks on homosexuals, and the plots were planned to attack gays in Europe during similar gatherings.
The Gun Control Debate Again
The Orlando shooting, the deadliest in United States history, is an example of the dysfunctional gun control system. A person who was placed on an FBI watch list for extremist statements and a history of domestic abuse was able to own a gun and ultimately use it to kill at least 50 people.
This massacre marks the fifteenth time president Obama spoke to the nation on gun violence after a mass shooting. This issue divides Americans sharply, and will be another unsolved political issue left to the next president to confront, with no realistic prospect of resolution.
The ISIS Threat
This mass shooting is the second successful ISIS-inspired attack in the U.S after the San Bernardino shooting in California last December. It is also the fourth large attack in a western country, counting the events in Paris and Brussels. This recent attack has taken place as the terror group is losing ground -- its worst days since the capture of Mosul, northern Iraq, two years ago.
ISIS has just lost its entire Libya operation to a coalition of Libyan militias loyal to the newly formed government, a government that has the support of the international community. In Iraq, ISIS is battling the Iraqi government forces in its most receptive city ever, Fallujah. In Syria, the Kurds were able recently to place the city of Manbij under siege, cutting off most of ISIS’s path to Turkey. The Syrian government and the Sunni rebels are mounting other significant attacks on the ISIS-held territories in northern Syria.
As good as it sounds, the fall of ISIS’s state in Iraq, Syria and Libya will end the image of a successful terror state in the Middle East that inspired tens of thousands of extremists around the world, yet it gives no guarantee that the lone wolves, who take ISIS as their inspiration, will disappear any time soon.
On the contrary, the fall of ISIS’s state in the Middle East might trigger acts of revenge against western targets conducted by lone wolves or by returnees from Syria. The so-called lone wolf is now the most serious challenge facing U.S. counterterrorism.
Islam and the Issue of Homosexuality
As with other major terror attacks conducted by Islamist groups, this massacre is another example of a crisis that needs to be handled by the leaders of the Islamic faith. ISIS was actively killing gay men in Iraq and Syria by tossing them from roofs of high buildings as part of its hardline interpretation of Islam.
While most Muslims do not condone such brutal killing of gays, many Muslims still refuse homosexuality for religious or social reasons. In almost every Muslim-majority country around the world, the gay revolution has not even begun. Gays are often mocked publicly. This issue is still a taboo in the Islamic world and it will continue to be so until the Muslim leaders tackle it.
What's Next for the U.S. Presidential Election and Muslims in the West?
The Orlando massacre is a gift to Donald Trump. Suddenly, many Americans will think that his call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. makes sense. He will use this mass shooting to collect support for his anti-Muslims views. His overall popularity might surge temporarily in the wake of this attack.
Muslims in the U.S. and the west will suffer. Islamophobic acts on public streets, in airports, public parks and so forth will likely rise in the near term. This could also give terror groups like ISIS or al-Qaeda a better opportunity to recruit or inspire potential extremists in the U.S.