America’s new terror reality

The toxic forces of global jihadist terror, lax gun control laws and pernicious homophobia converged on Sunday night at a gay club in Orlando, Florida. The >outcome was the worst mass shooting incident in U.S. history. Omar Mateen, 29, a U.S.-born son of Afghan immigrants, killed 50 people and injured at least 53 using both a handgun and a “long gun”, thought to be an AR-15-style assault rifle. This bloodshed, which marked the 16th mass shooting during the presidency of Barack Obama, speaks to that plague of peaceful American society: gun proliferation bolstered by constitutional protection under the Second Amendment, and relentless lobbying on Capitol Hill by the National Rifle Association, with its deep pockets. Mateen, who was known to have ranted about gay people in the past, meticulously targeted the gay nightclub, reflecting the persistence of deep prejudices about the community, notwithstanding the U.S. Supreme Court’s >landmark decision nearly a year ago upholding marriage equality. While the latest attack is another grim bookmark in the annals of gun control reform and hate crimes against the LGBT community, the standout dimension of the incident is without doubt the creeping menace of “lone wolf” attacks linked to Islamic State (IS), and the prognosis for the American security state.

The surest sign of the heightened political temperature surrounding domestic terrorism of this sort came from the instant reactions of the two presumptive presidential candidates, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. While both >focussed on scoring political points, neither sought to tackle the phenomenon of mounting lone wolf attacks. On Sunday, Mateen said on a call >he made to the 911 emergency line that he swore allegiance to IS. Experts have noted that such a pledge has come to be considered a core element of the IS “protocol”. In December 2015, the San Bernardino, California, attackers posted such an oath of allegiance on Facebook. In May 2015, the shooter at a cartoon exhibit displaying images of the Prophet Muhammad in Texas posted tweets pledging loyalty to IS. These public pledges prior to a violent attack eerily mesh with the recent exhortations of IS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, who called on supporters to kill innocents in the U.S. and Europe during the holy month of Ramzan. Without overreach that would amount to curbing civil liberties, the U.S. surveillance and security apparatus would have to respond with a higher level of creativity to deal with lone wolf strikes. Significantly, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had interviewed Mateen twice but found no evidence of any terror links. In the U.S. it is all too easy for a psychotic, bigoted or otherwise unstable individual with leanings towards jihadist extremism to act out his beliefs in the land that has one gun for every human being.

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Printable version | Jan 15, 2021 3:31:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/America%E2%80%99s-new-terror-reality/article14420464.ece

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