Even as details of the June 13, Orlando massacre were unfolding, the gunman responsible for the attack – a 29-year-old US citizen of Afghan origin -- Omar Mateen called 911 to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State while he was cold-bloodedly killing innocents at the ‘Pulse’ a gay club.In fact just a few days earlier the ISIS called for such lone wolf attacks in the western countries and the U.S. Two weeks ago ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani called on followers of the terror group to carry out a ‘month of conquest and jihad’... especially in the US and Europe.
The attack, described as the deadliest in the US since Osama Bin Laden’s infamous 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, ended with the police killing the lone gunman. By then 50 people were dead and another 53 seriously injured. The killing was condemned by a wide circle of world leaders irrespective of race, faith or country -- from US President Obama, Russia’s strongman Putin, the Pope and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Ordinary Muslims in the US were also quick to condemn the senseless act. Pope Francis condemned the killings as “homicidal folly and senseless hatred” while President Obama described it as “an act of terror and an act of hate”.
A Turkish newspaper, ‘Yeni Akit ‘ linked to the president of that country described the attack as a mass shooting of ‘perverts’ and ‘deviants’ while the ISIS claimed responsibility for the mass killings. Yes, there is a link in the condemnation of what all right-thinking people who condemned the act as a senseless act of hatred, the Turkish newspaper, ‘Yeni Akit ‘ which seemed to celebrate the killings and the ISIS which claimed the killings –HATRED.
Yet, what breeds this hatred between Western countries and the Muslim world? What drives a group of people from Osama bin-Laden, who killed around 3,000 civilians in the attack on the Twin Towers to Omar Mateen who killed 50 just yesterday to view westerners with such intense hatred? Why does ISIS an Islamic group call for the killing of ‘infidels’ (an euphemism for Christians) in the US and in Europe?
While the origins of the Western–Islamist conflict can be traced beyond the Middle Ages and the crusades, the levels of suspicion and mistrust we are now witnessing borders on hatred. Perhaps in its own way this hatred is understandable. In the aftermath of World War II Western states were responsible for the setting up of the State of Israel in what was essentially Palestine -- an Islamic country. In the aftermath of the birth of Israel, Western powers made no effort to halt the new Israeli state’s war of attrition and annexation of Palestinian lands.
Western countries also continued to support Israel when it later attacked Lebanon, Syria and Egypt – all Muslim countries -- and occupied these lands. Not surprisingly Muslim communities world-wide began looking on Western countries as being anti-Islamic. More recently the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya by Western countries and the resultant large-scale deaths of civilians in those countries as a result of the wars unleashed on them by what they saw as the Christian West led to the growth of sentiments akin to hatred.
The intervention in Afghanistan (2001 to the present), led to more than 26,000 civilian war-related deaths. These numbers do not include those who have died in Pakistan. In 2003 the US and its junior partner Britain invaded Iraq claiming its then leader Saddam Hussein was in possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) which posed a threat to global security. The weapons were never discovered. But more than 14,000 civilians have died since the 2003 intervention.
The barbarism of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was born out of the bloodshed and atrocities committed by Western intervention in the Islamic world. Fifty civilian deaths may seem small when compared to the thousands of Muslims killed because of such intervention and occupation in different parts of the Islamic world.
State terrorism in the form of bombing of civilian population centres or the lone-wolf terrorist attacks by radicalized young people will never bring back the lives already lost. The Orlando incident raises fears that… the chickens are coming home to roost.