The recent atrocity in Orlando has prompted Andrew McCarthy to attribute Omar Mateen’s motivations to an adherence to what he calls “Shariah Supremacy.” This is as handy a term as any to characterize the jihadist ideology; it seems to me that the incident points the way to a strategic conclusion which McCarthy does not make, but which may be crucial if we are to win this first ideological conflict of the 21st century.
One thing that has become clear about Omar Mateen over the last few days is that, along with his apparent attendance at a problematic mosque and apparent enrollment in an online jihadi indoctrination course, he exhibited behaviors which are far from characteristic of the teachings of orthodox Islam.
Several patrons of Pulse, the establishment which he shot up, have reported that he was a frequent visitor to the homosexual hang-out, and noted his propensity for getting obnoxiously drunk while there, too; several also recognized him from a dating app aimed at men seeking men, and even recalled chatting with him on the app.
The consummation of homosexual relations is strictly forbidden in Islam, and is so stated in at least four places in the Quran (cf. verses 7:80-84, 26:165-166, 11:69-83, 29:28-35), as well as in later jurisprudence. In this, Islam is no different than Judaism (cf. Leviticus XVIII, 22 and Sanhedrin 54b, Yevamoth 83b, and Gittin 85a) and Christianity which, in addition to the verse in Leviticus, also has Romans I, 26-27, I Corinthians VI, 9-10, and I Timothy I, 9-10.
The Quranic prohibition against consumption of alcohol is also well known. What this tells us is that, far from being a “devout Muslim,” Mateen was as “orthodox” as any Jew would be who frequented such places and indulged in ham sandwiches; in other words, not very.
This is, in fact, a pattern observable among many of the jihadi perpetrators since the downing of the Twin Towers fifteen years ago: Those men, for example, became notorious for their frequent drunken behavior in various strip clubs prior to committing their heinous act. Despite their protestations and public show of religiosity, these are not religious men.
Next Page: How this fact gives us a weapon against radical Islamic terror.
It is this, in my humble opinion, which affords us the opportunity to draw a distinction between the typical jihadi and the Muslim communities of the western world, and perhaps a way to separate the ideologues from the ordinary Muslims before the infection spreads farther than it has: emphasize the heterodox character of their behavior, so wildly at variance with Muslim ideals and actual practices over most of the past millennium and a half.
First note that, pace recent events in the United States and western Europe, the vast majority of jihadi victims have in fact been other Muslims (indiscriminate car bombs and suicide bombings being near daily occurrences in the Middle East). Yet suicide, too, is strictly forbidden by Muslim teachings and, incidentally, throughout most of the sweep of Muslim history rather large Jewish and Christian communities thrived in the Muslim world without being butchered by insane savages, while the reverse was not true in most of Europe until well into the post-war era.
It is therefore interesting to note that the king of Saudi Arabia has roundly condemned this latest atrocity, which he called a “criminal and disgraceful act, which is not approved by the heavenly religions, nor by international norms and conventions.” It is by pointing out the deviance of jihadi practices from actual Muslim norms that we, the civilized nations of the world, have an opportunity to separate the jihadi ideologues from the Muslim populations which they infest and cynically exploit.
Mao Zedong points out in his classic work on unconventional, asymmetric warfare that the revolutionary guerillas need a passive civilian population among whom they can hide and circulate, that such a population is as necessary to them as water is to fish. It’s past time for us to drain the fish tank, and here is the tool to use to do it.
Next Page: How does the attraction to radical Islamic terror begin?
The tawdry story of Omar Mateen points up another factor which has been hiding in plain sight in dealing with the American and European volunteers who are drawn to this evil ideology, and which is key to preventing more such defections. The attraction begins with frustration and a sense of alienation from the host culture.
A strikingly large number of the perpetrators of these evil actions are either first-generation native-born citizens of the countries where they were resident, or arrived there as small children. Such children find themselves caught between two wildly different worlds; at home, they speak the old language, whatever it may be, with their parents, who continue to live to a large extent in the “old country” and its ways, even in the new country; but out in the streets and in school, they are exposed to all of the blandishments and temptations of contemporary western society.
Before you ask why this results in such a relatively high occurrence of violence among Muslim immigrants and not among others, consider whether that’s actually true. The vast majority of Muslim immigrants to the United States (to narrow the focus) do not become jihadi ideologues; and it might prove both interesting and illuminating to compare the number of first-generation Hispanic youths involved in gang activities, say, or how many first-generation Chinese immigrants are involved with the triads. One violent outlet is much like another, and the stresses must be similar.
One last point that should be made is that the majority of these radicalized ideologues in fact know very little about actual Muslim ideals and teachings. For one thing, modern Arabic is not the common spoken language of such places as Chechnya, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, let alone the classical Arabic which is the primary intellectual vehicle of Islam.
Woefully ignorant, they will fall for anything they are told by manipulative, clever, and evil purveyors of this twisted, nihilistic ideology, this Ersatzreligion which takes the place of the real thing. If some Muslim teachers and clerics can be persuaded to adopt the line that the jihadis are simple heretics, preying on the fears and grievances of these uniquely vulnerable first-generation kids, it should be possible to shut them off and shut them out, at least to some extent.
The western world cannot afford to be at war with 1.5 billion people; we need such traditional Muslim leaders as King Muhammad VI of Morocco, President Essebsi of Tunisia, President al-Sisi of Egypt, and King Abdullah II of Jordan to remain on our side, and to be able to keep their people on our side. By most estimates, the jihadis constitute roughly 10% of the total world Muslim population; still a very large number, but not 1.5 billion.
Perhaps the story of Omar Mateen provides a way to separate the sheep from the goats; perhaps the very black cloud of the Orlando massacre has at least a glimmer of a silver lining.