Focus on Cause Not Means: The Media Response to Orlando

In the early hours of Sunday morning, investigators were doing their best to block out the sound of the incessant ringing emanating from the pockets and purses of those who were murdered as their friends and family desperately tried to reach them. This was the scene after Omar Siddiqui Mateen, a U.S. citizen born to Afghan parents, entered Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida and killed 49 innocent people while injuring 53 more. 

Just moments before the attack, Mateen called 911 to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State. Later that day, the Islamic State's Amaq news agency stated that Mateen was a "fighter" for the militant group. Mateen’s father, who has extolled the Taliban as "warrior brothers", told NBC News after the attack that his son become incensed after he saw two men kissing a couple of months ago before stating that “This has nothing to do with religion”.

It is most unfortunate that the mainstream media, as well as Congress, have become foolishly fixated on the means Mateen used to carry out his attack as opposed to focusing on the root cause of his actions. Sure, it is profoundly troubling that Mateen was able to legally purchase a Sig Sauer .221 caliber assault rifle and a Glock 17 nearly one week prior to the attack after the FBI had questioned him multiple times, while former classmates recalled how he cheered as terrorists flew jumbo jets into the Twin Towers on 9/11.

However, we must eschew distractions and remain focused on the root cause of this tragedy – not the means. Indeed, the Boston Marathon bombings did not ignite a debate about the ubiquity of pressure cookers.

Try and imagine the media’s reaction to this horrible attack if the perpetrator had been a fundamental Christian.

An uproar from the mainstream media would ineluctably ensue while everyone would rightfully examine (and challenge) the roots of homophobia in Christianity while endeavoring to find out everything they could about what was being taught at this young man’s church. Journalists, activists, et. al. would stop at nothing to gain a better understanding of how this could have happened.

In fact, one of the main reasons that homophobic and/or intolerant Christians committing terrorist attacks all over the world on a quotidian basis against those they deem ‘deviant’ or ‘infidels’ is so rare today is because the mainstream media’s pushback against such hatred over the years has been as dependable as it has been commendable.

But Mateen was not a Christian; he was a Muslim.

As Douglas Murray stated back in 2015, “There are those who believe that the fight for gay rights, or indeed human rights in general, stops at the borders of Islam. Very few people seem to realize that they should not.” As a result, the mainstream media has failed to pick up on the story that a Muslim scholar who spoke at a mosque in Orlando a few months ago emphatically stated that Gays Must Die. The Washington Post published a piece earlier today that highlighted the countries where homosexuality may be punished by death, yet failed to point out how all of the nations on this entire list, with the exception of one nation, consisted of Muslim countries. Nigeria, the only non-Muslim country on the list, actually classifies homosexual behavior as a felony punishable by imprisonment according to their federal law; it is the states in Nigeria who have adopted sharia law that actually execute homosexuals.

It is hard to believe the Washington Post’s inability to shine a light on this fact can be attributed to inculpable ignorance.

How do you think the mainstream media would react if fundamental Christians were throwing homosexuals off of rooftops in Argentina, Iceland, or Zambia just as the Islamic State continues to do? It is simply dishonest to claim that the media would behave the same way that they do when these matters concern Islam. The mainstream media’s efforts to avoid bigotry have ironically caused them to practice the form that believes Muslims should be held to a lesser standard than those of other faiths.

There is nothing bigoted about acknowledging that Muslims must reform their faith the same way that Christians have been forced to do, however, it is bigoted to believe Muslims are not just as capable of doing so as Christians.

Bill Ozanick is a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. He has previously written pieces for The Clarion Project as well as for The Malaysian InsiderThe DiplomatDiplomatic Courier, Political Theology Today, and Qui Vive.  He can be followed on Twitter @BillOzanick.