What makes a young British woman turn to Salafism?

Salafism is now thought to be the fastest growing Islamic faction in the UK. Salafism, often referred to as Wahhabism, is an ideology commonly associated with Isis and often features in the news, usually as a label applied to jihadis who’ve committed atrocities abroad. This has led many to assume that home-grown followers – who first began to emerge in the 1980s – pose an active threat to society. In Britain, however, the vast majority of self-described Salafis are explicitly anti-violence – indeed, their leaders have been among the most vocal in their condemnation of terrorism.

They also expressly prescribe obedience to the law of the land, so you won’t hear them calling for sharia law to take its place. In other respects, Salafism is arguably one of the most puritanical and conservative brands of Islam: it advocates strict gender segregation, for instance, face veils and rules that govern practically every aspect of day-to-day life. There’s even a Salafi etiquette for going to the lavatory (while saying a special prayer, enter the bathroom with your left foot forward, then exit with your right; do not greet anyone while on the loo).

And any modern dilemmas that haven’t already been covered will be ruled on by male scholars thousands of miles away – usually in Saudi Arabia. Nor may a woman disobey her husband – who is entitled to take up to four wives – unless he’s trying to interfere with her religious duties. Theoretically, he’s within his rights to demand sexual intercourse whenever he wants (unless she’s menstruating), as well as to forbid her from going out to work.

So why would any young British woman choose to become Salafi? What makes her want to stop going out raving with her mates – as many did before donning the niqab – and to live by rules that make 1950s housewives seem liberated? To find out, I spent nearly two-and-a-half years participating as much as possible in the highly segregated activities of Salafi women’s communities in London. Had they been brainwashed? Or forced into niqabs and seclusion? And how did they reconcile the strict rules they had to follow with life in modern Britain?

Most of the women, I discovered, had come from less observant Muslim backgrounds, though a substantial number were converts from other religions. All seemed well-equipped to make a rational decision: the vast majority were either current or former students, or else actively planning to go to college or university. I’d begun my research by respectfully donning a headscarf – though I never pretended to be Muslim – and attending the women’s religious study circles, Friday prayers and other community events, with the permission of the leaders. But gaining the trust of people who already felt constantly under scrutiny as potential “extremists” was no easy task.

I’ve witnessed for myself how Salafi preachers convey a sense of simplicity and authenticity. At every lesson I attended, the teachers rarely strayed from quoting or paraphrasing the words of the scriptures or of famous Islamic scholars. In fact, the phrase “I think” is banned from the Salafi teacher’s lexicon: all points must be framed by the Qur’an, hadith or words of a respected scholar. Even the rules that shape their lives are presented as rooted in “authentic” Islamic texts. They may be harsh in a 21st-century context, but they leave no room for doubt. And that’s the attraction: complete and utter certainty. Having such a clear sense of purpose in life was undoubtedly fulfilling for the women I interviewed. “Subhanallah [glory to God]!” said Maryam, a university student in her mid-twenties. “I feel more at peace and tranquil, in that I am trying my utmost to implement the religion because I have evidence to support me.”

For a Salafi, there’s no need to familiarise yourself with centuries of Islamic scholarship and debate, or to investigate the practices of the many other Muslim groups. By simply following Salafi teachings, it is claimed, you can be assured of God’s blessing – and hopefully a place in Paradise. As one woman, Wafa put it: “It’s as simple as ABC.”

The other women I interviewed made similar remarks, though all had unique stories to tell. Among them were Afro-Caribbean converts, the daughters of Somali refugees, former gang members, second-generation Pakistanis and people with various other mixed backgrounds. Some had previously been supporters of Islamist and jihadi groups, but had eventually become disillusioned and started seeking alternatives. I even met a former Catholic nun, an ex-Jehovah’s Witness, two Poles and a Sikh convert. All had decided to embrace Salafism and live by its rules. Far from converting because of family pressure, as is often assumed, most women had parents who were, at best, puzzled by their daughters’ new lifestyle.

How to deal with extremist voices: Inclusion of hard-line Salafi in TV debate causes uproar in Germany

‘My life for Allah’

Recent reports indicate that the flow of German recruits to the jihadist groups on the Syrian battlefields is declining.((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/jihad-reisen-101.html )) Nevertheless, among all European countries, Germany comes second in terms of the number of its citizens that have joined ISIS, al-Nusra Front, or related groups. Against this backdrop, the German public broadcaster ARD used its flagship political talk show Anne Will to discuss the reasons behind the foreign fighter phenomenon.((The full show is available at http://www.ardmediathek.de/tv/Anne-Will/Mein-Leben-f%C3%BCr-Allah-Warum-radikalisie/Das-Erste/Video?bcastId=328454&documentId=38785504 ))

Debating under the title “My life for Allah – why do more and more youth radicalise themselves?”, guests included Ahmad Mansour, a Muslim sociologist and anti-radicalisation activist; Mohamed Taha Sabri, a Berlin-based Imam; Sascha Mané, father of a girl who has joined ISIS in Syria; and conservative CDU politician Wolfgang Bosbach.((For a portrait of Ahmad Mansour and some of his work, see http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/02/20/ahmad-mansour-on-generation-allah-radicalisation-of-young-muslims-in-germany/ ))

Ties to the Syrian jihad

Yet the most controversial guest proved to be Nora Illi, converted Swiss Muslim woman serving as women’s affairs commissioner at the ‘Islamic Central Council of Switzerland’ (IZRS). In spite of this seemingly inclusive name, the hard-line Salafi IZRS represents only 0.5 per cent of Swiss Muslims.((https://www.welt.de/vermischtes/article159313844/Nikab-Nora-liebt-die-Provokation.html ))

The organisation is the target of a criminal investigation in Switzerland for facilitating the travel of foreign fighters to Syria.((http://www.nzz.ch/schweiz/strafverfahren-gegen-izrs-vorstandmitglied-eroeffnet-1.18665759 )) The IZRS has also publicly screened a movie shot by one of its board members while in Syria during the war. Ostentatiously presented as a travel documentary, the movie in fact contains a host of interviews with Syrian jihadists.((http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/schweiz/standard/islamischer-zentralrat-setzt-sich-provokativ-in-szene/story/30538028 ))

Calculated provocation

Against this backdrop, the talk master Anne Will undoubtedly expected Illi to play a certain provocative role during her show; a role which she fulfilled splendidly. Wearing a niqab, she appeared to defend the jihadist fighters joining the Syrian conflict: Illi asserted that breaking free from the constraints of European life was “not at all objectionable from an Islamic perspective”, and that doing so even “needed to be highly lauded as an example of moral courage.”((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/medien/warum-lud-anne-will-die-islamistin-nora-illi-ins-studio-14517143.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

Illi went on to assert that wearing the niqab was liberating her as a woman. She claimed that Western societies were consistently oppressing Muslims and preventing them from living in accordance with the fundamental tenets of their faith.

Reacting to the radical challenge

Subsequently, the entire rest of the round rallied against Illi. All other Muslim participants denounced her as propagating a hateful ideology and of condoning or actively fostering the atrocities in Syria. The father of the ‘jihadi bride’ provided an insight into what he believed were his daughter’s thought processes when travelling to Syria – most notably her fervent belief to contribute to the making of a better world by joining the Islamic State.((For an excerpt on this, see http://www.ardmediathek.de/tv/Anne-Will/Die-Jugendlichen-m%C3%B6chten-gern-die-Welt-/Das-Erste/Video?bcastId=328454&documentId=38785454 ))

However, among Muslim discussants further fault-lines opened up quite quickly. Most notably, Ahmad Mansour criticised Imam Sabri for his defensive attitude and for his somewhat hapless attempts to dissociate Islam from the Islamic State by simply asserting that ISIS and its actions are ‘un-Islamic’. Mansour accused the mainstream Sunni Muslim clergy of having failed to “offer youth an understanding of Islam that is reconcilable with democracy and human rights without ifs and buts”. This failure, according to Mansour, coupled with the conservatism of much of established theology, provides fertile soil for subsequent radicalisation.((http://www.rp-online.de/panorama/fernsehen/anne-will-tv-kritik-welcher-islam-passt-zu-deutschland-aid-1.6379034 ))

Islamists and populists

Beyond demonstrating the very strained nature of the entente between different Muslim voices standing against radicalisation, however, the discussion round also cast into sharp relief the difficulty of reining in hateful fringe discourses. Critics noted that without the concerted help of her other guests, host Anne Will not have been able to deconstruct Illi’s blunt yet powerful rhetoric. At times, the crude logic of Illi’s argument threatened to overwhelm the host.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/medien/tv-kritik/tv-kritik-anne-will-nora-illi-macht-offen-propaganda-fuer-den-is-14516141.html ))

This highlights the fact that offering a public forum to voices like Nora Illi is challenging, because she is not willing to abide by the rules upon which discussion in such a forum is based – notably a willingness to build an argument based on hard facts, or a minimum requirement of civility. Unfazed by facts and conventions, Illi proceeded to offer her own concoction of theological rigidity, conspiracy theories, and distorted truths.

In this respect, the predicament faced by Anne Will in relation to the Swiss radical propagandist is not altogether different from the challenges encountered by media across Western democracies in their dealings with ‘populists’. Donald Trump’s victory has been widely hailed as signifying the triumph of anti-establishment post-truth politics. Similarly, in Germany the established parties struggle to unravel the elaborate edifice of anxieties, fears, and half-truths exploited by the rising Alternative für Deutschland party.((Another recent TV debate provides a perfect instantiation of this point: In the episode of Maischberger broadcast on September 22, AfD leader Frauke Petry gleefully manipulated the discussion. Exasperated by the populists’ ability to blur the line between facts and fictions, SPD Secretary General Katharina Barley at some point noted with bewilderment that the AfD had managed to make the burka ban a central topic of the electoral contest in regional elections in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, in spite of the fact that no burka-wearing women had been spotted on the state’s streets. http://www.ardmediathek.de/tv/Maischberger/Das-schwarz-rote-Debakel-Volksparteien-/Das-Erste/Video?bcastId=311210&documentId=37887778 ))

Enlarging the discussion or providing a forum for hate speech

Consequently, like in the case of populists, the media are faced with the difficult question of whether to engage with voices like Nora Illi. Anne Will’s decision to invite Illi was heavily criticised, with some accusing Will of unnecessarily providing a platform for the spread of hateful propaganda. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung asked whether Anne Will wanted to invite neo-Nazis to her next debate.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/medien/warum-lud-anne-will-die-islamistin-nora-illi-ins-studio-14517143.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

Will herself reacted by asserting that “the editorial team has carefully considered the invitation of Mrs. Illi”, especially given Illi’s “controversial position” regarding foreign fighters travelling to Syria. Will argued that by including Illi “the discussion offered many insights […] in the field of the tension between religion and liberal pluralistic values that preoccupies our society.”((http://www.zeit.de/2016/47/anne-will-ard-talkshow-islamismus-verschleierung-frauenrechte/komplettansicht ))

Forcing extremist views to justify themselves

Irrespective of whether the host’s intentions were as noble as that – or whether she was more concerned with increasing the market share of her show – simply blanking out positions like Illi’s does not appear to be a viable option. It is only when they are forced out into the open that such views can be engaged with. It is also only in such a public context that we can hope to demystify them and showcase their flaws.

By the end of Anne Will’s show, the participants had been more or less successful in this regard. Yet wrestling down Illi and her blunt argumentation had proved to be a formidable undertaking; an undertaking that on multiple occasions teetered on the verge of failure.

Rochdale Muslim leader ‘was bludgeoned in Isis-inspired murder’

A former imam was bludgeoned to death in a children’s playground by two Islamic State supporters who believed he practised “black magic”, a court has heard.

Jalal Uddin, 71, was murdered by two alleged Islamist extremists who harboured a “hatred and intolerance” of his form of Islam, jurors were told.

The respected community leader was targeted as he made his way home from a mosque in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, after months of being surveilled by his alleged killers, the jury heard.

The accused – Mohammed Hussain Syeedy, 21, and Mohammed Abdul Kadir, 24 – were Isis supporters who developed a hatred of Uddin after discovering he practised a form of Islamic healing called ruqya, jurors were told.

Opening the trial at Manchester crown court, the prosecutor, Paul Greaney QC, told jurors that Syeedy and Kadir “stalked Jalal Uddin around the streets of Rochdale” before Kadir launched a savage attack on the older man in a playground. Kadir unleashed “repeated forceful blows” to Uddin’s head and mouth with a weapon believed to be a hammer, the court heard, leaving him with severe skull fractures.

Described as “quiet, dignified and well respected,” Uddin wore an amulet – known as a taweez – that some believe to protect the wearer against evil. However, Isis forbids the practice, considering it to be “black magic”, the court heard.

 

‘Political correctness’ allowing Islamist extremism to flourish in British prisons, report warns

Political correctness in prisons is allowing extremism to flourish because guards are too afraid of confronting Muslims, a report has found.

A review into Islamist extremism in the British justice system has found that “cultural sensitivity” towards Muslim prisoners is preventing staff “challenging unacceptable extremist behaviour and views”.

The report, by Ian Acheson, a former prison governor, warns that supervising staff are being “pressured” to leave prayer rooms during collective worship.

Islamist prisoners are also attempting to prevent searches by “claiming dress is religious” and are also getting access to extremist literature that is available in chaplaincy libraries or from individual prisoners.

Mr Acheson’s report concluded that extremists are “exploiting…staff fear of being labelled racist”.

It also warned that “charismatic Islamist extremist prisoners [are] acting as self-styled ‘emirs’ and exerting a controlling and radicalising influence of the wider Muslim prison population”.

The Government has said that it will implement a number of the report’s recommendations.

Liz Truss, the Justice Secretary, has already announced that the most dangerous extremists will be locked up in isolated high-security prisons within prisons to prevent them from radicalising other inmates.

On Monday, she will also announce that governors and prison officers will be given new training to “prevent influential extremist prisoners exerting control and radicalising others”.

Scrutiny of the issue resurfaced last week when it was revealed that Anjem Choudary, one of Britain’s most prominent Islamist clerics, faces years in jail for drumming up support for Islamic State.

Choudary, one of the UK’s most notorious hate preachers, was convicted earlier this year. He will serve 10 years in jail after being found guilty of pledging allegiance to Islamic State.

Anjem Choudary convicted of supporting Islamic State

Anjem Choudary, one of the most notorious hate preachers living in Britain, is facing jail after being found guilty of supporting Islamic State.

Having avoided arrest for years despite his apparent sympathy for extremism and links to some of Britain’s most notorious terrorists, Choudary was convicted at the Old Bailey after jurors heard he had sworn an oath of allegiance to Isis.

The 49-year-old, who has links to one of Lee Rigby’s killers, Michael Adebolajo, and the Islamist militant Omar Bakri Muhammad, also urged followers to support Isis in a series of talks broadcast on YouTube.

Choudary and his co-defendant, Mohammed Rahman, 33, told their supporters to obey Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Isis leader, who is also known as a caliph, and travel to Syria to support Isis or “the caliphate”, the court heard.

They were convicted in July but details of the trial, including the verdict, could not be reported until now.

Choudary and Rahman face up to 10 years in jail for inviting support for a proscribed organisation. They will be sentenced on 6 September at the Old Bailey.

Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Metropolitan police’s counter-terrorism command, said: “These men have stayed just within the law for many years, but there is no one within the counter-terrorism world that has any doubts of the influence that they have had, the hate they have spread and the people that they have encouraged to join terrorist organisations.

“Over and over again we have seen people on trial for the most serious offences who have attended lectures or speeches given by these men. The oath of allegiance was a turning point for the police – at last we had the evidence that they had stepped over the line and we could prove they supported Isis.”

Haydon said 20 years’ worth of material was considered in the investigation, with 333 electronic devices containing 12.1 terabytes of storage data assessed.

It can now also be revealed that Choudary was encouraged to support Isis by a notorious British Isis fighter who fled to Syria while on police bail.

The court heard that shortly after Isis was described as a terror group Choudary was in contact with an individual name as Subject A. It can now be revealed Subject A was Siddartha Dhar – known on social media as Abu Rumaysah – who was arrested alongside Choudary before he fled to Syria to fight with Isis while on police bail.

Dhar encouraged Choudary to express support for Isis on social media. Following on from Dhar’s encouragement, both defendants made their position on the newly declared caliphate clear in the “oath of allegiance”.

British Muslims had complained about the media attention paid to Choudary and the impression sometimes given to audiences that he was representative of British Islamic thought.

Miqdaad Versi, of the Muslim Council of Britain, told the Guardian: “Mr Anjem Choudary has long been condemned by Muslim organisations and Muslims across the country, who consider him and his support for Daesh [Isis] to be despicable and contrary to the values of Islam and our nation.

“Many Muslims have long been puzzled why this man was regularly approached by the media to give outrageous statements that inflamed Islamophobia. We hope the judgment serves as a lesson for anyone who follows this path of advocating hate and division.”

 

French burkini ban sparks debate in UK

The ban on the burkini swimsuit on French beaches has triggered disdain in English-speaking countries, where outlawing religion-oriented clothing is viewed as hampering integration.

Commentators have condemned the ban as an absurdity, and one questioned how a burkini could be more offensive than “middle-aged bum crack” bursting out from Western beachwear.

Experts said the debate raised questions about the French one-size-fits-all model of integration.

In Britain, the full-face veil is not an uncommon sight in towns and districts with big Muslim populations, but does not stir as strong a reaction as in France.

Defenders of the policy say a common arena without religious connotations helps avoid sectarian conflicts and encourages equality.

As a result, the burkini — like the burqa before it — has come under fire in France. Some say it channels radical Islam and oppresses women.

“It is the expression of a political project, a counter-society, based notably on enslavement of women,” French PM Manuel Valls said of the burkini.

Such views are contested in Britain on the grounds of tolerance.

Britain’s best-known example of burkini-wearing was not by a Muslim but by TV chef Nigella Lawson, who hit the headlines in 2011 when she wore a black version of it on Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.

A BBC look at the issue found women in Britain speaking in favour of the burkini and saying it aided integration.

“The burkini allows me the freedom to swim and go on the beach, and I don’t feel I am compromising my beliefs,” Aysha Ziauddin told the broadcaster.

Maryam Ouiles said: “It’s outrageous that you would effectively be asked to uncover some flesh or leave. People are always complaining that Muslims should integrate more, but when we join you for a swim that’s not right either.”

Commentator David Aaronovitch said only warped minds would impose a burkini ban.

“The idea that full-length clothing provokes attacks on the wearer displays a poisonous logic,” he said.

“No problems are solved by this French absurdity. Only new ones created.”

U.K. Should Do More to Block Islamic State Funding, Report Says

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-07-11/u-k-should-do-more-to-block-islamic-state-funding-report-says

 

The U.K. needs to do more to block funding sources for Islamic State, Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Sub-committee said in a report on Tuesday.

A coalition including the U.K. and U.S. has been targeting IS cash reserves, as well as conducting airstrikes against oil infrastructure controlled by the group, which faces “an increasingly desperate struggle to raise money,” the committee said. Even so, Britain’s contribution is “under-powered compared to our potential,” it said.

 

The U.K. has seen fresh wrangling over its role in creating the current instability in Iraq, that allowed Islamic State to prosper, following the publication of the Chilcot report last week. The inquiry, which took seven years to complete, concluded that Britain’s involvement in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was a failure and was carried out before peaceful options had been exhausted.

 

“The U.K. government is in a position to help Iraq develop effective abilities of its own to counter ISIL finances,” committee chair and MP John Baron said in the report, using an alternative name for Islamic State. “Much depends on blocking access to local and international money-making activities,” he said.

 

‘I am fed up with this evil’: How an American went from Ivy League student to disillusioned ISIS fighter

Washington Post:

In late October 2014, the FBI received an unusual email from a young man named Mohimanul Alam Bhuiya.

Bhuiya, then 25, had joined the Islamic State. Now the longtime Brooklyn resident was desperate and looking for a way out. He wanted the FBI to rescue him.

“I am an American who’s trying to get back home from Syria,” he wrote in his email, according to federal court documents unsealed last month. “I just want to get back home. All I want is this extraction, complete exoneration thereafter, and have everything back to normal with me and my family.”

He added: “I am fed up with this evil.”

The FBI was still verifying his identity when Bhuiya managed to escape about a week later. He returned to the United States, where he was promptly arrested and charged with providing material support and receiving military training from the Islamic State.

In a closed courtroom in Brooklyn, he pleaded guilty to both counts on Nov. 26, 2014, according to the court filings. He faces up to 25 years in prison.

Bhuiya’s name is redacted in the documents, but several U.S. law enforcement officials confirmed his identity. His lawyer did not return a message, and efforts to reach his family were unsuccessful.

Prosecutors told the judge that redacting his name was “necessary to protect the integrity of the ongoing government investigations and the safety of the defendant and his family.” But NBC News in May ran an interview with Bhuiya, with cooperation from the Justice Department, in which he appeared under the name “Mo” with his face completely unobscured.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn declined to comment.

Bhuiya was not your average wayward Islamic State recruit. Unlike many of the people the Justice Department has charged in connection with the terrorist group, Bhuiya appeared to have a bright future. He attended Columbia University before he fell under the sway of the Islamic State.

“A young man from an Ivy League school challenges the conventional wisdom of a typical American ISIS recruit,” said Seamus Hughes, the deputy director at the program on extremism at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber & Homeland Security and a former National Counterterrorism Center staffer.

Bhuiya went to high school in Brooklyn. He seemed to be a well-adjusted student who took a serious interest in Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, according to a 2008 essay he wrote for the school newspaper entitled “Sample College Essay: My Superhero.”

He praised President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, who “fought a worldwide battle against the evil supervillain Adolf Hitler.”

In the essay, he said he wanted to major in psychology. He concluded: “I believe that I have greatness in me,” he wrote. “I want to be a superhero.”

According to a Columbia University spokesman, Bhuiya attended the School of General Studies. He was enrolled for one semester from January to May 2013 and did not earn a degree.

Bhuiya had come to the attention of the FBI before he traveled to Syria. According to court documents, investigators with the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York learned in June 2014 that the young man might be planning to travel to Syria.

When authorities interviewed Bhuiya at his home in Brooklyn, he told investigators that he was interested in events in Syria and supported “rebel groups.” But he claimed he lacked the money to travel to Syria and “did not know what he would do if he got there.”

Days later, he flew to Istanbul and then managed to enter Syria. He had little interest in fighting.

He implored Islamic State commanders not to “send me off to the front lines because I can be useful in other ways,” according to the NBC interview. “It seemed to me that it would, you know, save my skin.”

Bhuiya said he quickly became disillusioned and described the Islamic State as “dystopia.”

“You could see madness in their eyes,” he recalled. Bhuiya decided to flee. In the email to the FBI, he said he did not have a passport because the Islamic State had taken it. He asked if someone could pick him up at the border.

“Please help me get home,” he told the FBI.

According to court documents, Bhuiya managed to escape across the border into Turkey and make his way to a U.S. State Department outpost in Adana, which is in the southern part of the country.

He admitted that he had joined and worked for the Islamic State. He said he carried a weapon but had never been involved in fighting.

It is not clear where Bhuiya is being held as he awaits sentencing.

Court documents indicate that prosecutors, at Bhuiya’s request, had been exploring the possibility of going public with his story.

 

Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/i-am-fed-up-with-this-evil-how-an-american-went-from-ivy-league-student-to-disillusioned-isis-fighter/2016/06/29/155e777e-3e07-11e6-80bc-d06711fd2125_story.html

American Muslims Send A Powerful Message Of Solidarity To Orlando Victims

The tragedy in Orlando has prompted both compassion and debate within the Muslim community.

The American Muslim community reacted with an outpouring of love and support in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
The support came in the form of fundraisers, blood donations, and public statements that firmly condemned the violence that claimed the lives of 49 victims at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning, and left dozens more injured.
At the same time, the violence sparked a debate within the community about whether Muslim leaders need to speak out more forcefully against homophobic ideologies.
The gunman, identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, reportedly called police about 20 minutes into the shooting and pledged his allegiance to ISIS. His father, Seddique Mateen, has claimed that his son became upset after seeing two gay men kissing in Miami a few months ago. Pulse was a haven for Orlando’s LGBTQ community.
Muslim organizations and activists across the country have spoken out against the shooting, explicitly calling it a hate crime.

Was Orlando Shooter Really Acting for ISIS? For ISIS, It’s All the Same

The revelation that the 29-year-old man who opened fire on Sunday in a gay nightclub had dedicated the killing to the Islamic State has prompted a now-familiar question: Was the killer truly acting under orders from the Islamic State, or just seeking publicity and the group’s approval for a personal act of hate?
For the terror planners of the Islamic State, the difference is mostly irrelevant.
Influencing distant attackers to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State and then carry out mass murder has become a core part of the group’s propaganda over the past two years. It is a purposeful blurring of the line between operations that are planned and carried out by the terror group’s core fighters and those carried out by its sympathizers.