Why us? Another shooting by a sociopath and Arab Americans are blamed... Again
BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer
America has witnessed another mass shooting. Since the shooter was Muslim, there has been an outpour of condemnations by American Muslim and Arab American organizations, such as CAIR, ACLR, and ACCESS. Arab America stands in solidarity with these groups as they help the wounded, as well as families of victims, to recover from the tragedy that occurred in Orlando, Florida early Sunday morning.
As the news cycle is once again flushed with articles and pictures of the shooter, his motives, his victims, and the aftermath, the event remains on the minds of Americans. With all this new information entering the public, some important aspects of the event get lost – or worse, the news gets warped into falsities and offensive language targeted toward Muslims and the Arab American community.
Tragedies like these should serve as educational opportunities to not only learn more about why they happen, but how they can be prevented, and in what way they should be reported. Answering these questions now are average Americans on social media, journalists, politicians, religious leaders, and everyone in between.
Here are some of the points they’re getting wrong:
Omar Mateen, the shooter, was Muslim, but there are many better adjectives that can be used to describe him. According to Mateen’s ex-wife, Noor Salman, he was abusive and used to beat her often. Their short marriage began in 2009, but ended when Salman quickly realized Mateen had mental health issues, most likely bi-polar disorder, and that he was “obviously disturbed.”
Mateen’s co-workers at G4S, a security company, were subjected to his crude behavior, as well. They said he never talked about his religion, but could often be heard saying horrible slurs toward African Americans, homosexuals, and women. Mateen is described as an angry bigot by his co-workers, who reported him twice to the FBI for saying suspicious things about al-Qaeda. After both investigations, the FBI determined he was not a terrorist. Despite these investigations, Mateen was able to keep his job at G4S where he had constant access to weapons, as well as weapons training.
Furthermore, the imam of the mosque he attended described Mateen as shy, aloof, and inactive in the mosque.
Mateen was also on many LGBT dating apps and frequented Pulse nightclub for nights of drinking and drugs. Mateen knew the people and place he targeted, making his actions far less about Islam than is being reported.
Yet, none of these words are used to describe the Orlando shooter by politicians and journalists. Most are simply sticking with “radical Islamic terrorist.”
Despite his pledge to ISIL minutes before the shooting, it seems that “radical Islamic terrorist” is not the most appropriate description for Mateen. Based on his past, Mateen’s motives seem more likely to be his identity crisis, homophobia, racism, bigotry, introverted tendencies, uncontrollable anger, and access to guns.
Mateen was an American citizen born to parents who emigrated from Afghanistan. The shooter’s nationality only matters because of the anti-Arab sentiment seeping into the media right now from those who believe Mateen was Arab. Many Americans seem to be confused about the country of Afghanistan and its people. Afghanistan is in Central Asia, not the Arab world (generally considered the Arabic-speaking countries in the Middle East and North Africa). The largest ethnic group in Afghanistan is Pashtun, not Arab. And the languages of Afghanistan are Pastho and Dari, not Arabic.
After every shooting, there are calls for law reforms so that people like Mateen who espouse severely discriminatory views on the world do not act violently on their thoughts. Since Mateen was a Muslim, people are literally asking, “what do we do about the Arab Americans?” Suggestions include: Trump-style bans on all Arabs from entering the country; banning all Arab Americans from purchasing guns in the country; and putting all American mosques under surveillance.
Once again, Arab Americans are wrongfully wrapped up in the understanding of a shooter, and the community is being subjected to discriminatory policy proposals because of the actions of one sociopath who happened to be Afghani American, not Arab American. Every ethnic, religious, and racial group in the U.S. has bigoted members who are suffering from mental anguish.
Yet, Arab Americans are the only ones who suffer from community-wide hatred when a Muslim, Arab, or someone who looks Arab commits a crime. Blaming an entire ethnic group for the deplorable actions of someone within or outside that group, regardless of facts, is the epitome of ignorance and prejudice.