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Omar Mateen: Not an IS terrorist – just another hate-filled American mass murderer

IS is the most convenient cover for mass murder at the moment, but it’s just the latest label in America’s history of attention-seeking killers

Omar Mateen was an American homophobic murderer who early on Sunday morning used an AR-15 assault rifle to kill 49 people and wound 53 others in a nightclub popular to the LGBTQ community in Orlando, Florida.

In an effort to give scope to the smallness of his life, Mateen interrupted his killing rampage to call the 911 emergency operator in order to report his crime and to proclaim his allegiance to Islamic State. President Obama announced that all evidence available points to Mateen being a “self-radicalised” terrorist.

According to reports, Mateen had regularly visited the Pulse club that he would later target, drinking and speaking to regulars there.

The truth it seems to me is that there was no radicalisation of Mateen at all. He was just a homophobe, sick of his own life miserable life and, like all of the other American mass murderers before him, seeking to justify his darkness by giving it some grand life beyond himself. IS is the easiest and most convenient cover for mass murder at the moment.

The high level of gun violence in American life makes it far too easy to become numb to it, and to seek new ways of retooling the very old story of a man with a gun kills strangers because... There are far too many moments in American life when the absurdity of our national obsession with gun violence is combined with the narcissistic need of an individual to create notoriety among his peers, and this is one of them.

A fantasist with a grudge and a gun, Mateen boasted of terrorist ties while working at a major security firm, but that proved to lead to nothing. Mateen then kills scores of people and then makes another empty boast. This American homophobic murderer phones the emergency operator to offer his killings of people in a nightclub popular with members of and friends of the homosexual community of Orlando as a tribute to IS. A homophobe kills perceived homosexuals during Gay Pride Month, and folks want to talk about Islamic terrorism because this man self-proclaimed an allegiance to IS.  

We have a tendency to embrace the idea of something over the thing itself, so we create mock versions of foods we would like to eat but are too undisciplined to eat in moderation, so we remove the calories, leaving only the idea of ice cream or cake or bread. We are comfortable in a world of 140 characters or less. Brevity has become our way of thinking and communicating.

We are now having a discussion about an act of homosexual murder conducted by an American where we conveniently leave out his Americanism and homosexuality, the focus of his hatred. To do otherwise would be to require an acknowledgement of the demonisation of the LGBTQ community by good ole traditional Americans with names like Graham and Robertson and Paul and Falwell.

There are many who ask why does this matter so much? This attack on a community perceived to be homosexual is the largest loss of life of LGTBQ people and community since the Holocaust. Mateen, a man who sought notoriety and importance, picked IS as the key to his murderous rage, much as Brenda Ann Spencer picked her dislike of Mondays and Elliot Rodger blamed his inability to attract a girlfriend for his killing of seven.

Mateen was married to Sitora Yusufiy from 2009 to 2011. She reports he was fond of making homophobic comments when he got angry. She’s quoted in the New York Times as saying, “There were definitely moments when he’d express his intolerance towards homosexuals.” Yusufiy told the Times that Mateen was an observant Muslim but he had not expressed sympathies for terrorist organisations or radical Islamists.

Seddique Mir Mateen is Omar’s father. He is an equally troubling man. He posts videos on YouTube proclaiming his run for the presidency of Afghanistan a year after such elections have taken place. According to a profile in the Washington Post, his last video contains the following admonition for those who believe they can wield the power of God, “God himself will punish those involved in homosexuality. …This is not for the servants” of God.

Seddique Mateen told NBC News that his son was motivated by a hatred of homosexuals and not IS. He told a story of his son witnessing two men kissing in Miami recently and becoming infuriated that his three-year-old son had seen this. Mateen reports his son saying, “They were kissing each other and touching each other. Look at that. In front of my son, there were doing that.” 

During his divorce, Mateen’s mental stability was questioned but not challenged to any degree important enough to interfere with his ability to be a gun/weapon owning employee at a top international security firm, in a state that believes a person has the right to kill if that person feels threatened (the feeling of a threat being more important than an actual threat).

Mateen was neither an immigrant or an extremist Muslim, he was a man who apparently lied to his co-workers about his ties to terrorist organisations, and the son of a man who pretends he is the president of Afghanistan in videos on YouTube, and yet this American-born homophobic murderer is now being called a Muslim terrorist as if his guns, his prejudices, his nationality and his belief in his right to kill the thing he fears or hates were all foreign to the United States.

Mateen claimed allegiance to IS because he could find no other grand reason to tell us why he hated homosexuals so much.

There is nothing beyond his claim of IS allegiance in the 911 phone call to suggest that Mateen was anything other than a deeply troubled homophobic, narcissistic man, who while married beat his wife, had access to weapons of mass murder, and the technical ability to use them well.

In 2012 and in 2014 Mateen was investigated by the FBI and neither investigation found any evidence damning or damaging enough to harm his career at G4S, one of the world’s premier private security companies. It is important to know that it was the concerns of his co-workers at G4S that prompted the first FBI investigation in 2012.

It is also important to know that these concerns only came forward because Mateen told his co-workers that he had ties to terrorists. He made the claim. His co-workers called the FBI. The FBI investigated and nothing actionable was discovered.

Mateen’s IS allegiance is the equal of Donald Trump’s spray tan. Whether one chooses to see the varnished version of the man or the un-coated truth of him, Mateen’s homophobia is either the framework upon which his claim of IS allegiance stands or the thing that it hides.

- Richard Stuart Perkins is a New York City based photographer, filmmaker and painter.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Items are seen in a memorial setup in front the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts for the victims of the Pulse gay nightclub shooting on 14 June, 2016 in Orlando, Florida (AFP).

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.