Pete Souza

U.S. News


The Tragedy of Orlando

“A bee and wasp drink from the same flower. One produces nectar and the other a sting.” – Rumi

I’m baffled, shocked, and terrorized because the unfathomable has transpired — again. I offer my condolences to the families of the victims of the Orlando massacre and I condemn this heinous attack in the strongest possible terms. The tragic incident, which took place on 12 June 2016, was perpetrated by Omar Mateen, a man whose logic, in the words of Albert Camus, was as criminal as his heart.

This massacre wasn’t the first of its kind in America. Such incidents, alas, have now become frequent features in America. On the same day that this massacre occurred in Orlando, there were 43 other shootings in different states around the United States. The reason, and deservedly so, this incident has grabbed the headlines is because it surpassed, in terms of the number of people killed, all previous mass shootings in modern U.S. history.

Why Omar Mateen chose to commit such a horrific act is still under investigation. But based on the phone call he made to the authorities before he was killed, we know that he may have been inspired or influenced by the Islamic State’s (ISIS) propaganda. He may have established contact with ISIS and may have received instructions to bring about such a carnage. He may have been a madman who suffered from mental instability and internal chaos. Or, he may been a homosexual himself who couldn’t, due to familial impositions and fear of humiliation, come out and face his sexual identity. Different theories abound, though whatever his motive was, we must deal with this tragedy objectively.

Every time the killer in one of these incidents is a Muslim, politicians and the media engage in debates, raising questions such as: “Is Islam a religion of peace,” “are all Muslims dangerous,” and “how can we help Muslims evolve into more peaceful creatures.” Framing the issue along these lines is not only simplistic, but also counterproductive, as it does not enhance understanding nor solve the problem.

In the aftermath of Orlando, politicians — mainly to score political points and to win votes, have issued statements that are not only dangerous but also stand in stark contrast to American values. Mr. Trump who’s the presumptive nominee of a major party and could become the president of the United States of America — has reiterated his “ban” on Muslims entering the United States. The implications of such a proposal is quite dangerous. What he’s saying is that all Muslims around the world are the same and that they share some kind of a cataclysmic vision of the world.

Fomenting irrational fear and dehumanizing an entire group of people serves no one and it’s exactly what ISIS wants Mr. Trump to say so that they are able to recruit more madmen into their ranks. As an American who happens to hail from an Islamic background, I’m appalled by so many political leaders who have chosen to remain silent in light of Donald Trump’s comments — and the fear, division, and hatred he propagates. Fear, if I may paraphrase Dante, denies all acts their dignity, and leads us down to an unpalatable path.

The vast majority of the American people are embarrassed with the egregious statements Mr. Trump has made about various groups. He is describing all Muslims as lunatics, terrorists, and sick people. It’s time for Mr. Trump to stop denigrating an entire group of people. What Mr. Trump fails to recognize is that the number one victim of terrorism around the world are Muslims. In Afghanistan, terrorist groups murder innocent Afghans on a daily basis. How a politician who is running for the most powerful position in the world does not seem to understand this is beyond me.

These lunatics, regardless of what religious or ethnic background they come from, are people who don’t represent any culture, religion, or civilization. We may call them hateful, mad people, purposeless individuals whose hearts are infested with hatred for humanity, but should never make them representatives of a group of people. It’s time to stop labeling and instead see these people for who they are. To do otherwise, in the phrase of Richard Koenigsberg, is to live within a gigantic fantasy.