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US Conservatives Are Co-Opting Gay Rights To Turn Up The Heat On American-Muslims

21/06/2016 8:28 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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People hold up candles against a rainbow lit backdrop during a vigil for those killed in a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub downtown Monday, June 13, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. A gunman has killed dozens of people in a massacre at a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando on Sunday, making it the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Cashing in on tragedy is Politics 101. Following the deadly shooting in a gay nightclub on 12 June by a disturbed Muslim man of Afghan origin, conservative politicians in America, who are generally loathe to acknowledging LGBTQ rights, have hijacked the tragedy to nudge national talking points away from gun control and towards their favourite bogey, radical Islam.

While reticent about publicly naming the LGBTQ community as the target of a clear hate crime dressed as domestic terrorism, conservatives packed their Twitter feeds with sombre messages of support for the Orlando "victims and their families," calling for a "moment of silence" for the fallen and promising to safeguard the "American way of life." A way of life increasingly at odds with Muslims living in the US, or so the right-wing press would have you believe.

And yet for all this conservative pandering to left-leaning America, gay men still could not donate blood to save their friends and loved ones injured in the shooting. Republican presumptive nominee for president, Donald Trump, nonetheless had a field day sneering "I told you so" after he was broadly panned by party leaders last December for proposing a temporary ban on all Muslims from entering the US. His "suggestion" followed the San Bernardino workplace massacre perpetrated by a radicalized Muslim couple, leaving 14 people dead.

Trump... inches closer to the White House with every mass murder committed by a Muslim on US soil...

Trump, who inches closer to the White House with every mass murder committed by a Muslim on US soil, also ripped into President Barack Obama, demanding he "immediately resign in disgrace" if hesitant to frame the Orlando shooting as "radical Islamic terrorism." Obama, in turn, mocked Trump for thinking there was "magic to the phrase 'radical Islam'" that would miraculously add zip to coalition strikes against ISIS militants in the Middle East and make their leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi quake in his boots.

Meanwhile, the alarming fact that a civilian like Omar Mateen, the identified shooter, could with minimal checks buy a Sig Sauer assault-style rifle -- a "weapon of war" more suited to ambushing the Taliban than hunting deer -- was deftly shunted sideways to favour the Islamic terrorism angle. Easily discarded also was the FBI's gross negligence in keeping tabs on Mateen despite twice tagging him to terror watch-lists.

This made some pundits wonder if the Orlando attack, the worst mass shooting in US history, was a false flag operation schemed by federal authorities to sharpen focus on Obama's case for tighter gun control laws, a move conservatives decry as a clear violation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. If true, though, it was a job well done. A CBS news poll pursuant to the attack found that the majority of Americans now support a ban on the sale of assault weapons to civilians.

Does [Mateen] remotely sound like someone on a mission from Allah? Even the most twisted, takfiri kind pushed by puritanical Wahhabism? I don't see it.

New York-born Mateen, 29, was by all accounts an individual struggling with his latent homosexuality besides juggling other mental health issues. Witnesses who came forward after Sunday's carnage claim to have seen him in Pulse, the targeted nightclub, at least a few times in recent months. Mateen is further believed to have frequented other local LGBTQ bars and used gay dating apps to try to pick up men. His first wife, who ostensibly knew about this secret life, filed for divorce four months into their marriage after the physical abuse became unbearable.

Does this man remotely sound like someone on a mission from Allah? Even the most twisted, takfiri kind pushed by puritanical Wahhabism? I don't see it. Mateen needed psychiatric help, but was never flagged by his employers despite complaints from coworkers who have since shared their stories with the media. FBI director James Coney recently divulged that Mateen had, at different times, boasted of his ties to ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah without realizing these groups were sworn enemies. So much for due diligence in the way of jihad.

In a stark throwback to San Bernardino, new reports suggest Mateen's widow also faces criminal charges for aiding and abetting her killer spouse, who she exchanged text messages with during the massacre. Law enforcement additionally believes Mateen kept checking Facebook during the assault to see if his attack was trending on social media.

Trump immediately shaved four points off Hillary's double-digits lead in the polls following the shooting spree... [Mateen's] selfishness will cost American-Muslims dearly.

Far more critical to the investigation should be the fact that Mateen's link to ISIS is tenuous and self-confessed -- one 911 call that he made during his rampage to pledge fealty to the group. It seemed almost like an afterthought, the last act of a deranged man hoping to hog the headlines a little longer than a "lone wolf" terrorist would.

Sadly, in a fractious US election season where the divisive Trump immediately shaved four points off Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's double-digits lead in the polls following Mateen's shooting spree, his selfishness will cost American-Muslims dearly.

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