It has taken a depressingly, predictably short time for the Orlando shooting to devolve into a petty political squabble that is equal part semantics and pissing contest involving three of the four most currently prominent political figures. Not long after responding to the tragedy by way of self-congratulations, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump blasted Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama for not coming out and labeling the attacks an act of “Islamic extremism.” Shortly thereafter, Trump would also go on to suggest that Obama was probably an ISIS sleeper agent, which is the moment that the Clinton campaign realized Christmas had come early.
Interestingly, Clinton kinda-sorta took the bait, calling out the now-deceased shooter, Omar Mateen, as an individual who used a “distorted view of Islam in order to justify murdering innocent people,” later labeling the attack as straight-up “radical Islamism.” Obama did not, and stopped just short of literally rolling his eyes at Trump.
But here’s the thing: though one of them is so, SO much more wrong than the other two, both candidates’ responses here are flawed
- Trump: “Ban all Muslims”
There’s not much point in trying to expound upon this because, holy spray-tan, Trump has already taken a significant reaming from political figures and media outlets on all sides of the issue for this. To be fair, a good many conservative media outlets have puttered along for years stoking and implying this sort of rhetoric and attitude without ever coming out and actually saying it; doing so, while galvanizing the ultra-right base and bolstering enthusiasm, completely obliterates the political long game. Donald Trump can’t see the forest for the trees, because he’s dry-humping that tree until it catches fire.
In any case, actual Muslims who understand and live by the Quran and its message of non-violence are one of our nation’s best hopes for stopping attacks like this. Though they are as different from Omar Mateen as they can be, the two sides of the ideology are rooted in the same spiritual foundation; because of that, Muslims and Muslim-Americans are more apt to spot signs of extremism and report them before something like this happens again.
Will it prevent all attacks? Of course not. But it might prevent one, and that should be considered a win.
- Hillary: This was “radical Islamism.”
As much as I like her, Hillary Clinton does sometimes have a tendency to put her foot in her mouth, and I get the feeling that this statement, this categorization, will come back to haunt her, if only, hopefully, in a minor way.
Because she can’t say this; she shouldn’t say this. It’s not true, and that’s the whole point, that’s the point that, I think, President Obama is trying to imply with his brushing-away of Trump’s comments: we simply cannot equate, in any way, shape or form, actions like those of Mateen to true Islamic practices and doctrine. I mentioned above that each was rooted in a similar belief system, and I stand by that, but at some point the two sharply diverge, and no longer resemble each other in the slightest.
The message must not be, “We recognize this as an act of radical Islamic terrorism, however isolated.” The message must be, “We recognize that, though this individual perpetrated these acts while invoking the name and cause of Islam, his actions and sins do not in any way reflect the true nature of that faith.” Muslims around the world need to know that the United States, its government, its citizens, understand the difference.