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  June 13, 2016

Profound Social Alienation Underlies America's Mass Atrocities

Gun culture, rampant homophobia, and U.S. imperialism - not Islam - is behind the Orlando shootings, says scholar Junaid Ahmad
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In the days following the mass killing of at least 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reiterated his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton blamed "radical Islamism" for the shooting. Scholar Junaid Ahmad said the blaming of Islam overlooks the homophobia and forms of cultural violence that are deeply rooted in the United States.

"It's more of a reflection of the type of pathology of violence, in the gun culture specifically, that has permeated the United States over the past few years, which is too massive to ignore and hide," said Ahmad.

"There's some hard questions that need to be asked about what type of profound social alienation tha'ts taking place in the country that is making individuals undertake these horrific outbursts of violence in schools and in settings like this."

Ahmad also said the United States' support for Islamic fundamentalists and "so-called moderate regimes in the Middle East as a counterweight" to secular mass movements leads to the development of violent forces in those societies that often come back to the West.


JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network, I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore. The nation is continuing to reel from the shooting at the gay Orlando nightclub left at least 49 dead and is considered the worst mass shooting in recent US history. The suspected attacker, Omar Mateen, reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS in a call prior to the attacks. This prompted Republican nominee Donald Trump to double down on his plans to ban Muslims from entering the US. This is a clip of his interview with Fox News.

"We can’t have it in our country, Brian. Something is going on, whether it's in the religion, whether it's outside of the religion, it's not maybe for us to know right now but we can't allow thousands, and i don't mean thousands, tens of thousands of people are pouring into our country and many of them are no different than this guy yesterday who created this horrible act."

Meanwhile, in a video posted to Facebook, Mateen's father condemned his son's actions, but also said, quote, God himself will punish those involved in homosexuality. Now joining us to discuss this from Yorktown, Virginia, is Junaid Ahmad. He is a professor at the University of Lahore, director for the Center of Global Dialogue, and secretary general for the International Movement for a Just World. Thank you for joining us.

AHMAD: So wonderful to be with you.

NOOR: We know you're just on a brief visit from Pakistan but let's get your response to the attacks and you've already heard the comments of Donald Trump, doubling down on his ban on all Muslims from entering this country, he blamed Islam for the actions of this shooter.

AHMAD: Right, and of course that was kind of expected. I think for Donald Trump I think he will blame anything, any hurricane, El Nino, whatever, on Islam, and Muslims, or Mexicans for that matter, so that was quite expected. The shooting itself was an incredible tragedy and an atrocity and I think that it's incredibly important to take the religion out of the picture and point to the general homophobia that still does exist within the United States as well in large sections of the population here, and whether or not it manifests itself in such violent shootings. And there is no doubt that that sentiment of homophobia is, you don't have to go to the country of origin of this shooter, Afghanistan, to find it, it's very present here in the US as well. And I think that the second point is, that it is more of a reflection of the type of pathology of violence that has, in the gun culture specifically, that has permeated the United States over the past few years, which is now just too massive to ignore and to hide.

And I think that that culture of violence, which has of course pervaded both within the US and has been exported abroad through war, invasions, drones, and so on, is also part of the picture when we're looking at why something like this is taking place. This is of course, the level of killings in this shooting is greater than previous ones, but these things are almost coming routine so there are some hard questions that need to be asked about what type of profound social alienation that is taking place in this country that is making individuals undertake these horrific outbursts of violence in schools and in settings like this. And that's besides the clear homophobia that was expressed in this act as well.

NOOR: And so, you mentioned how Donald Trumps reaction is more or less what anyone could've predicted as soon as it happened, but this morning in an interview with NBC's Today, Politico is reporting that Hillary Clinton is breaking from Obama and calling the attack radical Islamism. This is significant, of course, because she is the presumptive Democratic Nominee. What does this say about the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton, and the favorite in the White House right now? That she is breaking with President Obama and again blaming Islam for this act?

AHMAD: Well, it kind of depresses all of us that already knew better, that Hillary is a war hawk herself, calling herself a Democrat and trying to distinguish herself from nasty Donald Trump, but really herself being complicit in the way Empire has operated in its wars and interventions over the past few decades, really. So this is a good example of how there's not much difference when it comes to dealing with these issues internationally and domestically. That is, to once again demonize an entire faith, an entire culture, an entire people, Muslims in this case, as being responsible for this act that took place.

And I think that Trump's rhetoric is the most blatant and kind of flagrant on these types of matters, but the type of liberal and also liberal islamophobia that takes place with terms like Islamic terrorism thrown around, without any meaning to them, you know? And the reflection upon, what does this actually mean, and how we are collectively holding accountable people of over a billion people for the acts of these few individuals, there's no critical reflection on that even from many Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, so it's just frightening, but also not too surprising for many of us who always considered Hillary a war hawk when it came to these types of issues.

NOOR: And so the viewers of the Real News might be familiar with the forces the US has allied itself in the Islamic World, but can you just touch upon that? In the media we hear that we're involved in the Middle East to spread democracy, to spread human rights, the rule of law, but who exactly have we allied ourselves with in the Middle East and what ideologies have we fostered? Talk a little bit about this, how you know, this ideology didn't come out of nowhere.

AHMAD: That's right. And again, it's important to somewhat separate these two issues. Like I said, this specific act that took place in Orlando needs to be analyzed in the context of what's been going on in the US over the past few years, in terms of the culture of gun violence that has been promoted and facilitated and that has led to so many of these incidences taking place left and right. And of course, the issue of general homophobia. With regard to the Muslim world, it's been very clear this type of fundamentalist violence that has been unleashed in parts of the Muslim world and then often exported to the West as well, comes from a very specific historical-political moment in which the United States decided to support many of these so-called moderate Arab regimes, in their support for reactionary fundamentalist Islam, as a counter-weight to secular nationalism, and other types of movements that were very popular in the Muslim world at one time

And so, not only was political Islam in some manner supported, but the most violent and fundamentalist forms of it were, right back from the 1980s in the war against of the Soviets and Afghanistan, to the present day, there is ISIS, and all of these groups have their origins straight to Saudi Arabia and of course that's all being done with the tacit support of the US. And of course later on then they throw their arms up in the air and say that oh, we don't know where the heck these guys came from and now we have to deal with them, when they were the products of their, either directly ,their policies, or indirectly, in the first place. So this is the history of where not only this fundamentalist thought, but the practice, comes from. While all of the dominant religious traditions may have some homophobia in them, in terms of their orthodox interpretations or so on, the fact that those who have been converted in the Muslim world into a very repugnant, reactionary, fundamentalist, and violent form of religion, is completely attributable to the policies that the US and it’s, quote unquote, moderate Arab regime allies like Saudi Arabia have been undertaking over the past few decades.

NOOR: Well, I want to thank you so much for joining us.

AHMAD: Thank you so much for having me.

NOOR: Thank you for joining us at the Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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