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June 15, 2016 1

The Orlando Shooter’s Many Paths to Violence

This weekend’s shoot­ing at the Pulse night­club in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 dead and 52 peo­ple injured, has rein­vig­o­rated debate sur­round­ing the nature of rad­i­cal­iza­tion and what it means when some­one claims to act on behalf of a for­eign ter­ror­ist organization.omar mateen

While details about the attack and the per­pe­tra­tor, Omar Mateen, con­tinue to emerge, there are indi­ca­tions that the assailant may have been moti­vated by more com­pli­cated fac­tors than a sim­ple alle­giance to any one, or com­bi­na­tion of, ter­ror­ist groups. Dur­ing his call to 911 at the time of the attack, Mateen pledged alle­giance to ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr al Bagh­dadi, called the Boston marathon bombers his “home­boys” and men­tioned Moner Abusalha, a Florida res­i­dent who com­mit­ted a sui­cide attack on behalf of Jab­hat al Nusra, Al Qaeda in Syria, in 2014.

There are signs, how­ever, that extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy may have been only one of many ele­ments that led him to carry out the mas­sacre. Mateen report­edly exhib­ited vio­lent ten­den­cies prior to the attack; he was accused of domes­tic abuse by his ex-wife and report­edly threat­ened cowork­ers in the past. Domes­tic vio­lence has been linked to mass shoot­ings – extrem­ist or oth­er­wise. His ex-wife has also sug­gested he may have been gay. If true, that could point to a host of per­sonal, psy­cho­log­i­cal rea­sons for his deci­sion to attack Pulse, which was a gay nightclub.

Still, the fact that Mateen had claimed sup­port for Hezbol­lah and Al Qaeda in a con­ver­sa­tion with co-workers – which, along with his pos­si­ble con­nec­tions to Moner Abusalha, led to him being inves­ti­gated twice by the FBI– may indi­cate he had some pro­found attrac­tion to these groups.

Mateen is far from the only indi­vid­ual whose activ­ity appears to have been shaped by a com­plex web of fac­tors, of which extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy may be just one ele­ment. For example:

  • In August 2014, Ali Muham­mad Brown was allegedly engaged in a rob­bery when he shot a man in a car in New Jer­sey. Brown is also accused of killing three indi­vid­u­als out­side a gay night­club in Cal­i­for­nia that June; Brown had allegedly lured them to his car on Grindr, a gay  (dat­ing) app, and then mur­dered them. When appre­hended, Brown claimed that the mur­ders were revenge for U.S. actions in the Mid­dle East. Brown had also report­edlyali-muhammad-brown writ­ten in a jour­nal that he planned to fol­low ISIS and “learn the way of jihadis,” and had pre­vi­ously been linked to a con­spir­acy to send funds to Al Shabaab, al Qaeda in Soma­lia. The cir­cum­stances of this par­tic­u­lar mur­der, how­ever, indi­cated that he was hop­ing to get away with rob­bery, rather than under­tak­ing a polit­i­cally charged act.  Sim­i­larly, there were no clear indi­ca­tions that his mur­ders in Cal­i­for­nia were under­taken for polit­i­cal reasons.

At least two other indi­vid­u­als never claimed their attacks on behalf of spe­cific for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions, but were linked to those orga­ni­za­tions in their online activ­ity – and in both cases, ISIS even­tu­ally claimed credit for their vio­lent actions. ISIS has also claimed credit for the Orlando attack.

  • In Sep­tem­ber 2014, Okla­homa res­i­dent Alton Nolen was sus­pended from his work­place, a food pro­cess­ing plant. Nolen returned with “a large bladed knife,” with which he beheaded a for­mer col­league and attacked a sec­ond. Nolen’s social media feed indi­cated an inter­est in vio­lent extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda, and par­tic­u­larly vio­lent acts asso­ci­ated with ISIS, even as it became clear that he had no actual links to extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions or a com­pre­hen­sive adher­ence to extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy. Indeed, his online activ­ity may have influ­enced him to some extent — his inter­est in extrem­ist vio­lence may have informed his deci­sion to under­take a behead­ing rather than another form of vio­lence. Dabiq, ISIS’s Eng­lish lan­guage mag­a­zine, claimed credit for Nolen’s activ­ity and boasted that he had acted based on ISIS pro­pa­ganda. The cir­cum­stances of the activ­ity, though, seemed more directly related to work­place vio­lence than to Islamic extremism.
  • In Octo­ber 2014, Zale Thomp­son of New York attacked law enforce­ment offi­cers with a hatchet. Thompson’s online his­tory  indi­cated he had exper­i­mented with a vari­ety of extrem­ist ide­olo­gies, but had most recently engaged with Islamic extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda and ide­ol­ogy, includ­ing ISIS-specific pro­pa­ganda, prior to the attack – pre­sum­ably because it jus­ti­fied such an attack more than other groups he had asso­ci­ated with. He had also inde­pen­dently expressed anger against law enforce­ment. Thompson’s ulti­mate motives have not been made clear; the NYPD clas­si­fied his actions as a ter­ror­ist attack, but the FBI did not. Like Nolen, Thomp­son did not state that his action was under­taken on behalf of a for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion, but ISIS claimed that it was inspired by their pro­pa­ganda in Dabiq magazine.

The appar­ent com­plex­ity of the moti­va­tions in the Orlando Shoot­ing would indi­cate that this tragedy can fall under the rubric of many other mass casu­alty attacks – such as Sandy Hook and Charleston– as well as under the rubric of domes­tic ter­ror­ism moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy – such as the Boston Bomb­ing and the San Bernardino shooting.

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June 15, 2016 0

Anti-Gay Rhetoric in English-Language ISIS and Al Qaeda Magazines

The claim by Orlando shooter Omar Mateen that he acted on behalf of ISIS in per­pe­trat­ing a shoot­ing at a gay club draws atten­tion to the role of anti-gay sen­ti­ment in Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy and propaganda.

ADL ana­lyzed past issues of Dabiq, ISIS’s Eng­lish lan­guage mag­a­zine, and Inspire mag­a­zine, Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP)’s English-language mag­a­zine, to deter­mine the scope of anti-gay rhetoric and threat in those pub­li­ca­tions. While these pub­li­ca­tions are only a lim­ited sam­ple of the over­all field of online English-language pro­pa­ganda dis­trib­uted by for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions, they serve to demon­strate the issues and lan­guage that these orga­ni­za­tions use when tar­get­ing English-speaking audiences.

Our analy­sis indi­cates that anti-gay rhetoric played a smaller role than may have been expected. Nei­ther group preached hatred of the LGBT pop­u­la­tion nearly as much as it railed against other groups, such as Jews and the U.S., for exam­ple. How­ever,  both mag­a­zines did fea­ture exam­ples of anti-gay rhetoric and used homo­sex­u­al­ity as a syn­onym for sin and immorality.

Cover of the first issue of Dabiq, ISIS's English language magazine

Cover of the first issue of Dabiq magazine

Dabiq (ISIS)

Dabiq, ISIS’s English-language mag­a­zine, was first released in July 2014. Since then, there have been 13 issues, with the most recent released in April 2016.

Dabiq included anti-gay rhetoric with much more fre­quency than Inspire. In addi­tion to using homo­sex­u­al­ity as an exam­ple of sin and immoral­ity, Dabiq also had at least three quotes in which homo­sex­u­al­ity was asso­ci­ated with the death penalty. The increased num­ber of ref­er­ences and the vio­lent nature of the ref­er­ences are con­so­nant with ISIS’s broader pro­pa­ganda, which has been more overt than Al Qaeda pro­pa­ganda in high­light­ing vio­lence against indi­vid­u­als and groups ISIS has tar­geted. This has included images of ISIS mem­bers mur­der­ing men accused of being gay by throw­ing them off of buildings.

Exam­ples of state­ments in Dabiq that link homo­sex­u­al­ity with a pun­ish­ment of death include:

  • “These sons fell into fāhishah (sodomy), lead­ing them into espi­onage (as hap­pened before in Sudan with oth­ers). Their treach­ery led to tens of airstrikes killing many broth­ers.” (Issue 6)
  • Like­wise dur­ing his khilā­fah, Abū Bakr…gathered a num­ber of his advi­sors from amongst the Sahābah and con­sulted them about the case of a man found guilty of com­mit­ting sodomy. The one who had the most severe posi­tion was ‘Alī … who said, “This is a sin that no nation had com­mit­ted before except for one nation, and you know how Allah dealt with them. I view that we should burn him alive.” (Issue 7)
  •  “Know­ing this and that he [a man ISIS is advo­cat­ing should be assas­si­nated] admires the sec­u­lar­ist US Con­sti­tu­tion and does not oppose sodomite mar­riage, it should be easy to grasp that he is noth­ing but another mur­tadd imām of kufr (apos­tate and leader of infi­dels).” (Issue 11)

Exam­ples that include homo­sex­u­al­ity as a gen­eral exam­ple of sin or immoral­ity include:

  • “So the for­ni­ca­tors, the sodomites, the aban­don­ers of jihād, the peo­ple of bid’ah (heresy), and the drunk­ards, these peo­ple and the min­gling with them is harm­ful for the reli­gion of Islam.” (Issue 3)
  • “’Lib­eral’ con­cepts that the kuf­fār (apos­tates) apply across the board for achiev­ing evil, such as polit­i­cal plu­ral­ism, free­dom of reli­gion, and accep­tance of sodomites. (Issue 3)
  • “If one’s chil­dren and grand­chil­dren don’t fall into kufr (apos­tacy), they are under the con­stant threat of for­ni­ca­tion, sodomy, drugs, and alco­hol.” (Issue 3)
  • “They used their enter­tain­ment indus­try to mock and belit­tle those against the sex­u­ally deviant fringe, used their shirk (falsehood)-based par­lia­ments to legal­ize sodomite mar­riage, used their edu­ca­tion sys­tem to cor­rupt their chil­dren right from the kinder­garten level by intro­duc­ing books into the cur­ricu­lum to com­bat “homo­pho­bia,” and used their churches and clergy to bless these sins via ‘revi­sion­ism.’ (Issue 7)
  • …All sin­ful acts are openly com­mit­ted among you and for most of you they have become part of your nature. This includes com­mit­ting shirk with Allah, for­ni­ca­tion, and sodomy (Issue 10)
  • “If the major­ity [in a democ­racy] decide sodomy is legal, it is legal­ized even though it con­tra­dicts Allah’s Sharī’ah.” (Issue 11)
  • “Part of the pagan demo­c­ra­tic reli­gion is what has been labeled (sic) in this era as “human rights,” includ­ing the “right” to com­mit apos­tasy, devil-worship, sodomy, and for­nication.” (Issue 11)
  • “[The Mus­lim] is a stranger amongst Chris­tians and lib­er­als. He is a stranger amongst for­ni­ca­tors and sodomites.” (Issue 12)
  • “So the for­ni­ca­tors, the sodomites, the aban­don­ers of jihād, the peo­ple of bid’ah (heresy), and the drunk­ards, these peo­ple and the min­gling with them is harm­ful for the reli­gion of Islam.” (Issue 13)
Cover of the first issue of Inspire, AQAP's English-language magazine

Cover of the first issue of Inspire magazine

Inspire (AQAP)

Inspire mag­a­zine was first released in July 2010. Since then, there have been 15 issues, with the most recent released in May 2016.

We dis­cov­ered at least three ref­er­ences to homo­sex­u­al­ity in those 15 issues of Inspire.

In the third issue, released in Novem­ber 2010, the mag­a­zine noted that a gay and les­bian syn­a­gogue had been among the loca­tions tar­geted in AQAP’s 2010 cargo plane bomb plot, in which the group attempted to det­o­nate explo­sives in pack­ages with Chicago addresses in a cargo plane. Although the threat appeared to be directed against Jews more than against the LGBT com­mu­nity, it can be seen as a threat specif­i­cally to LGBT Jews as well.

  • “We in al Qaeda of the Ara­bian Penin­sula will never for­get Pales­tine,” it said, “…So we listed the address of the ‘Con­gre­ga­tion Or Chadash,’ a Gay and Les­bian Syn­gaogue on one of our pack­ages. The sec­ond pack­age was sent to ‘Con­gre­ga­tion B’nai Zion.’

In the magazine’s 8th and 10th issues, homo­sex­u­al­ity is listed as an exam­ple of immorality.

  • A quote in the 8th issue stated, “Immoral­ity and cor­rup­tion have seeped deep into the roots of the Pak­istani Army and it is not uncom­mon to find alco­holics, gam­blers, adul­ter­ers, homo­sex­u­als and drug traf­fick­ers amongst its lower and higher ranks.”
  • A quote in the 10th issue con­trasted “The free­dom of liv­ing in peace with ade­quate resources” to “the free­dom of adul­tery, homo­sex­u­al­ity, inter­est and other impurities.”

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May 3, 2016 3

Medina Arrest Highlights Threats of Anti-Semitism in Islamic Extremism

James Medina

James Med­ina

James Gon­zalo Med­ina, a 40-year-old res­i­dent of Hol­ly­wood, Florida, was arrested on May 2, 2016, for allegedly plot­ting to use an explo­sive device in a Florida syn­a­gogue on Passover. Court doc­u­ments indi­cate that he wanted to leave a notice with the bomb attribut­ing the attack to ISIS.

Vio­lent expres­sions of anti-Semitism, includ­ing encour­age­ment of attacks against Jews and Jew­ish or Israeli insti­tu­tions, have been at the core of pro­pa­ganda dis­trib­uted by Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other Islamic extrem­ist ter­ror­ist groups for decades. Last year, the ADL released a report, “Anti-Semitism: A Pil­lar of Islamic Extrem­ist Ide­ol­ogy,” which describes the way in which ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions rely on depic­tions of a Jew­ish enemy to recruit fol­low­ers, moti­vate adher­ents and draw atten­tion to their cause.

Medina’s plot was never oper­a­tional because he had been work­ing closely with an under­cover infor­mant. ADL joined with the South Florida Mus­lim com­mu­nity in issu­ing a press state­ment con­demn­ing the plot, which is avail­able on the ADL web­site.

How­ever, Med­ina is not the first U.S. res­i­dent appar­ently moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­olo­gies to plot attacks against a syn­a­gogue. Oth­ers included New York res­i­dents Ahmed Fer­hani and Moham­mad Mam­douh, arrested in May 2011 for plot­ting to attack a syn­a­gogue in New York City and four New York res­i­dents who plot­ted to attack syn­a­gogues in the Bronx and to shoot down air­planes at a mil­i­tary base in New­burgh, New York in 2009.

More recently, there have been a num­ber of U.S. res­i­dents inspired by Islamic extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions who con­sid­ered attack­ing Jew­ish or Israeli insti­tu­tions or oth­er­wise indi­cated that anti-Semitism was an impor­tant ele­ment of their ide­ol­ogy. They included:

  • Samy Mohamed Hamzeh, arrested in 2016 for allegedly attempt­ing to bomb a masonic tem­ple in Wis­con­sin, had ini­tially expressed inter­est in trav­el­ing to Israel to kill sol­diers and civil­ians in the West Bank, accord­ing to court doc­u­ments. He allegedly changed his plan for logis­ti­cal reasons.
  • Tairod Pugh, arrested for allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS in 2015, wrote a Face­book post that stated, “All the evil done by the Jews came from within them­selves. On the day of Judg­ment full respon­si­bil­ity of the starv­ing, tor­ture, jail­ing and killing of inno­cent Mus­lims will rest upon there (sic) shoul­ders. Allah must really hate them to give the rope to hang them­selves,” and posted an image with text stat­ing, “Most Jews do not like to admit it, but our Gd is Lucifer.” He also shared an image on Face­book that ref­er­enced blood libel accu­sa­tions, depict­ing Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu slit­ting the throats of sleep­ing children.
  • Nader Elhuza­yel, arrested in 2015 for allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS, report­edly expressed excite­ment at the pos­si­bil­ity of ISIS attack­ing Israel. Court doc­u­ments claim that he wrote, “Look­ing for­ward to see some yahoodi (Jew­ish) heads rolling, or dead bod­ies car­ry­ing their own yahoodi heads, and jihadi john (iden­ti­fied as the beheader in sev­eral Screen­shot from Al Shabaab video call­ing for attacks on “Jewish-owned West­field shop­ping cen­ters” 9 ISIS videos) doing this stance on them…” as part of an Inter­net exchange in Decem­ber 2014.
  • Nadir Soofi, one of men who allegedly fired shots at a Gar­land, Texas com­mu­nity cen­ter in 2015, advanced con­spir­acy the­o­ries sug­gest­ing Jew­ish involve­ment in the Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001 attacks in online forums.
  • Christo­pher Lee Cor­nell, arrested in 2015 for allegedly plot­ting to bomb the U.S. capi­tol and shoot gov­ern­ment offi­cials, report­edly expressed a desire to attack the Israeli Embassy in an inter­view con­ducted in prison fol­low­ing his arrest.
  • Shan­non Mau­reen Con­ley, arrested in 2014 for allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS, threat­ened a church in her home town repot­edly in part because of the church’s sup­port for Israel.
  • Basit Javed Sheikh, arrested for attempt­ing to join Jab­hat al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria) in 2014, advanced a con­spir­acy the­ory on online forums that there was a Jew­ish con­spir­acy to pro­mote mod­er­ate Islam, which he viewed as inau­then­tic, over fun­da­men­tal­ist or extrem­ist views of Islam

The ADL pro­vides secu­rity resources for Jew­ish insti­tu­tions, includ­ing best prac­tices for Jew­ish Insti­tu­tional Secu­rity and a Guide to Detect­ing Sur­veil­lance of Jew­ish Insti­tu­tions. Indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions can con­tact their local ADL offices for more infor­ma­tion and resources, includ­ing requests for secu­rity train­ing or to sign up to receive ADL’s Secu­rity Bul­letins and Alerts.

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