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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 19, 2016 1

Latest Issue of Inspire Magazine Encourages Small Scale Attacks

Inspire 15 cover image

Inspire 15

The 15th issue of InspireAl Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP)’s Eng­lish lan­guage mag­a­zine, released on May 14, pro­vides read­ers with instruc­tions for mur­der­ing “the intel­li­gentsia, eco­nomic and influ­en­tial per­son­al­i­ties of Amer­ica.” Such attacks, claims the mag­a­zine, are “easy options that do not require huge efforts or man power, but the result is par­al­lel to the big oper­a­tions or even more.”

This incite­ment to kill indi­vid­u­als is the same attack strat­egy that was pro­vided in the 14th issue of Inspire mag­a­zine (released in Sep­tem­ber 2015), but the 15th issue pro­vides addi­tional sug­ges­tions for mak­ing bombs to con­duct the assas­si­na­tions, includ­ing pack­age bombs, small bombs under cars, and bombs that can be attached to a doorframe.

As in pre­vi­ous issues of Inspire, the mag­a­zine uses anti-Semitism and resent­ment of Israel to mobi­lize the anger and sup­port needed to encour­age indi­vid­u­als to sus­tain AQAP and per­pe­trate attacks. ADL pub­lished an updated report on anti-Semitism in Islamic extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda in 2015.

This exploita­tion of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sen­ti­ment was par­tic­u­larly evi­dent in the arti­cle, “O Knife Rev­o­lu­tion, Head Toward Amer­ica.” In it, AQAP strives to export the cur­rent mode of Pales­tin­ian ter­ror attacks in Israel to the U.S. by ask­ing, “Where are the zeal­ous Mus­lims in Amer­ica, who clearly see their Mus­lim broth­ers in Pales­tine being tor­tured? It is because of this painful tor­ture, that the blessed Knife Upris­ing has sur­faced. Then way is it that you just sit and wait, with your hands tied up?”

That arti­cle fur­ther uti­lizes anti-Semitism to encour­age attacks against the U.S. “It is no secret that the first guardian, sup­porter, and great­est inciter to the Jews are the Amer­i­cans,” it states. It goes on to directly threaten Jews, ask­ing “How many Jews are there in Amer­ica, Europe and other kufr (apos­tate) coun­tries? So take mat­ters in hand and fol­low the advice of your Prophet, if any of you gets hold of a Jew any­where, let him fin­ish him off.”

An article in Inspire 15 Encourages Domestic Attacks

An arti­cle in Inspire 15 encour­ages knife attacks in the U.S. mod­eled after attacks under­taken by Pales­tini­ans in Israel.

Sim­i­larly, the arti­cle, “Let us Unite for Pales­tine,” clearly attempts to trans­fer anger against Israel to attacks against the U.S. by assert­ing “The lib­er­a­tion of Jerusalem…requires…two things: Firstly: Strik­ing the West…. Sec­ondly: Estab­lish­ing a Mus­lim state in Egypt and the Lev­ant.” AQAP is more inter­ested in attack­ing the West and secur­ing a foothold in Egypt and Syria than in attack­ing Israel, so the mag­a­zine tries to con­vince its sup­port­ers that these goals are inher­ently a part of destroy­ing the State of Israel.

Yet another arti­cle, “Inside Obama’s Ratio­nal­ity,” sug­gests a con­spir­acy the­ory of Jew­ish influ­ence in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics: “every­one com­petes in pleas­ing the Jews, even the so-called ratio­nal Pres­i­dents com­pete with each other in prov­ing who is the most biased, irra­tional, par­ti­san pres­i­dent when it comes to sup­port­ing the Jews.”

Other arti­cles directly pro­mote any sort of lone wolf attacks against the U.S., while striv­ing to ensure that Al Qaeda can receive credit for indi­vid­ual actions. The arti­cle “Jihad Upon Clear Insight” states “one can ben­e­fit from the pub­li­ca­tion of As-Sahab foun­da­tion (an Al Qaeda media foundation)…It explains the impor­tance of lone jihad and its impact upon the enemy…. And he can also ben­e­fit from Inspire Mag­a­zine. A Lone Mujahid and oth­ers should know that this knowl­edge is not less impor­tant than the sci­ence of weaponry and how to use them, how to make explo­sives and charges.”

As noted, the cover arti­cle, “Pro­fes­sional Assas­si­na­tions,” pro­vides instruc­tions for sur­veilling influ­en­tial indi­vid­u­als and then build­ing bombs to mur­der them.

Inspire is per­haps the most noto­ri­ous Al Qaeda pro­pa­ganda vehi­cle. It has played a role in the rad­i­cal­iza­tion of mul­ti­ple domes­tic extrem­ists, includ­ing the Tsar­naev broth­ers of the Boston Marathon bomb­ing), Jose Pimentel, who attempted a bomb­ing in New York, and Abdel Daoud, who attempted a bomb­ing in Chicago.

 

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