Orlando shooting: I don’t just blame religious extremism – I blame the Internet

Published: June 13, 2016

People mourning victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday. PHOTO: AFP

Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a multiple shooting at a nightclub.
PHOTO: AP People mourning victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday.

The news of the mass shooting at the gay club in Orlando, Florida early Sunday morning by the lone gunman identified as Omar Mateen leaves people aghast… yet again. The bloodshed has been deemed the worst mass shooting in US history and the deadliest terrorist attack in the country since 9/11.

Opening fire in the nightclub packed with over 300 people, Mateen killed 50 people and wounded 53 others. He held the rest hostage for three hours before the bar was stormed by the police and he, too, was shot and killed. The dust had barely settled after the San Bernardino shooting by the radicalised couple, Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, when another lone radical went on this bloody shooting spree. During the attack, Mateen called 911 to confess his allegiance to IS. Though the IS has not claimed responsibility for the attacks, the radical group’s supporters are lauding Mateen on the Internet.

Ever since the efforts to curtail terrorist activities have been toughened, the greatest challenge that Homeland Security has had to face over the years is combing out these ‘lone wolves’ from the population who are slowly being brainwashed by radical content. Indicating no deviant activity otherwise, they suddenly display ghastly quirks of behaviour that result in insane violence. Mateen too had been interviewed by the FBI and declared harmless in 2014.

In cases like Mateen’s, it is only gradually that a metamorphosis of ideas occurs. And for this, the most influential relay of information and regular source of ‘hate inoculation’ is whatever they glean from the Internet. This holds true for the vast majority of disturbed individuals who randomly pick up guns and go on mass shooting sprees or commit other acts of mindless violence. In today’s rapidly fluctuating global mind-sets where, both nationally and internationally, nerves are taut, political relationships are raw, and leaders are having trouble staying out of each other’s hair, the Internet is no help with its fostering violence such as this.

Let’s face it; just like the ‘bombed’ idea of the nuclear bomb, humanity has shot itself in the foot with the invention of an unmanned Internet, its good and bad unleashed upon minds of all kind to use as they will. With increasingly rampant and persistent use in every sector of every populace in every country, the Internet is doing more harm than good. No doubt, when it comes to radicalisation and spread of terrorism, this is most certainly the greatest bane of police authorities around the world.

Terrorists and terrorist organisations, whether they are operating in Pakistan or the US, are going extra miles in utilising the possibilities offered by the Internet to expand their perverted, aberrant ideologies. This includes the use of social media websites. Internet offers the luxury of anonymity and access to like-minded individuals with the click of a button.

Although inciting violence is their main purpose, these organisations also use the medium for communication; spreading information without being dependent on traditional print sources, raising and transferring funds from all corners of the globe, strengthening their information base regarding their targets and radicalising the mindsets of the lone wolves. The ‘sleeper cell’ pattern of terrorism that exists in Pakistan is also aided fully and activated through the use of Internet based services.

In the case of the Orlando shooting, the hostages inside the bar were using their phones to update those outside of the situation as it unfolded. Yes, it was good for them but no, it wasn’t good for other individuals like Mateen, who watch such updates keenly, and ‘wow’ the hype and prominence awarded to such tragedies on television and through social media. More often than not – in their sick and radicalised minds – they too feel the desire ‘to do something’ and be ejected into instant ‘stardom’ with a similar act.

To make it worse, they are hooked onto perverse websites that condone such acts and who subscribe to the twisted philosophies of organisations like IS. With the ease they have in obtaining guns, along with being thoroughly inculcated with warped theologies of terrorist organisations, they go on rampant acts of violence.

The US ranks number one in gun ownership per capita. Its hands are tied in taking any steps for reducing this number because of the Second Amendment. Then there is the Freedom of Information Act, which allows everyone access to all information. Hence the Internet flourishes. The connection between the Internet and the rise of terrorism has been extensively studied since 9/11.

Between the five years of 1996-2001, the very early years of Internet use, there were 40 deaths due to mass shootings in the country. Between the two years of 2010-2012, the total number of deaths was 75. In 2015, just one year, referred to as the Year of Mass Shootings in the US, there were a shocking 372 cases of mass shootings resulting in 475 deaths (PBS Newshour).

It cannot be denied that the Internet is not the only reason why hate doctrines are flourishing so wildly at present time. But it also cannot be denied that it is one of the topmost reasons. What can be done about it? That is a million-dollar question. The human mind is currently so addicted to the Internet in one form or the other that it cannot bear separation from it even for an instant. It is a sad price we are paying for one of science’s stellar technological breakthroughs.

But whenever events like the Orlando shooting occur, one wonders how much higher a price will we have to pay for such stellar breakthroughs.


Aalia Suleman

A freelance writer and poet who is keenly interested in the status of women in 21st century Pakistan. Her writing also zones in on Pakistan's new social and political status on a redefined global chessboard. She has a masters degree in English Literature and blogs and invites debates at 'Socio-politically Pakistani'. She tweets @aaliasuleman (twitter.com/aaliasuleman)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • LS

    1) Water kills… LETS BAN WATER


    2) Cars also Kill (More than Guns) — LETS BAN CARS

    3) Alcohol kills

    But lets BAN Internet… This is called Staw manning — You raise some issue of killing and then argue why something else should be banned…

    What about countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Philippines, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Niger — What is your excuse for these countries where there is not much internet penetration but lot more madrasas, radical Islamist…terrorist organizations killing people at wantonRecommend

  • Critical

    If you see a violence committed by a person of your religion and the first thought that comes is to protect your religion instead of condemning the violence….then you are part of the ProblemRecommend


    Even worse, those on the regressive left, in their endless capacity for masochism and self-loathing, have attempted to shift blame inwardly on themselves, denying the Jihadists even the satisfaction of claiming responsibility.

    It’s like a bad Monty Python sketch:

    “We did this because our holy texts exhort us to to do it.”

    “No you didn’t.”

    “Wait, what? Yes we did…”

    “No, this has nothing to do with religion. You guys are just using religion as a front for social and geopolitical reasons.”

    “WHAT!? Did you even read our official statement? We give explicit Quranic justification. This is jihad, a holy crusade against pagans, blasphemers, and disbelievers.”

    “No, this is definitely not a Muslim thing. You guys are not true Muslims, and you defame a great religion by saying so.”

    “Huh!? Who are you to tell us we’re not true Muslims!? Islam is literally at the core of everything we do, and we have implemented the truest most literal and honest interpretation of its founding texts. It is our very reason for being.”

    “Nope. We created you. We installed a social and economic system that alienates and disenfranchises you, and that’s why you did this. We’re sorry.”

    “What? Why are you apologizing? We just slaughtered you mercilessly in the streets. We targeted unwitting civilians – disenfranchisement doesn’t even enter into it!”

    “Listen, it’s our fault. We don’t blame you for feeling unwelcome and lashing out.”

    “Seriously, stop taking credit for this! We worked really hard to pull this off, and we’re not going to let you take it away from us.”

    “No, we nourished your extremism. We accept full blame.”

    “OMG, how many people do we have to kill around here to finally get our message across?”Recommend

  • victor

    pointing fingers at other things, I blame doctors and education for making extremist uncomfortable when they are faced with facts and do irrational things like shooting other then their irrational belief in religion!Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Another apologist.

    Quran and the Shariah have pretty clear guidelines about gay people. They are not to be tolerated.

    Either reject the teachings of Shariah or follow them.

    If anything, he is a hero in the eyes of the Muslims, who follow Shariah as per instructions.

    Just to add to it, the negative verses about gay people are also present in the Christian world.

    A lot of hardcore Christians are against gays and the LGBT community in general. However, no crazy Christian group has ever attempted a mass-murder action like this one. Recommend

  • siesmann

    Muslims are not the only one using internet.How is it only they get radicalized,and become mortally violent.There is something in the Islamic ideology that is more to blame .
    A single Muslim in Orlando doomed all the efforts of USA citizens,and have practically ensured Trump to be the next president- the most anti-Muslim politician ever produced.He just finished his harangue on the TV.His presentation was to be on Clintons.Instead it became all about Islam and terrorism. The rhetoric has suddenly shifted from Trump’s bigotry to bigotry of Islam.Everytime this happens,Islam’s claim to be peaceful becomes a laughing stock of the world.
    This act also doomed any chance of the few Syrian refugees who were to be admitted to USA.And the sad thing is this violent individual did what the Right wishes in its heart-their hatred for Gay community,and secret wish to eliminate them.And the irony is that Gay community is possibly the strongest bulwark against bigotry and a friend of Islam in USA.And it was a Latin nite at the club,and most of the killed were hispanics-the strongest opponents of Trump’s bid for presidency.The focus was on Trump’s anti-hispanic propaganda.That has been pushed to the background,and Islam becomes the main target.
    The fact remains that Mullah is the bane of Islamic world.He has slowly insinuated himself into every sphere of Muslim life,and Muslims are allowing him the space.One can change and get rid of Governments and political parties,but it won’t be easy(if not impossible) to dislodge Mullah from his reign.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Blaming the Net is the easy way out.
    This seems to be a case of supply and demand……..we should curtail the demand that results from bad governance, religious intolerance, economic inequality, bad foreign policy decisions by powerful nations etc and the supply, on the Net will dry up. Recommend

  • pk

    Not once ideology of radical Islam is mentioned. If tomorrow Internet services suspended all over world then are kufars will be safe?

  • Myrna Minkoff

    You have hit the nail on the head.
    Apologists like this author are part of the problem.Recommend

  • Gambhir

    You cheat yourself, and in that process, others too. Your religion has enough number of exhortations to punish gays, to kill Kuffr, to levy punitive taxes, to treat vanquished people as slaves. Either you reinterpret your religion to suit modern times, or relinquish those injunctions, just as people belonging to other faiths have done through social and institutional reforms. You may like to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds. But you cannot have the cake and eat it too.Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    Did you have internet from 6th to 20th centuries?Recommend

  • Kamath

    What a goofy argument!Recommend

  • Minerva

    Enough with the silly apologies in favor of Islam madam. Had it not been for the internet, the world would not have seen the real face of Islam.Recommend

  • Aalia Suleman

    I don’t remember addressing the issue of LGBT community in the light of Shariah. I’ve addressed VIOLENCE, not condoned in Islam, and how the Internet helps fan it.Recommend

  • maynotmatter

    And now we blame the internet ? Instead why not blame the radicals who use these tools to spread the hatred. Why not question this pattern that Muslims easily gets triggered by such message of hatred and are more susceptible to cause violence then people from any other religious group ? Religious violence is not a new phenomenon and occurs everywhere, but the ratio of muslims causing the violence vs non muslims is just staggering. Why do the muslims of world ( majority ones who claim themselves to be liberal and moderate) never ever wonder that it is always someone from their community who in name of their religion inflicts so much horror and in such grand scale ?Recommend

  • Laskero

    It looks he was a self-hating closet case. This could have been prevented if his family and religion were more accepting of his sexuality.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    why are people not pointing fingers at the REAL casuse of all of this mess? THE CIA!!

    They program people to cause such massacres. How can a regular guy have the guts to massacre 50 people? Who does that?! NO ONE unless its a military backed operation. Another thing pseudo fake Islmaic liberals dont want to question is the similar trend in all of these shooters. How the hell is it that they all have the same pattern? First they were triggered, then they got angry, theny got a couple of guns and started killing people. Its a government propaganda to put races against each other and spread hate. Now the whole cycle of islamophobic incidents will resume again till God forbid more people will end up dying. This is a never ending chain. And people are forgetting, this stuff didnt happen before, why is it happening so often now? Its a CIA propaganda to inject a dive and rule atmosphere into the society. I cannot believe the dumbness of liberal muslims sitting in America fearing for giving up their greencards suddely having to defend Islam and sharing articles about LGBT in Islam and what not and acting like homosexuality is totally allowed in Islam when it is not!

    Its a propaganda against Islam. Somehow they wanted the debate about homosexuality in Islam to be stirred. Now all the fearful American Muslims, whether well settled residents, immigrants or asylum seekers are now giving desperate attempts to disown their religious beliefs and pretending to show appreciation towards LGBT in order to keep their green cards and what not. Muslim community in the west is pathetic. In times like these, they should be moving back to where they came from not changing who they are in order to be accepted by the society as that is just giving way into the propaganda. I bet if something like this shooting had happened in their home countries, that would have immediately given them an excuse to seek asylum or emigrate to west. Why not stay back and try to fix your own problems? Oh wait, they were not getting unemployment allowance and social benefits back home thats whyRecommend

  • LS

    Ostrich anyone?

    “CIA Created the ISIS” – They were ONE of the causes but NOT the ONLY Cause. The biggest cause was Shia Sunni divide in Iraq and Syria where Ruling Baa’th (Shia) never ceded or shared power with Sunni Majority.

    “Homosexuality and Islam”
    ISIS has been throwing Homosexuals from the rooftop for a good 2-3 years now… your ignorance of the topic does not mean anything.


    Lastly: Social Security pays a few thousand dollars at the max, not enough to cover the rent and basic necessities… Do you think young people care about social security money? Those who DEPEND on social security don’t go to Clubs!!!

    How callous can you be? Do you really think Islam needs bad name in today’s world? IT ALREADY HAS!! Try shouting “Allah Hu Akbar” on a plane or mall and see what happens..

  • rationalist

    “Another apologist.”

    Absolutely. Aalia Suleman is part of those so-called peaceful Muslims who want to live in perpetual denial and blame everyone and everything else for Islamic terror. .Recommend

  • Gratgy

    What crap! Recommend

  • LS

    Internet also helps spread misinformation and straw manning the issues like you are doing.. Look at the Qatari YouTube Channel called AJ+. They are the worst apologists spreading misinformation and instead of feeling bad for the victims apologists are busy disseminating “Don’t hate muslims or don’t discriminate muslims” message. THAT Country KILLS people of LGBT community!! Yet they show Gay and Muslim (Oxymoron because if they are Gay Quran says they should be killed)

    To me it looks like a Tag team of terrorists and these so called moderates.. One commits one heinous crime after another and another one jumps in to mitigate its negative impact immediate after… and DEMANDS that there should not be any repercussions, discrimination, ill will against muslims due to the ISOLATED instances..

    Are you guys serious? We have seen this since last 30 YEARS and this trick is getting old…Recommend

  • siesmann

    That Muslims should move back-is the best advice indeed.It will be good for them;and it would be better for the rest of the world.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    how do you know what caused ISIS? were you in the land of ISIS that you speak so expertly about it? LudicrousRecommend

  • Salim Alvi
  • LS

    There is something called as independent media and analysts have you ever read them? You know reading makes people know more, Lahore is not known for quality education, I get that.

    Try: Brookings InstituteRecommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    How dare u insult my city like that.
    Oh and u r telling me u read every word in the Brookings Institute that you claim to be hold as high as word of God? U r brainwashedRecommend

  • LS

    I said “Something called as independent media and analysts…” See there? It is Analysts… and Independent media here is also plural meaning there are more than one Analyst and Independent media houses. Brookings is just one of them… If you need the whole list of Think Tanks.. here it is..


    Unfortunately pakistan has only 19 of these and not even ONE figures in World Top think tank… It is good that Pakistan was categorized with Central Asia rather than with India, China and South Korea

    Basic comprehension is also an issue in Lahore it seems, quite evidently not even ONE University exists in top 100… in Asia

    ..please do not behave like 5 year old with this “How dare…”, I suggest please grow up and counter with facts rather than emotions.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    i am an emotional lahori kuddi
    i fire back with emotions, not brainwashed factsRecommend

  • LS

    Those facts are from reputed organizations not an emotional lahori kudi… so its your word against them… does not weigh much…

    despite all this I like the way you are… “emotional lahori kudi” :-)Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    now u r just trying to hit on me in the comments section of some blog and that is just plain creepy!Recommend

  • LS

    Wow – I have no Idea who you are… I just like the way you think/comment.. don’t think too much of it… typical…Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    typical pindi boy mentality, u think u can fall in love in comments section of a blog? sorry to say but u need 2 stop dreaminRecommend

  • LS

    “Like” does not mean “Love”, where I live it is called “Appreciation” or a nice comment and would have gotten a “Thank you” and that would have ended right there… Alas.. typical la-hawl-wila-kuwat..Recommend