On the clumsy, chunky, awkward, bespectacled, always out of sync, filiopietistic father, doting American dad, altogether a figure deserving of our sympathy — please don’t mention Islam — Omar Mateen!
“‘Always Agitated. Always Mad’: Omar Mateen, According to Those Who Knew Him,” by Dan Barry, Serge F. Kovaleski, Alan Blinder and Mujib Mashal, New York Times, June 18, 2016:
ORLANDO, Fla. — The brother of the bride arrived late for her reception. But soon enough he was mingling at the lakeside pavilion in West Palm Beach, where a diverse gathering of guests dined on chicken tikka masala and goat biryani while admiring the view of the Intracoastal Waterway just beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Then came the moment to join in a traditional Afghan dance called the attan, in which dancers form a circle and are led through a series of synchronized turns and moves. If well executed, the attan can create an almost trancelike sense of oneness.
But here was the bride’s brother — stocky, bespectacled Omar Mateen — dancing in the group and yet dancing apart. Clumsy, out of sync, his head mostly down, the man dressed in black was following his own rhythm. Four months after this celebration of life in February, the awkward man in black caused wholesale death. Chuckling and declaring allegiance to the Islamic State, he opened fire at a gay and Latino nightclub here, leaving 49 people dead and wounding 53 others before he was killed by the police to end a protracted standoff.
“Stocky, bespectacled, clumsy, out of sync, awkward” – these are the epithets affixed to social misfit Omar Mateen by the Times, garnering a little sympathy for him; they’ll get to the murderous-hate side of this misfit’s life a little later on.
The massacre at the Pulse nightclub early last Sunday stands as the deadliest mass shooting by one person in United States history.
Rising amid the international grief is the aching and obvious question of why. But the short life of Mr. Mateen, who was 29, provides no easy road map to motivation.
Though Omar Mateen forthrightly and repeatedly declared his allegiance to the Islamic State at the very time of the shooting, the Times, much like O.J. Simpson “looking for the real killer,” seems determined not to accept Mateen’s own straightforward justification for his acts, but to search desperately for some motive(s) other than Islam.
He had shown occasional flashes of interest in radical Islam, enough to be investigated twice by the F.B.I. in recent years for possible extremist ties.
What the Times minimizes as “occasional flashes of interest in radical Islam” appear to have been both more frequent and more serious demonstrations of interest. Mateen’s classmates recalled that on 9/11 he “animatedly joked about the mass attacks on Infidels” and that ever since 9/11 he had been “very religious.” He was not merely showing “occasional flashes” of interest in what the Times calls “radical Islam” when, in 2013, he made suspicious comments about Jihadism that were heard by coworkers, which led to his being interviewed by the FBI. He was interviewed again in 2014, based on his connection to Moner Mohammad Abu Salha, an American from Florida who trained in Syria, traveled back to his home state and tried to recruit other Americans, and then went back to Syria, where he blew himself up in a suicide bombing. Taken together, these were signposts along the way of a commitment to what the Times (and so many others) still insist on calling “radical Islam.”
He was deeply devout. He regularly attended the Islamic Center at Fort Pierce with his father and son; his three sisters volunteered at the mosque. He went all the way to Saudi Arabia, a great expense for someone in his position, twice, in order to make the lesser pilgrimage (‘Umrah). He was known to leave his post – even as a security guard — to say one of the daily canonical prayers. This was not someone who wore his Islam lightly.
At home, according to the testimony of his ex-wife, he could be “physically abusive.” Since in Islam a man may beat (lightly) his wife, his behavior was sanctioned by his faith. The Times reports the beatings, but not the fact that they are allowed in Islam.
But his professed embrace of the Islamic State…
The Times’ use of “professed” – the word can mean “claimed or asserted openly but often falsely” — implicitly casts doubt on the sincerity of Mateen’s “embrace of the Islamic State.” But there is no evidence to suggest that Mateen did not mean what he said when he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. It is Western apologists, such as the Times, that cannot bear to accept this, and will go looking for some other explanation for Mateen’s massacre, so as not to have to point to Islam as the motivation for his mass-murders.
…and its call for disaffected Muslims to attack the West seem to have come suddenly, as if something snapped.
But isn’t the Times, in suggesting that “something snapped,” minimizing the evidence of his interest in “radical Jihadism” or “radical Islam” long before? Consider such things as the testimony of classmates that he was “very religious,” those 9/11 jokes, those FBI interviews in 2013 and 2014, prompted by favorable comments he made about “radical Jihadism,” and his connection to an American Muslim who went from Florida to Syria where he blew himself up in a suicide bombing. Mateen’s interest in the Islamic State was obviously not, as the Times would have you believe, the result of a sudden lapsus, “as if something snapped.” His repeatedly scouting out of potential targets, including Disney World, and then, once he had settled on the Pulse nightclub, paying it many visits, are evidence of a killer’s methodical planning, rather than evidence that “something snapped.”
And while some reports have suggested that he was gay, federal officials say they have found no evidence in his effects or online presence to back them up.
Instead, the recollections of those who knew or encountered him conjure a man who could be charming, even laid-back, yet who also seemed forever aggrieved, forever not at peace, forever out of step. A chubby kid…
He was previously introduced to us in the Times’ piece as “a stocky kid”—both are sympathy-inducing descriptions.
…making inappropriate jokes about 9/11 in the fresh wake of that catastrophe…
Merely “inappropriate jokes about 9/11”? Is “inappropriate” the appropriate word here? Or should the epithet be, rather, “horrifying” – the horrifying jokes that someone like Mateen might make, if he approved of that attack on Infidels, in his view enemies who had it coming? The Times doesn’t want you to take this chubby boy’s anti-Infidel views too seriously, so it depicts Mateen as an awkward clumsy kid who is “charming” but “forever out of step,” who makes stupid — “inappropriate” — jokes just to get attention.
A leering misogynist…
And what is the source of that misogyny, if not Islam itself? Shouldn’t the Times have made the Mateen family’s dynamics clear to readers? That would mean, for this “culturally conservative” Muslim family, discussion of the inferior position of women in Islam, starting with such things as the rules about property and inheritance and judicial testimony for males and females, the right of husbands to beat (lightly) their wives, and the triple-talaq that constitutes a Muslim man’s divorce, and then discussions of such things as required dress, and Islamically permissible art and music.
…whose pursuits could rattle women. An off-putting employee who spoke casually of killing those who offended him. The security guard and wannabe cop whose scattershot anger made others feel unsafe.
The anger-management theme.
“He was just agitated about everything,” Daniel Gilroy, a former co-worker in the security business, recalled. “Always shaken. Always agitated. Always mad.”
For the Times, Omar Mateen was a stocky, chubby kid with glasses, an awkward goof-off who didn’t work well with others, but had severe anger management problems – Islam is almost, in the Times’ account, an afterthought. Others, more aware of his family’s history, and more cognizant of the teachings and texts of Islam, would surely beg to differ, and would insist that Islam’s texts and teachings both fed and channelled Omar Mateen’s anger, an anger against Infidels that led to his pledge of allegiance to ISIS, a pledge which both the Obama Administration, and the Times, seem determined not to take seriously.
A Difficult Student
Omar Mateen was that chunky kid with glasses, remembered more for his scrapes with other classmates than for his academic performance. Early on, the same schoolboy who could wear a broad smile and a Power Rangers T-shirt in his school portrait could also engage in “much talk about violence & sex,” according to a school assessment.
The “chunky kid with glasses…and a broad smile” theme again.
A first-generation American, he was born in New York City’s melting-pot borough of Queens in 1986, and moved about four years later with his Afghan parents to Port St. Lucie in Florida, where he was quickly enrolled in an English for Speakers of Other Languages program.
His father, Seddique Mateen…
The Times article fails to mention a critical fact: that the father was a devout Muslim from Afghanistan who, even in America, remained a stout supporter of the Taliban.
…a refugee who became a naturalized American citizen, was a financial broker whose savvy investments allowed for a comfortable home appointed with tasteful furniture and expensive silk rugs. His wife, Shahla, stayed mostly in the background, while he set a tone of cultural conservatism, especially when it came to his three other children, all accomplished women…
The phrase “cultural conservatism” demands explanation, but the Times withholds that explanation. I take it to refer — in a deliberately vague way – to the misogyny of orthodox Islam, where women are kept, as good Muslimahs, in the background, subservient and obedient to the menfolk. The father no doubt strictly regulated the dress, the social life, the shopping, the pastimes, of his three daughters. “Cultural conservatism” may also refer to the kinds of music they could listen to, the kind of art they could hang on their walls, the kind of books they could read. We need to have that “cultural conservatism” explained more fully, but if that were done, it would underscore the role of Islam in every area of the Mateen family’s life. And The Times, doing its best to minimize the role of Islam in the Orlando killings, would not wish that.
The son, though, enjoyed male privilege.
What does this mean? Again the Times chose not to explain. But in Islam, it means, among other things, that Omar Mateen was treated better than his sisters, had more freedom growing up than they did, was treated more leniently when it was a question of punishment, more generously when it was a question of reward. Again, to spell it out would be to show Islam to Times readers in a disturbing light; better to avoid the details. And that “male privilege” accompanied Omar when he had his own family; he was Islamically entitled to beat (lightly) his wife, and, at least with his first wife, he did.
The family assimilated.
This is simply asserted without any discussion of what constitutes “assimilation.” There is no explanation in the Times of how a Muslim family that is “culturally conservative” — with the women subservient to the men – can conceivably “assimilate” into America’s sexually egalitarian society. Attentive readers will be mystified that the Times did not take the trouble to explain.
But as the United States became mired in the protracted war in Afghanistan, the elder Mr. Mateen became torn between his native and adopted homes. Over the years, he would become more politically active to a point of apparent delusion, posting videos, for example, of himself in military uniform, pretending to be Afghanistan’s president.
But the most important fact about the senior Mateen is ignored: on his YouTube program, Mateen’s father repeatedly praised the Taliban, praise that his son would certainly have been aware of and been affected by.
For his children, family friends say, this meant navigating a fractured world in which their Afghan roots and Muslim faith could lead to divisiveness and ostracism…
The victimization theme.
Two friends say that the Mateen children feared any perceived link to Islamic extremism, and so began saying, simply, that they were Persian.
The victimization/fear-of-Infidels theme.
Omar Mateen was a disciplinary challenge in school, unafraid to push buttons. “Constantly moving, verbally abusive, rude, aggressive,” that school assessment noted. In the third grade, his rendition of the school song at Mariposa Elementary replaced “Mariposa, Mariposa” with “marijuana, marijuana.”
The boy was formally disciplined more than 30 times in elementary and middle schools as he pursued attention and occasional conflict rather than his studies. His father would later say that young Omar preferred drawing pictures in class to listening, which seems borne out by an assessment one of his teachers wrote at the time:
The dreamy-listens-to-a-different-drummer theme.
“Unfortunately, Omar had great difficulty focusing on his classwork since he often seeks the attention of his classmates through some sort of noise, disruption, or distraction.”
The attention-seeking troublemaker theme.
So was Omar Mateen betraying his latent extremist sympathies — or was he just being tone-deaf…
The Times is quick to suggest a possible alternative – being “tone-deaf” means here “childishly insensitive” — to those “latent extremist sympathies” that, we will discover, were hardly latent.
— when, at 14, he shocked other students on his school bus by imitating an exploding plane so soon after the Sept. 11 attacks?
There is testimony that Omar did more than flap his arms in imitation of a plane; he “joked” about the September 11 attacks and had to be warned to stop it or “there would be problems.”
“He got on, walked up the first couple of steps, held his arms out and made sounds like a motor and then made an explosion sound — and slipped into his seat,” Robert Zirkle, another student on the bus, remembered. “He did this three or four times, and was clearly not in the mood or the same state of mind that we were in. He seemed excited.”
His unsettling pantomimes ended when others told him there would be problems if he continued.
Omar cycled through three high schools, collecting a string of suspensions — for fighting and other infractions — along the way. (In one case, a charge of battery was adjudicated and a charge of disturbing school function was dropped, he later wrote to a potential employer. “This was an experience of me growing up and I learned a big lesson from it.”)
The problem-child theme.
Martin Bielicki, a former dean of students at Martin County High School, remembered in an email that this student “had issues with other students, in particular,” and “always would argue back and even defend himself.”
“I remember Omar as a 14-year-old boy,” Mr. Bielicki wrote. “I look at that yearbook picture of him and it brings back memories of an innocent and likable young man.”
Except that he was always angry, had a “string of suspensions,” including 30 suspensions just in grade school, but the Times is hoping for a bit of understanding for Omar, the “innocent and likable young man,” who never got the mental health treatment – in the Times’ sympathetic telling – he needed and deserved.
Omar matured with time. He took up soccer and skateboarding, became infatuated with weight lifting, and shed the flabbiness that had become a source of ridicule.
He became so muscular that a friend, Sean Chagani, once asked him whether he was taking steroids. Recalled Mr. Chagani: “He kind of smirked and asked, ‘Can you tell?’”
The Mateen boy was more awkward than most teenagers, he recalled, but the two managed to find common ground. They played basketball, competed in video games and swam in the Chagani family’s pool.
The “awkward boy” theme.
“I had plenty of friends growing up that I would consider kind of odd, and he was one of them,” Mr. Chagani said. “But certainly not aggressive, violent, homophobic, etc.”
Omar secured after-school jobs here and there, including at a Publix grocery store, and improved so strikingly in the classroom that he graduated from Stuart Adult Community High School in April 2003 in the top half of his class — at the age of 16.
He moved from one low-level job to the next: a cashier and cook at a Chick-fil-A, a cashier at a Walgreens, a cashier at a Nutrition World, a floor watcher at a Gold’s Gym, a sales clerk at a GNC vitamin and supplement store. All the while, though, he was attending a community college, working toward an associate degree in criminal justice technology.
His passion, it seems, was in law enforcement: Omar Mateen saw himself in uniform, buff and armed.
In May 2005, the 18-year-old requested to go on a ride-along with a St. Lucie County deputy sheriff. But the ride that took place after he passed a background check now seems enveloped in an air of foreboding. The deputy sheriff’s car crashed, and the teenager was taken to a hospital to be checked out.
After earning his degree, Mr. Mateen applied for an officer’s job with the Florida Department of Corrections, bolstering his application with an impressive letter of recommendation from Officer Steven J. Brown of the Port St. Lucie Police. “I would sleep soundly at night knowing that a person like Omar is protecting us.”
The young man’s dream was conditionally realized when he was sworn in as a Corrections Department employee and assigned as a trainee to the Martin Correctional Institution in Indiantown, not far from where he grew up. Four months in, he seemed on his way to a career in law enforcement, having received an evaluation of meeting expectations — of having the makings of one day becoming a “good correctional officer.”
But six months in, Mr. Mateen was fired. The unsettling reasons were revealed in documents released by the Department of Corrections on Friday.
The can’t-hold-a-job theme.
An officer reported in a memorandum that during training Mr. Mateen had laughingly asked him “if he was to bring a gun to school would I tell anybody.” He posed his question on April 14, 2007, two days before a student named Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others on the campus of Virginia Tech.
Mr. Mateen’s joke, if that is what it was, coupled with his penchant for sleeping in class and being absent without permission, prompted the warden, Powell H. Skipper, to recommend his termination.
More of the can’t-hold-a-job theme.
“In light of recent tragic events at Virginia Tech, Officer Mateen’s inquiry about bringing a weapon to class is at best extremely disturbing,” Mr. Skipper wrote at the time.
Denied the right to wear one uniform, Mr. Mateen soon dressed in another — that of a security guard. He completed a training course, passed a background check, and began working for a security firm called G4S. At one point, perhaps as part of a G4S contract, he was working as an intake officer at a Florida juvenile assessment center. At another point, he was providing security after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, during which an undercover documentarian recorded a few of his cynical observations.
“No one gives a shit here, like everyone is just out to get paid,” he is recorded as saying. “They’re like hoping for more oil to come out and more people to complain so they’ll have the jobs. Because once people get laid off here, it’s going to suck for them. They want more disaster to happen because that’s where their moneymaking is.”
Hints of a Darker Side
Life continued. He had connected online with a young woman named Sitora Yusufiy, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, who initially found him to be a nice, funny man who treated his family well and had aspirations of becoming a police officer. He was religious — he made at least two Islamic pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia…
A sign of his extreme devotion, given his finances, which the Times fails to note.
— but he never expressed sympathy for radical Islamists or terrorists, she said. And, yes, he could be homophobic.
For the Times, there is no obvious connection between Mateen’s Muslim faith and his being “homophobic.”
Soon after their marriage in April 2009, Ms. Yusufiy said, he began beating her and isolating her in their Florida home. With the help of her parents in New Jersey, she fled within the year.
The next year, he was married again, to a woman he met online, this time to Noor Salman, in Rodeo, Calif., though he cultivated the persona of a man with a wandering eye.
Mr. Mateen used a dating website to seek a relationship with a woman in Fort Pierce. He churned through usernames — “makeitlovelylol” among them — and lied about his age, according to the woman, who requested anonymity but who provided photos that she had saved from his dating profile.
At one point, she said, Mr. Mateen’s pursuit veered toward stalking. He began messaging her to say he was nearby. He knew the color of her car and the general location of her place of employment.
Other hints of a disturbed mind continued to emerge. In 2013, G4S removed Mr. Mateen from his security post at the St. Lucie County Courthouse after he had made “inflammatory comments” about being involved somehow in terrorism.
Once again, the he-can’t-hold-a-job theme.
The Times appears to want us to feel sympathy for Mateen, depicting him as mentally disturbed, though his attitudes are not so distinct from that of other Muslim terrorists who have been regarded as of sound—but Islamic — mind.
Though far-fetched and even contradictory — he claimed connections to Al Qaeda, the Sunni extremist group, and ties to its near opposite, the Shiite Hezbollah…
This is not evidence of Mateen’s mental confusion, but of the Times reporters’ ignorance; Sunni and Shi’a, whatever their differences, have been known to work together against a common enemy — Infidels.
His comments were troubling enough for the county sheriff’s office to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The bureau’s subsequent inquiry was inconclusive.
The next year, Mr. Mateen again attracted federal scrutiny, after an acquaintance from his mosque, the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, carried out a suicide bombing in Syria. According to F.B.I. Director James B. Comey, federal investigators concluded that Mr. Mateen knew the bomber only casually.
The mosque’s imam, Syed Shafeeq Rahman, insisted that Mr. Mateen had never heard teachings at the mosque that would have radicalized him. “There is nothing that he is hearing from me to do killing, to do bloodshed, to do anything, because we never talk like that,” the imam said.
By the end of 2014, Mr. Mateen — the bodybuilder who had once imagined a respected future in law enforcement — was working the guard’s booth at the entrance to PGA Village, a golf resort community in Port St. Lucie. But even in this low-pressure position, he managed to unnerve and upset, especially when he seemed to think that he had been disrespected.
The anger-management theme.
Heath Holtzclaw, who worked security at PGA Village a few years ago, has not forgotten how enraged Mr. Mateen became when he thought someone had given him an attitude. “You could tell he wanted to say something to whoever he felt had slighted him, but he never did,” Mr. Holtzclaw said. “He just slammed things around.”
Mr. Mateen would make people wait at the gate, sometimes causing delays, if he felt he had been disrespected, or if it was time for him to do his prayers.
A work interruption that is evidence of his level of devotion.
Jasmine Kalenuik, a frequent visitor to PGA Village, came to dread encountering the guard at the gate — who, she said, “acted like a straight-up predator.”
“When I would go to grab my ID from his hand, he would cling to it and try to pull it back,” Ms. Kalenuik, 31, recalled. “He would hover over my car window and lean way in while breathing heavy on me with his teeth so clenched that you could see his jaw muscles sticking out.”
Ms. Kalenuik’s husband, Jerry, recently confronted the security guard, nearly nose to nose. But Mr. Mateen betrayed no emotion during the angry encounter.
“It was like I was staring into the eyes of Ted Bundy,” Mr. Kalenuik, 27, said. “I was irate but he seemed completely detached.”
After that, he said, Mr. Mateen would grant him and his wife a curt nod as they passed through the checkpoint, but never looked them in the eye.
Finally, it seems, rage consumed the man. Over what — infidels,…
This is the first, and only, appearance of this word in The Times’ article.
…gays, society’s failure to grant him proper deference, all of it — remains unclear.
Couldn’t there be more than one reason for his anger, and can’t they all be traced back to Islam? Isn’t it clear that Omar Mateen was deeply devout, just like his Taliban-loving father, for 13 years regularly attending the mosque in Fort Pierce (where his father shared leadership duties with the imam), boasting of ties to Muslim terrorists which revealed, tellingly, his Walter-Mitty dreams of glory? Wasn’t it Islam that taught him to despise both homosexuals and Infidels? Can’t he have nurtured a murderous hatred, rooted in Islam, for both? And wasn’t it Islam that taught him that Muslims were the “best of peoples” and that he was not being properly respected by Infidels, including — what was particularly infuriating — the employers who kept firing him?
From the time he grotesquely joked, at the age of 14, about 9/11, to when, at the age of 29, he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State before murdering 49 Infidels and brought his tortuous drama to an end, he was following the dictates of Islam, and ultimately trying to “strike terror in the hearts” of the Infidels as best he could. It is this that the New York Times does not want you to understand — that for Omar Mateen, the hatred of Infidels was at least as deep and long-lasting as his apparent hatred of homosexuals. But the Times article presents Mateen not as he saw himself, as a determined warrior for Islam, but rather as a cauldron of mental confusion. But he was not confused. It is, rather, our leaders who are exhibiting that confusion: even now Attorney General Loretta Lynch insists that Mateen’s motives may never be known: “a motive has yet to be established…..”
His father has suggested that Mr. Mateen was incensed by the sight of two men kissing in front of his young son…
His father, the Taliban supporter, naturally has a vested interest in promoting the “homophobia” motive rather than Islam.
…whose bedroom was chock-full with all things Disney, all things America: a Spider-Man helmet and bicycle, a Star Wars backpack, Star Wars drapes, a chair in the likeness of Tow Mater from “Cars,” and not one but three Mickey Mouses.
Mateeen’s son as a regular American kid, “all things Disney, all things America” in his room — and by implication, Omar Mateen as a doting American dad who deserves our sympathetic understanding.
Earlier this month, legally and with little wait, the man rejected by law enforcement purchased a Glock 9mm handgun and a SIG Sauer MCX military-style rifle.
Then, early last Sunday morning, he carried his recent purchases into the Pulse nightclub, where hundreds of people were drinking and dancing and celebrating life, the way families do at weddings. And, following his own rhythm, he began to shoot.
From that sweetly smiling face staring out of his 3rd and 4th grade photographs, the photos with which the Times begins its article, tugging at our sympathies early on, Omar Mateen grows into an “innocent and likeable young man” of 14, according to the fond memories of a high school dean, and then into a “chunky, bespectacled, clumsy, awkward, out of sync” man in his 20s who for some reason – what could it be? – ends up as a mass killer.
And though, in the midst of his killing he repeatedly pledges allegiance to the Islamic State, Attorney General Loretta Lynch still claims that “a motive has yet to be established….” And she further insists that “we may never know” what caused the devout Muslim Omar Mateen to do what he did.
The Times does its bit in the same vein, pointing in every direction for “a motive,” and sympathetically presenting Omar Mateen as a troubled boy-man who couldn’t get an even break in a world he never made, and attempting to minimize the central role of Islam in his life. Whatever else you find to blame, whispers The Times – repressed homosexuality, his feeling of never fitting in, his girl and wife trouble, his inability to hold a steady job and, especially, his anger management problems that are the main theme of the Times’ piece — please don’t blame Islam for what Mateen did at the Pulse, just because for years he had expressed sympathy for Jihad terrorism and just because in the midst of his killing, he made many 911 calls in which he repeatedly pledged fealty to ISIS. That would only make things worse. And then the real terrorists would have won.