ISIS Was Not Omar Matteen's Only Cult

*This blog is jointly written by Shahnaz Taplin and Carl Pope

The tragedy in Orlando called forth amazing and eloquent responses. But we think the most powerful -- certainly of the responses from public officials -- came from a Utah Republican, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox. We urge you to read it. He reminds us that our humanity is measured by our response to hatred and terror. He quoted Muhammed, "You will not enter paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another," as well as Jesus, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you..."

Huge numbers of Americans -- not just Cox -- have reacted to Orlando in this spirit. Gay Muslims are seeing a breakthrough in recognition of their struggles from mainstream Muslim organizations. The Gay community in Orlando reached out to combat Islamaphobia and show solidarity. A Google search for "Vigils, Orlando, images" produce scrolled page after scrolled page of Americans expressing this solidarity, this belief that as President Obama said, we must come together around "respect and equality for every human being."

Religions - all of them - honor and respect love and peace. They do throw off cancerous sects that embrace hatred and violence - whether it is Jim Jones leading his followers to mass murder/suicide in Ghana, the murdering cult of Thugee in India, or the massacres of other Christians led by a Catholic Pope in the medieval Albigensian Crusade in France.

Narrowness and intolerance take over; anyone who differs becomes an enemy. Hatred and fear replace love. Violence drives out peace. Trust is replaced by paranoia. Instead of seeking security in broad social bonds, cults turn in on themselves and prepare for war. As David Brooks put it Friday, what he called the spirit of dominion seeks "to heal injury through revenge and domination." The Islamic State in Syria and the Levant is such a cancer within Islam. But Americans must confront our own homegrown "spirit of dominion" sect - the worship of guns.


Omar Mateen, a devout Muslim was clearly deeply disturbed - uncomfortable in his own skin, perhaps unclear about who he even was. But who taught him and is teaching other Muslims that they can get away with murder - not just metaphorically but literally as Omar Mateen thought he could? The tragedy here is that 49 people died in the course of his deathly rampage. Precious lives were lost, families were torn apart and for what? Islam condemns this kind of brutal killing. But ISIS does not. Too many people hear it as the voice of their faith. The why, what and how of this massacre will affect not only the families of the 49 victims who died, not only loved ones left behind, but the fabric and well-being of entire communities, not only in Orlando. This planned but senseless act destroyed the integrity of so many families, and put the bonds that connect us all as Americans at risk.

I'm a Muslim woman of Indian origin. Nowhere did I learn, study or hear a hint that mass killings are being acceptable in our Islamic faith. In my family we think of Islam as a religion of peace--even as I realize that the world views Islam now as a faith that has become fraught with violence. I sat glued to the TV most of this week, there was much to absorb. One of the quotes by an imam from Florida being interviewed on TV struck me: "I don't consider a terrorist to be a Muslim." The imam is right on.

In her speech this week, Hilary Clinton warned that "Hate crimes tripled after Paris and Brussels." She urged action to "prevent on-line radicalization." She went further to say: "You will have millions of allies who will always have your back and I am one of them." She continued: "America is strongest when we are not a land of winners and losers." She is right - marginalization is not a plus. As Clinton says: "We are a country in which all Americans need to stand together and we need to bridge our divides."


Shahnaz, a Muslim, feels terrible because her faith was invaded by the cult of ISIS. I feel equally terrible because my country has been permeated by a culture of guns. A disturbed young man filled with hate and confusion, placed on a terrorist watch list, but alone, was able to carry out the worst massacre in our history only because our gun cult empowered and encouraged him to buy a military assault weapon and ammunition with no legitimate civilian use. (From 1994-2004 such weapons were banned. American freedom was not notably disturbed.)

But for the NRA, and the gun cult it leads, we cannot rely on a peaceful society for protection, but on arming ourselves against an invasion of our homes.The NRA claims that the writers of the constitution would have wanted us to own assault weapons (if they had been invented), because "the only way for us to stay free was by having whatever guns the bad guys have."

There it is, the logic of a cult: fear; hatred of diversity, with those who are different "bad guys"; violence as the solution.

The day after Orlando, the NRA urged Americans to buy more assault weapons. We should hold more vigils instead, vigils with the kinds of people we don't really know. That, not arming up, is how the Founding Fathers - as well as the prophets of our faiths -- would have wanted America to respond.