by Dr. Aslam Abdullah
It was a peaceful night in Las Vegas. The strip- the mile long road that has the most casinos and hotels- was as busy as ever and Sunday traffic to Arizona, California and Utah was running smoothly. But the arena around Mandalay Bay was unusually busy, thousands had assembled there to attend a Country Music concert. Many had come from not only the three neighboring states but as far as from Florida, New York, Texas and even Canada.
Little did the people know that in the next few hours their lives would change and the city known for its Casinos and huge conventions would now be known as the city with the deadliest mass shooting in the US.
In less than 15 minutes, 58 people were killed and 400 injured- when ‘a lone wolf’ Nevada resident open fired on a crowd from the 32nd floor of the hotel, he had checked into Thursday.
How did 64-year-old Stephan Paddock bring guns and ammunition in his room, when usually the security is very tight on residential floors?
Sheriff Joseph Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department described Paddock as a ‘lone wolf’, with intentions that had gone unnoticed by staff personal.
“I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath at this point,” Sheriff Lombardo told reporters.
How did he choose a room that would give him access to the jubilant crowd assembled on the fateful Sunday night? The police has yet to describe the motive behind the shooting.
But what is clear is that the shooter born in a city of 18,000 people, knew what he was going to do on October 1, 2017. He had purchased guns from his state and the state of Southern California. He had purchased enough ammunition and he knew where the crowd would be most vulnerable.
The police believe Paddock killed himself before police entered the room.
In ordinary situation a tragedy of this magnitude would quickly be called an act of terrorism, a term which neither the state governor, nor city mayor, police chief and even the President have used.
Despite the fact that the motive was to kill, terrorize a city and its people, alongside hurting its economy and booming business- no one is willing to call it an act of terrorism. Perhaps this is a term that officials and media in general have reserved for Muslims.
Initially, some in the media even tried to give it a Muslim twist. From as far as India, a Tweet came from The Hindustan Times (HT) account stating that Las Vegas was under attack from a Muslim shooter.
The Tweet came some eight hours after the incident. Reuters, news agency, also carried a news item quoting an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) saying that the attack was carried out by their soldier-who had accepted Islam a few moths ago. This claim has been refuted by the (Federal Bureau of Investigation) FBI and Paddock’s brother who described him as non-religious.
— Hindustan Times (@htTweets) October 2, 2017
However, had the perpetrator of this terror act been a Muslim, experts, public officials and the media by now might have concluded that Islam was responsible for the violence and claim that the country is being destroyed by sleeper cells trying to impose sharia through stealth.
But no one asked who radicalized Paddock? Which books was he reading? What pastors he was speaking with? What news media he was watching? What were his views on people who were from his culture and race? Were any militia groups involved in his brain washing? Did he ever support the Confederate Flag?
What happened is very tragic, but why it happened is even more tragic. If a person with no criminal record, no violation, no apparent public and political involvement can commit such an act of heinous terrorism, then the question must be asked.
How safe are average citizens?
America has long ignored this issue by refusing to label it terror.
In 2017 the U.S. has witnessed 273 such acts of terror, that are often described as mass shooting. Experts define mass shooting an incident that causes the death of four or more people in a single attack, excluding the shooter.
Some of the well known acts of terrorism described as mass shooting are:
- Las Vegas, 2017: 50+ killed
- Orlando, 2016: 50 killed
- Virginia Tech, 2007: 32 killed
- Sandy Hook, 2012: 27 killed
- San Ysirdo, 1984: 21 killed
- San Bernadino, 2015: 14 killed
- Edmond, 1986: 14 killed
- Fort Hood, 2009: 13 killed
- Columbine, 1999: 13 killed
In 2017 some 11,600 deaths have been linked to violence, which is equivalent to four 9/11 deaths.
In 2016 more than 15,000 were killed by gun violence with 383 mass shootings.
The refusal to acknowledge such mass shooting as acts of terrorism is preventing the country from developing a meaningful policy to combat it.
While huge resources are being devoted to combat terrorism and extremism abroad in the nation of preserving national security- mass shooting related deaths are considered a part of everyday life with no threats to the security of the country, thus resources are scantily available to deal with the situation.
The interfaith community has responded in a well organized manner and within hours after the incident announced several peace vigils in the city. Muslim doctors and medical staff were in the forefront of leading efforts to provide care to the victims being brought there throughout the night. Several Muslim doctors rushed to their hospitals after the news of the tragedy broke out- some 500 people are on the injured list.
Marvin Gawryn, Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada, issued the following statement.
“Today, we weep. We weep for the lives lost, for those who have lost loved ones, for those who will deal with this trauma for the rest of their lives… for the fact that human beings inflict violence on other human beings. And, we will work. As members of the Las Vegas Interfaith community have done for years, we will continue to work for peace. We will continue to provide safe places for healing. We will continue to be guided by our religious, spiritual lives to speak love and compassion in response to hate. And we will continue to grow the larger human family that transcends all boundaries.”