Dr Rahman said he had not feared Mateen could be radicalised, because he had worked security and gone to the police academy.
“He was working security, he was working for the police department, so we assumed there was a background check. Why would we think anything like that? We were thinking that he might be a safety factor for us,” he said.
“Our impression was the family was very pro-American, that they were maybe more aligned with American than us,” he added.
Despite the fact that another young man who had visited the mosque on occasion became America’s first suicide bomber in Syria in 2014, Dr Rahman said the teaching at the mosque was peaceful and moderate.
“This is nothing that the Mosque is teaching them,” he said. “They get it from the Internet.”
My guess is that the imam is telling the truth, but that’s just a courtesy, assuming honesty until given a clear reason to think otherwise. My experience in Dallas in dealing with Muslim leaders a decade ago makes me wary, though. Back then, it was nothing but lies, bullying, and character assassination from their side. Here’s a piece I wrote in 2008 detailing my many run-ins with local Muslim leaders, particularly Mohammad Elmougy, an Egyptian-born hotelier who was at that time the leader of the Dallas area chapter of CAIR. Excerpts:
When I had the opportunity to ask a question, I told Dr. Syeed that his sentiments were laudable, but if ISNA really stood for peace and tolerance, why did it have on its board …and then I rattled off a list of board members and their direct connections to Islamic extremism. Dr. Syeed had been polite and professorial to that point, but at that point, he dropped his mask. He literally shook his fist at me, said this inquisition was worthy of Nazi Germany, and that I would one day “repent.” I told him mine was a fair question, and that I would appreciate an answer. I didn’t get one. But I had learned an important lesson about how groups like his operate: by evading legitimate queries, and browbeating journalists into retreat by calling them bigots and persecutors.
After I wrote a Morning News column about the Syeed encounter, I found myself identified on a local Islamic blog as” The New Face of Hate.” It turned out that the north Texas Muslim community had been engaged in a running battle with the Dallas Morning News since a series of investigative articles in the early part of the decade had uncovered alleged connections between the Holy Land Foundation charity and Hamas. The News’ reporter on the Holy Land story, Steve McGonigle, had had to be guarded for a while after threats, and the newspaper was picketed by local Muslims. Before I arrived, the newspaper had been making outreach efforts to the Dallas Islamic community in the wake of the Holy Land stories and indictments. And now I had come to town and spoiled things.
On a lark, I joined the Islamic blog’s listserv, to which several leading Dallas Muslims subscribed. I used my own name, which got me booted after a day or so upon discovery. Fortunately, in the short time I was on the site I printed out e-mails in which participants deliberated a plan to quietly approach unwitting business and religious leaders in the city and enlist them in a campaign to force the News’ publisher to fire me because of the threat I posed to the safety of Muslims.
“Dreher needs to be ruined,” one message said. Another suggested that “a campaign must be planned and carefully executed to expose this hate-monger and render him a joke.” I made all this public on the editorial board’s blog and sent copies to the newspaper’s lawyer. My guess is that aborted the whispering campaign before it could launch. But again, it was useful to see what journalists are up against.
Two years ago, the editor-in-chief of my newspaper, a very fair-minded man, put together a working lunch in which Mohamed Elmougy, for years the leader of CAIR in Dallas, and I could meet to discuss our differences. Mr. Elmougy, who is no longer with CAIR but who had been for some time the leading public voice of Dallas-area Muslims, brought with him two associates. The editor-in-chief and the editorial page editor of the News accompanied me. Mr. Elmougy and I did most of the talking. It was a long meeting, but a cordial one. As we waited for the check, Mr. Elmougy said he didn’t understand why I considered Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the popular satellite TV evangelist and spiritual advisor of the Muslim Brotherhood, to be violent. I responded by pointing out that Qaradawi has advocated executing homosexuals, and that he gave advice on his website about how a Muslim man can beat his wife in an Islamically correct way.
“That’s violent,” I told Mr. Elmougy. He slammed his hand on the table and said he agreed with the Shaykh, and that he wouldn’t apologize for it. He went on to tell a story about an adulteress who came to the Prophet asking for release from her sins. The Prophet ordered her stoned to death, said Mr. Elmougy, and declared that he could see her rejoicing in paradise. Mr. Elmougy finished his account by saying that things we Westerners consider to be unacceptable violence are considered by Muslims like him to be pro-family “deterrence.”
I thanked him for his candor, for admitting that he favors executing gays, wife-beating, stoning adulteresses, and chopping the hands off of thieves. I could tell, though, that my colleagues from the paper were shocked by what they had heard. American journalists simply aren’t used to hearing Islamic leaders in this country talk like that. And Islamic leaders in this country, I’d wager, are not used to being questioned sharply about their views. It’s also the case that Mr. Elmougy fits no Westerner’s idea of what a radical Muslim looks like. He is smart, well-dressed, professional, and to all appearances, Westernized. You simply don’t expect to be sitting in a fancy steakhouse and to hear a man who looks like the manager of a luxury hotel—which is what he was at the time—advocating medieval tortures. The cognitive dissonance can be overwhelming.
One more bit:
My next meeting with Mr. Elmougy came a year later, in the late autumn of 2006, when he led a delegation of local Muslim leaders in to the paper to meet with the editorial board, mostly to complain about, well, me, and to clear up misunderstandings that my supposedly biased rantings might have caused among my colleagues. The meeting was on the record, and I openly recorded it, later transcribing the session and posting it to the editorial board blog of the News. That transcript exposes how at least some Muslim leaders deal with media inquiries: through obfuscation, misdirection, and defensive accusations of bigotry. Allow me to dwell on this transcript to give you a flavor of how this sort of session goes. You can find the transcript archived at [link is now dead — RD]. Mr. Elmougy began the meeting by stating that his goal was to help journalists “find out how could we live in harmony …as opposed to pointing the finger.” He added that he wanted “to create some kind of comfort level,” and to end journalistic suspicion of Islam and Muslims. “We need to figure out a way [to] help you get rid of that.”
Notice what he’s doing here. He’s framing everyday journalistic practice—asking critical, skeptical questions—as an antisocial, even bigoted, act. He begins by trying to put his media audience on the defensive, as if they, the journalists, should be ashamed of themselves for their inquiries.
I genuinely don’t trust US Muslim leaders or the American news media to report accurately about what’s going on. On the other hand, I don’t trust alternative media either, because the question of Islam in America is so fraught with ideological anxieties on both the Left and the Right that it’s impossible to know when you’re getting the truth, and when you’re being spun.
I try to keep front to mind something an old friend who worked for years undercover in counterterrorism told me. She said that the best sources she had were Muslims who were sick of what was happening in their own community, and wanted to do something about it. You will never know about them, she said, because their lives depend on preserving their anonymity. The Muslim community in America, she said — this was back in 2002, so things may have changed — is dominated by Muslim Brotherhood hacks well-funded by the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs. Ordinary Muslims who just want to pray and to get on with their lives in America are intimidated by them — and their fears are often justified. Her point was to warn me not to jump to conclusions about what the broader Muslim community is or is not doing to fight terrorism. But she also warned me to be very careful about believing what their leadership says.
I hope that this mass murder will finally force American journalists to ask probing questions of US Muslim leaders about whether or not they agree with the sharia mandate that homosexuals ought to be murdered — and if they do not, why don’t they? Do you want to know what they really think, journalists, or do you only want to manage the news?
Note well that there is a world of difference between considering homosexuality to be sinful — as all three Abrahamic religions do (minus contemporary liberal versions of Judaism and Christianity) — and believing that gays should be put to death. So don’t make a false equivalence among the three.