American pattern of mass shooters


In the immediate aftermath of the San Bernardino killing spree in California last week, attempts to pin down motivation were a key concern among media outlets.
To some extent, this is invariably the case in the wake of mass shootings. This year, these have occurred in the United States at the rate of more than one a day. Mental disturbances of one kind or another inevitably feature as a key causative factor.
Given that the US does not have a monopoly on mentally disturbed folk — although, judging by the line-up of Republican presidential hopefuls, the tendency appears to be disproportionately high compared with most other nations — might ready access to weapons and ammunition have something to do with the high toll?
That particular aspect has predictably receded into relative irrelevance following the emergence of the perpetrators’ jihadist connections. Based on the available evidence, those connections were chiefly in the head. Daesh, not surprisingly, has pounced with relish on indications that at least one of the shooters pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. There is no proof, however, that Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik were following anyone’s orders.
There’s little consolation to be derived from that, however. If anything, as prototypes they come across as more dangerous than would-be killers accepting instructions or advice from distant controllers via a process that may at least offer some sort of an electronic trail.
Initial speculation about a possible motive focused broadly on the likelihood of some kind of workplace dispute, given that the victims were mainly Farook’s coworkers who had gathered for a seasonal celebration — which he in fact had attended before abruptly making and exit, and returning in due course in combat gear alongside his wife, Malik. Who knows whether this particular gathering was, in the recesses of theirminds, targeted in advance, or Farook decided on the spur of the moment that it was an ideal occasion to live out their morbid fantasy. That they had been planning some kind of outrage seems reasonably clear from the mini arsenal they had accumulated (although domestic armories of this kind aren’t exactly unusual in the US).
Possibly in a nod to the fact that Farook, born to immigrants from Pakistan, grew up in the US, his wife, who was born in Pakistan and spent most of her life in Saudi Arabia, is being viewed as the primary culprit in terms of radicalization. That may well be a fruitful line of inquiry, and reports that Pakistani security agencies have sought to clamp down on investigations into her background, particularly the period when she attended Multan’s Bahauddin Zakariya University as a pharmacology student and apparently devoted some time to the women’s seminary Al-Huda, can only serve to enhance suspicions that there is something to hide.
Farook appears to have connected with her after an Internet quest for a suitable partner, and is said to have returned from a Saudi visit with not just a bride but also a beard. At the same time, his father apparently told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that his son was attracted to jihadist outfits and particularly vehement in his anti-Israeli views. Both Farook and Malik belonged, meanwhile, to families riven by varying degrees of dysfunction.
Whether that in any way fed into their thought processes is, thus far, anybody’s guess. What’s reasonable to presume is that they somehow saw indiscriminate mass murder as a service to their faith. This absurd notion, based in part on the irrational assumption of a reward in the Hereafter for acts that no religion could possibly endorse, can be successfully combated only from within Islam.
A trend of sorts emerged last week in London when a man who stabbed three people at random at Leytonstone tube station was reproached by a bystander with the words, “You ain’t no Muslim, bruv” — which has since trended as a social media hashtag. There isn’t much point in western political leaders declaring Daesh and its adherents to be un-Islamic, even though their motives in doing so may be perfectly honorable.
Only large-scale rejection by those they see as fellow believers could conceivably make a dent in the consciousness of those who are driven by misguided notions to actions that invariably entail a huge disservice to Muslims in general.
As far as psychological aberrations are concerned, Farook and Malik very much fit into the American pattern of mass shooters, who have proliferated in recent years.
“Death cult,” meanwhile, may be an apposite, albeit inadequate, tag for Baghdadi’s followers, but let us not overlook the extent to which it is applicable also to the National Rifle Association in the US, whose acolytes seriously believe that putting a gun in every hand would reduce violence — and whose dupes in Senate recently defeated an amendment that would have made it harder for those on the terrorist watch list to purchase assault weapons.