Tuesday, 14 June 2016 08:30

Considering Omar Mateen and his father, Trump right on immigration pause

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We know that Omar Mateen, the Florida mass murderer, was a Muslim and was born in New York to parents from Afghanistan.

But was Omar also an Afghani citizen?

Yes, he was– by operation of Afghan law, Omar was an Afghan citizen because he had at least one Afghani parent, and such citizenship attached to Omar, regardless of where Omar himself was born.  Technically, Omar was a “dual” national, claiming two citizenships.  And the same was true of Omar’s parents, who never had to formally relinquish their Afghani citizenship and became de facto “duals.”

Does it matter?

It might.  Just hours after the dust had settled, the internet was buzzing with chat that Omar’s father, Siddiq Mir Mateen, a nationalized U.S. citizen resident here, was actually the president of Afghanistan.

Yes, the president of Afghanistan!  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/06/12/orlando-shooting-suspects-father-hosted-a-political-tv-show-and-even-tried-to-run-for-the-afghan-presidency/

But then, it turned out that Siddiq Mateen wasn’t really Afghanistan’s president; he had just posted videos of himself on YouTube claiming to be Afghanistan’s president.  These videos come from Siddiq’s cable television show, the “Durand Jirga Show” on a channel called Payam-e-Afghan, which broadcasts from California.  You might not have watched Siddiq’s “Durand Jirga Show” because Siddiq presents it in Dari, a Persian language widely used in Afghanistan.  In Dari, Siddiq was most complementary to the Taliban– a group regarded as terrorist by the U.S. State Department.  This lines up with accounts given to the FBI by Omar's terrified co-workers, who said Omar claimed, alternately, to belong to the Taliban and Hezbollah.  Probably the FBI had a shortage of Dari speakers as well, because they seem, to have made no connection between Siddiq Mateen’s Afghani presidency and pro-Taliban politics, and his son’s interest in terrorism.  At times, a phone number and post office box can be seen in the background of Siddiq’s YouTube videos, and these were traced by talented internet amateurs back to the Mateen home in Florida, where Omar lived.  Siddiq also owns a nonprofit organization under the name “Durand Jirga,” which is registered in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

In one video, Saddiq infamously thanks the Afghan Taliban, while denouncing the Pakistani government: “Our brothers in Waziristan, our warrior brothers in [the] Taliban movement and national Afghan Taliban are rising up,” he says. “Inshallah [God willing], the Durand Line issue will be solved soon.”

The Durand Line issue involves the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan that infamously separates the Pathan Tribe, who live in these border areas.  Whether Saddiq and Omar are ethnic Pathans is unclear; Pathans usually speak Pashtun, a distinct tribal language, and when Saddiq is broadcasting his pro-Taliban rants, he usually speaks Dari, a non-Pashtun, Persian language.

But maybe it's all just potato-potahto.

The "Duran Jirga" issue is intriguing; just as the border between Mexico and the United States sometimes separates families and ethnic groups, the same is true of the Durand Line in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But why should people like Siddiq (whose middle name, "MIr," means "peace" in Russian and may indicate an interesting admiration of Afghanistan's Russian invaders) who have now pledged their allegiance to the United States of America-- a new flag, a new government, a new country and a new people-- play out politics that are now thousands of miles away from their new lives as U.S. citizens?

Is Siddiq Mir Mateen's U.S. citizenship just a mere convenience underlying his continued involvement in Afghani and Taliban politics?

Is Siddiq responsible, at least in part, for his adult American son's obvious confusion and horrible disloyalty to the country and values of his birth?

Just hours before Omar began his rampage at Pulse Club in Orlando, Siddiq went on a YouTube rampage of his own.  Changing his green business suits for military fatigues, Saddiq declared: “I order national army, national police and intelligence department to immediately imprison [Afghani politicians] Karzai, Ashraf Ghani, Zalmay Khalilzad, Atmar, and Sayyaf. They are against our countrymen, and against our homeland.”

Oddly enough, Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s former president, was in the United States for the funeral of boxing legend and famous Muslim convert, Mohamed Ali, and showed up for a brief chat about the Orlando atrocities with CNN.  Karzai called Omar’s shootings “heinous and unforgiveable.”  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/pulse-shooting-afghani-president-condems-heinous-and-unforgivable-killing-in-orlando-gay-nightclub-a7078496.html.  But he said nothing about any link to Afghanistan.

Siddiq also gave reporters a statement saying that Omar was not a terrorist, but was instead a homophobe who, on a recent trip to Miami, had been upset by seeing two homosexual men publicly kiss in front of his young son.  But once Siddiq’s videos about him being president of Afghanistan and a Taliban supporter were unearthed, Siddiq “went dark.”  But when Siddiq finally changed his military fatigues to a dark blue suit and snazzy matching crisp bright marine tie and matching silky pocket square and started talking to CNN, he said little about his loyalty to the Taliban or about his dream of the Afghan presidency.  Instead, he declared himself to be "an American," and said that his murderous son was the same.

Is it easier to be a Taliban supporter if one lives outside of Afghanistan? 

A firestorm of tweets said that Donald Trump, whose position is to halt Muslim immigration into the United States, has been right all along.  But Democrats quickly tweeted back that Trump’s policy would not have stopped Omar– a born U.S. national– from killing at least 49 innocent fun-loving souls and wounding another 53 more.

While Trump’s policy may not have specifically prevented the Orlando Pulse nightclub atrocities, it opens the door to using immigration policy as a weapon against terrorism.  If "home-grown" terrorists found that they and their families could be legally deported back to places like Afghanistan (being "dual" citizens), and such deportations were actually carried out, perhaps this would have a deterrent effect on other immigrants giving even tacit support to terrorists of all stripes.  No Muslim country would hesitate to deport a "dual" national who flagrantly flaunted its national laws.  

What Trump’s position highlights is that, under eight years of President Barak Obama, a myth has arisen that America must necessarily include so much diversity and foreign citizenship that there is virtually no truly “American” identity anymore.  The Democrats’ view– now Hillary Clinton’s position– is that there is so much diversity and tolerance in America that there is no need for immigration selectivity, no need for oversight, no need for taking precautions, and virtually no sense that some extremist views threaten American freedoms and are simply incompatible with the American way of life.

Whatever that used to be.

Not so long ago, for example, it used to be near impossible for a foreigner to enter the United States if one belonged to a foreign Communist Party.  Such immigration was almost always denied.  Being a Communist was popularly held to be un-American, but more tellingly, it was viewed as being simply incompatible with American ordinary life, which was based upon free- enterprise and capitalist ideology– something Marxism was sworn to annihilate through revolution. Foreign anarchists like Emma Goldman were denied citizenship and deported back to Russia, while liberals all decired Emma's repatriation as the height of injustice.

Things do change, of course, and now Emma Goldman is a heroine, and the United States has Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a politician whose views come close to being traditionally Communist, who came close, so, so close, to becoming the Democratic mainstream presidential candidate.  Sanders, who takes care to call himself a “Socialist,” is not yet done with the Democrats, who will clearly have to make some kind of accommodation to keep him in the fold and, more importantly, make sure that he brings his followers and their votes to Hillary Clinton in the fall.

Does Omar Mateen’s murderous rampage bolster Trump’s position that Muslim immigration to the United States should be halted?

The answer is yes and no.

What Trump’s measure seeks to do, however imperfectly, is to try to regain some control over national security through taking a simple course of action that can be immediately and cheaply implemented.  At the very least, the strange online- video presence of Siddiq Mateen and his bizarre campaign for the presidency of Afghanistan and support for the Taliban should be thoroughly investigated.  It is hard to imagine why the United States should not speedily invite Siddiq to return to the homeland for which he so obviously yearns.  As feminists like Hillary Clinton are always asking about their abusive menfolk, "Are youbetter of WITH him or WITHOUT him?"  

Adios, Siddiq!  

Are there more “American” foreign-nationalized citizens who want to become president of the far-away nations of their birth?  Do these “Americans” support the Taliban, Hezbollah, Emma-Goldman-style anarchy, or other terrorist organizations?  Do their American-born sons yearn for murderous vengeance?  If such persons have "dual" citizenship, the resolution of where such persons might go may be ridiculously easy, and deportation hardly out of the question.

The moral of Trump's lesson is easily learned: If you want to stay in America, start being a model American citizen.  Don't kill anyone.  Don't support terrorism, foreign or domestic.  Obey all the laws.  Don't run for president of foreign countries.

If the FBI interviewed Omar Mateen thrice and yet claimed it could find no reason for concern, it is no small wonder that ordinary Americans who are actually happy and glad to be Americans are now alarmed, and find Donald Trump’s immigration plans reasonable and attractive.

A “ban” on all Muslim or even just Syrian immigration may be too extreme, but it might not hurt to just hit the “pause” button on U.S. immigration, even before the election.

Sarah Whalen

sarahw2Sarah Whalen is a university journalism instructor, attorney and author.

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