The Orlando nightclub shooter, Omar Mateen, pledged allegiance to ISIS before his killing spree. And yet officials and the man's father think he had no direct contact with the group, a conclusion that hardly matters to the Islamic State.
"Was the killer truly acting under orders from the Islamic State, or just seeking publicity and the group's approval for a personal act of hate? For the terror planners of the Islamic State, the difference is mostly irrelevant," The New York Times reported.
Mateen's actions illustrate the power of a group that can influence sympathizers without interacting with them directly, said Charlie Winter, senior research associate at Georgia State University's Transcultural Conflict and Violence Initiative, to the Times.
"I think what the Islamic State has done is very clever, and that is create a situation where someone can carry out an attack without any direct link to the organization," he said.
With propaganda videos and social media sites, ISIS can recruit people who would otherwise never have crossed paths with the group's leaders.
"The group has worked hard to create a mechanism for inciting terror in situ. It floods the internet with gory propaganda, and employs an army of keyboard jihadists to push the deadly message on Twitter, Facebook and other social media," the Times reported.
These strategies are hard to combat, especially when moderate Muslim leaders don't commit to sharing their message of peace in person and online, as Rabbi Abraham Cooper, director of the Digital Terrorism and Hate Project, told the Deseret News in January.
"The voices countering ISIS must come from within Islam. Not from the government, but from a community of legitimate, young American Muslims. Their youth have to hear it in the mosques (and) online," he said.
"I'm calling for the chaotic Muslim middle — too long unrepresented or underrepresented — not to stand up and speak out, but to stand up and build out," he said.
He urged the people who are horrified by the actions of ISIS and individuals like Mateen to put their resources toward helping the young people feel like valued members of society.
"We must design, fund, sustain and expand programs that target the very people extremists are going after. Young men and young women of all backgrounds. These programs would realize a positive vision of Islam," Moghul wrote.
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