The Slatest

Is Omar Mateen’s Father a Radical, or Just Confused?

Seddique Mir Mateen speaks to reporters Monday at his home in Port St. Lucie, Florida, about his son Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American-born Muslim, the killer who died in a gun battle early Sunday with a SWAT team.

AP

In the wake of the horrific shooting in Orlando, Florida, over the weekend, attention has turned to Omar Mateen’s family, specifically his father. Seddique Mir Mateen has been outspoken since the murders and has revealed himself to be the owner of some peculiar views. He hosts a television show on which he offers up opinions about politics in Afghanistan (where he is from) and Pakistan. He also occasionally posts videos to YouTube; in one, he pretended to be the president of Afghanistan. (His television show did once manage to snag an interview with the actual president of Afghanistan, albeit before his election.)

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The television show airs on a satellite station based in California; according to an Afghan intelligence official who spoke to CBS News, the audience consists of mostly Pashtun Afghans who live in the West. The title of his program is the Durand Jirga Show, which may offer some hint as to why his show is popular with Pashtuns. The Durand line is the dividing line between Pakistan and Afghanistan; from the time it was established by the British near the end of the 19th century, it has also divided the Pashtun people, who live on both sides of it. (When the line was drawn, the territory that is now Pakistan was part of British India.) The line has been an enduring source of resentment among Pashtuns, and it has also helped in the success of the Afghan Taliban, which is largely Pashtun and operates on both sides of the border.

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Seddique Mateen seems to have shown sympathy for the Taliban on his show, at least occasionally. Mateen’s views don’t really cohere into a clear ideology. He sometimes praises the Taliban, stating, for example: “Our brothers in Waziristan, our warrior brothers in [the] Taliban movement and national Afghan Taliban are rising up. Inshallah, the Durand Line issue will be solved soon.” But he also shows a strong dislike for Pakistan’s ISI, the country’s leading spy agency, which has supported the Afghan Taliban since the 1990s, when it helped install the Taliban in power in Afghanistan.

According to Reuters, Mateen talked about the “killer ISI,” and lashed out at the Taliban for being tools of the agency. (On this he isn’t entirely wrong.) He seems to have been opposed to American peace talks with the Taliban, too. It’s conceivable that someone could support the Taliban and despise the ISI—there have been notable tensions over the past few years—but it’s also possible that Mateen is not the most well-informed commentator. As CBS news reports: 

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He claims to have his own intelligence agency and close ties to the U.S. Congress—assets he says he will use to subvert Pakistani influence and take control of Afghanistan. After watching his videos—none of which were recorded in English—CBS News’ Ahmad Mukhtar said it seemed possible that Seddique Mateen is delusional. “He thinks he runs a government in exile and will soon take the power in Kabul in a revolution,” notes Mukhtar.

In short, it’s very hard to understand how his positions add up to a sensible or coherent worldview. Some of his views are extreme—he has talked about God punishing gay people—and some are just odd. But he seems less like an ISIS sympathizer than a somewhat confused and parochial commentator on the country where he was born.

Read more from Slate on the Orlando nightclub shooting.

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