Experts who have been left baffled by Daesh’s (ISIS) claim that Stephen Paddock - the man who opened fire on concertgoers in Las Vegas killing at least 59 people - was acting on its behalf, have not comprehended the fact that the terror group did not have to proffer any evidence.
The incident and the claim is a pure and simple re-run of the July 2016 Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka. The youths who killed 20 people during the hostage-taking episode, too, had claimed that they were acting on behalf of Daesh. Indeed, even Daesh was quick to accept responsibility for the act.
In order to undertake a quick recap of the circumstances that accompanied the Holey Artisan Bakery incident, it must be noted that there was substantial speculation - and as a result bewilderment - about the speed with which Daesh exhibited the killers in their propaganda machinery.
Clearly, the hostage-takers had uploaded their photographs (posing, as they did, in front of a Daesh pennant) from inside the restaurant that they had commandeered. But, there was (at least to the knowledge of the author of this article) no two-way communication.
In other words, a Daesh command-and-control axis was not guiding the terrorists at least during the hostage taking exercise, as was the case during the 26/11 Mumbai crisis when the terrorists were being constantly instructed from their minders in Pakistan.
Daesh, therefore, in all probability “grabbed the chance” in order to showcase to the world that its reach and range extended to Bangladesh, where “machete-murders” were suddenly proliferating.
The Mandalay Bay incident could well be a repeat of the “grabbed-the-chance” exercise that the Daesh is capitalising on, especially as it desperately needs a diversion and consequently respite from the setbacks that it is experiencing in the field, especially after the fall of Mosul and Tal Afar.
Daesh has, in two statements, released by its news agency, Amaq, stated that 64-year-old Paddock converted to Islam several months ago and carried out the attack “in response to calls to target states of the coalition” that are engaging Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
The fact that the statement neither identifies Paddock by name nor offered anything by way of evidence about its links with Paddock is not tantamount to a complete Daesh delink.
This is despite the fact that US law enforcement officials, aware of the Daesh claim, have stated that there are no “early signs” of any ties to radical Islamist outfits or indication of radicalisation.
Daesh's claim of responsibility and 'lone hyena' attacks
1. Stephen Paddock could well have converted to Islam without undergoing the formal procedure that regulates such an exercise.
In the opinion of this author such a ritual is unnecessary for a "deranged" mind. He could, instead, well have “embraced” only the operative part of “Islam” which is advocated by Daesh, which is the “call” to target states of the US-led coalition as also to mete out “equivalent response” to the perpetrators of violence on innocent Iraqis and Syrians.
The concept of “equivalent response” received notoriety after Daesh burnt alive a Jordanian pilot, Muadh Safi Yusuf al-Kasasbeh. According to Daesh the ghastly act was an “equivalent response”. It quotes an "ayat" from "An-Nahl" thus: "And if you punish (an enemy), punish with an equivalent of that with which you were harmed."
In other words, it says that in burning the Jordanian pilot alive and burying him under a heap of rubble, Daesh carried out a just form of retribution for his involvement in the air operation which resulted in the killing of countless Iraqis and Syrians who, as a result of such bombings, were burnt alive and buried under piles of wreckage.
Daesh cleverly makes use of the Quran to validate its ghastly acts, utilises such acts to discourage other flyers and, as the author analyses, seeks to appeal to minds on the prowl for dark passageways.
It should be also noted that Daesh is extremely selective in its reference to the Quran for even as it quoted Surah 16 Ayat 126, the An-Nahl (The Bees), it skilfully left out the part which concludes the ayat and the reading of which would have taken the sting out of the venom in the “equivalent response” decree.
The uninitiated, therefore (especially neo-converts in the West) had no notion that the above "ayat" actually states (in the end) that “but if you endure patiently, verily, it is better for As-Sabirin (the patient ones, etc)”, enjoining the victim to be patient rather than responding.
2. Therefore, the “radical” not only finds an outlet which has sanction by an “establishment” (in this case, Daesh), but deceives the counter-terrorism apparatus and the world that it is call of an Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that drove him into a killing frenzy.
Therefore, even as a counter-radicalisation programme is set in motion, the most important (initial) examination that must be conducted is to clinically unearth the real motivation of the perpetrator.
The simplest explanation that abounds (particularly in media) is to term a killer “a bad Muslim” because they have misinterpreted the Quran. The acceptable explanation could well have been to call them psychopaths who found a universe of discourse and a clear, unambiguous, audible paradigm where his behaviour not only is encouraged, but one which is glorified by recourse to prophetic injunctions.
3. An out-of-the-box thinking of the times demand that a neurological study be conducted on an Islamist radical who attempted to undertake the hijrah and had been apprehended midway?
Or (if law-enforcers are able to) on a “hyena” who acts on its own - I'm also making an appeal to call lone acts of violence that have been felt of late as that of a “bloodthirsty hyena” rather than that of a wolf, the latter a dignified, but much-maligned creature.
Shrunken Amygdala, or smaller ventromedial prefrontal cortex (which is indicative of a brain that propels aggressive conduct disorder) cannot be said to be any less intelligent. No less innovative are suppressed homosexuals and loners such as Omar Mateen (the Orlando shooter) and Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel (the Nice attacker).
The only way to appreciate what they did is to read deeper into what Byron might have understood in his immortal work, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, as the “wandering outlaw of his own dark mind”. Daesh’s sinister call only enforces the call of the wild.
4. India - as are many other countries - is still grappling with the concept of de-radicalisation. This is despite the failure of the Telangana model: the so-called “de-radicalised” youths under the programme were a year later arrested while attempting to cross over to Bangladesh on their way to Syria.
Research has also shown that a number of Saudi Guantanamo detainees who were "de-radicalised" have returned to terrorism upon release. Although there have been arguments that de-radicalisation creates a barrier to recidivism, there is really no way to fathom or evaluate whether a thorough cauterisation has taken place. Or are there de-radicalised terrorists - disengaging because of purely instrumental reasons - who continue to harbour a radical worldview?
Who determines whether the law-enforcer is erring or not by arranging theological correction of “radicalised minds” who have never actually read the Quran? Answers to such questions can only come to the fore were a science that “looks inside the brain” is employed.
This theory applies for so-called de-radicalised terrorists as well as ones who have been thought to have been radicalised by religious injunction.
After all, it is it not conceivable that there are extra-religious reasons or considerations (quite like in the cases of Omar Mateen, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel and now Stephen Paddock) that could have propelled perpetrators of crimes to adopt a nihilistic weltanschauung that led to the death and gore that have been witnessed since the “baying” from Ar-Raqqah began?
A short-sighted counter-terror apparatus is yet to comprehend that Paddock did not have to have any communication with the ISIS or any of its surrogates.
He simply took upon himself a “task” which he felt was “eating away at him” for a long time and “converted” himself (as if in Gandharva style) to “Islam”.
The deviance that finally propelled him to kill over 50 people and injure hundreds of others found both justification and a “psychological sanctuary” in the “call from Ar-Raqqah”.
After all, there is more than a thin red line that prohibits an unhinged mind from “crossing the barrier” between intention and action.
In this case, Paddock received the final go-ahead when he found an outlet in the “equivalent response” theme of ISIS. His actions were no longer only his, but one he felt belonged to a group of people who were unjustly being hunted down by the US.
The Mandalay Bay shooting spree clearly demonstrates that ISIS has unleashed a “thought virus” in the world for which there is no antidote. The virus will continue to haunt humankind long after ISIS ceases to exist.
This is the grim dilemma that civilisation has to live with.