Augusta, Ga. (WJBF) — It is hard to believe it has been a year since the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history. The Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, June 12th 2016. Right after the incident, we here at The Means Report decided to do a special program based on what had happened. We wanted diversity, we wanted opinions from leaders in our community about why incidents like this occur and how we can heal going forward. Marlena, Levi and I hope you’ll enjoy this re-airing of The Means Report.
Victim: Everybody just dropped to the ground and then people started running.
Victim: It was literally like a scene out of a horror movie.
Victim: And I just played dead.
Victim: I got a text message from my daughter and my two nieces, “Please come and get us.”
Victim: “Please come get us out ’cause he’s about to kill us.”
Victim: Nobody knew what to do.
Victim: It was like, I don’t want to look up because if I look up he might shoot me.
Victim: There was bodies everywhere and I was crawling and I just kept crawling.
Victim: I don’t know if he was left in the club, if he got shot.
Victim: He said he was gonna die and he loved me. That’s the last thing I heard.
Reporter: It is with great sadness that I share, we have not 20, but 50 casualties.
Victim: I still think that I’m gonna like wake up and everything is gonna be normal but it’s not. This is what happened. There’s no going back.
Victim: There’s always room for forgiveness. I’m not angry at the gunmen. I’m not angry about the situation. I’m gonna forever miss my son.
Victim: We’re doctors, we’re lawyers, we’re teachers, we’re brothers, we’re sisters. This community has just been devastated right now.
Victim: We need to support each other. We need to love each other and we will not be defined by a hateful shooter.
Victim: You’re nothing but thugs and murderers and we will show you that we are a better community and a better America than this.
Victim: You’re hearing on a horrible, tragic, violent day, the word love and that’s what we need to continue to do.
Brad Means: And I cannot think of two better experts to join me to begin this segment of the Means Report than Pastor Rick Rhen-Sosbe. He of the Metropolitan Community Church of Our Redeemer in Augusta and Imam Mohamad Jamal Daoudi of the Islamic Community Center also right here in Augusta. Reverend and Imam, thank you so much for being with us, I appreciate you.
Brad Means: And I’m sorry about what happened. I know it’s been a tough week. We just saw it in Central Florida, but for you all as well.
Rev. Rick Sosbe and Imam Jamal Doudi: Thank you.
Brad Means: Rick, let me start with you. Hours after this news broke last Sunday, you had a very well attended service at the Metropolitan Community Church of Our Redeemer. Tell me about the turnout there and how that made you feel in light of what had just happened.
Rev. Rick Sosbe: We had almost a full house. There were well over a hundred people in our sanctuary and it’s amazing how social media can get the word out quickly. Another person who I had not met was the one who actually started to organize and then I offered our facility to use. It was very overwhelming in many ways, but it was also a wonderful time for all of us to be able to rally together and to offer support and comfort over such a senseless act.
Brad Means: Imam, what about the Islam community? Have you all had a chance to get together in the days since the massacre?
Imam Jamal Daoudi: The very next day, the board and the many active members in the community got together and we started studying and analyzing what’s happening to find and have our own stand and create our own statement in this regard and which way to respond, which way to clarify ’cause as you know, Muslim community have been going into that cycle of event and condemnation. So we were seeing all what we have received from the media and we decided immediately to come up with a statement, press release statement and working with the interfaith groups, having kind of a interface service in order to share with the targeted community.
Brad Means: Has anybody stopped you on the street or in the community this passed week and said anything to you, good or bad?
Imam Jamal Daoudi: There was a gentleman who has been harassing, trying to harass and do some kind of stuff. He stopped his car across the street from the center with some kind of negative and bad slogan on his shirt and on his car. He stopped for some times and then he moved on. Fortunately enough, we rely on the good sense and good will of our local community around us.
Brad Means: Rick, what’s your message to your parishioners, especially those in the gay community who were hit so hard by this because it happened at a gay nightclub. What do you tell them?
Rev. Rick Sosbe: You tell them to not be afraid, but to be cautious, to be aware, and that this is not love that we so strongly endorse, and that we can rally and support one another, but we should never cower in fear or be afraid of what might happen.
Brad Means: Would you hold your husband’s hand in public these days?
Rev. Rick Sosbe: Absolutely.
Brad Means: Without fear?
Rev. Rick Sosbe: Without fear.
Brad Means: What do you say to people to prevent them from going down among that radicalized route? Do you ever see young people who might so inclined and what would your message be?
Imam Jamal Daoudi: In this time of hardships and diversity, we need to get together and unite together and stand in solidarity with everybody. This is what this country is based on and built on, built on diversity. And this is what makes us really strong. Our unity in this kind of diversity. Hatred and hate speech will go nowhere and will give no result in any way. I may disagree with your lifestyle, but I would never, ever, or should, kind of take that into my hands and try to change it that way. We have our political or democracy kind of channels that we can speak of, we can write, we can speak about things, but we should, at the end, we are citizens of this country. We have to get together and stay together.
Brad Means: You know, you said something pretty profound a moment ago when you talked about how this is really a cycle where we’ll have something like this happen on the national scene and then we’ll come to you for reaction, we’re doing it right now. And sadly, over and over again it happens and you continually preach the message of peace. Is it offensive Imam, that the media seeks you out for your reaction because of what really, in the big picture, are a few people making a lot of noise. Is the equivalent perhaps of us trying to find a Christian Minister, if a God fearing skinhead attacks somebody?
Imam Jamal Daoudi: It is offensive personally to me, It’s offensive to my faith, and it is offensive to the standards and principles of this country. You know, to paint the whole community or the whole faith for the actions of somebody that I’m not responsible on. I don’t know the motivation of others. I don’t represent them, they don’t represent me. Why should I have to stand up and defend myself and my faith every time? At the same time, we are offended by the double standards sometimes. Just recently, a young man, 20 years old, had been caught by the police, trying to target a gay pride parade in Los Angeles. What our Christian fellows feel necessity to defend themselves, so this kind of double standard really that when I’m talking about the cycle, this is what we are. It is offensive, it is painful, it is disturbing sometimes that whenever something happens, we put our hand on our heart and say, “We hope and pray that he is not a Muslim.”
Brad Means: That’s it.
Imam Jamal Daoudi: Just because I would be called to, you know, “What do you think about this?” It’s not me, it’s not my faith. I should not be.
Brad Means: Right.
Imam Jamal Daoudi: I should not allow the radicals and the extremists to define my self and define my faith.
Brad Means: Well, I think your presence is going a long way in doing that for sure. Rick, you have been consistent in your message of peace and love, but man, sometimes you all as a community have got to just say, “This is enough! “We have to fight back.” So my question is can you love your way through this? Are these bad guys ever gonna say, “Wow, they’re so passive and nice, “let’s stop being monsters?”
Rev. Rick Sosbe: Well you know as the hashtag we see since marriage equality, love wins, and I believe that that mantra is still true. That love really does win and that we really have no other choice, especially as people of faith, to do anything else but love. I think that we can have righteous indignation and stand firm for what we believe is true, also what we believe is horrible behavior, but in the end, I think we need to do it albeit firmly, also in love. And I do agree with Imam. That is a shame that anytime these things happen that if it is a person of whatever faith, Muslim faith, that they are all automatically lumped into the same category and I don’t believe that’s fair.
Brad Means: Yeah, I’ll tell you as a journalist, there’s a fear almost when these things happen and we call these gentlemen or gentlemen like them, or ladies like them and say, “Will you give your reaction,” and I sometimes fear that they will say, “No, we’re sick of it.” What part of these guys aren’t a part of us do you not get? Imam, most people are probably ignorant of what goes on within the Muslim community. Do you give sermons on peace when you go to church together? Does the Koran have any verses or passages that emphasize the antithesis of what ISIS is doing that we might be able to hear from you, or just generally here to say, “Oh, okay, they are a peace loving people as he says?”
Imam Jamal Daoudi: So many verses, all my sermons are based on love and harmony, all my articles that can testify to what I’m saying, my involvement in the interfaith activities. Churches, temples, synagogues, others. One of the very beautiful and main verse that I always carry with me, that there is absolutely no compulsion in religion. I may disagree with you on the way you approach God, or you wanna find your happiness in this life, but I would never, ever jeopardize or manipulate my relationship with you. This is your belief. It’s between you and God. But as a human being, as a citizen, we have to live together and help each other to live together.
Brad Means: Let me take my final minute for this and we’ll let each of you answer. I once had a Christian Minister tell me he wanted to get his hands on a non-believer who I knew, ’cause he said if I could work on him, I could change things. If you could go face to face with a member of ISIS, if you could go face to face with a member of ISIS, could you change him? Could you have some conversion through that conversation, Rick?
Rev. Rick Sosbe: You know, I think that true conversion, true change has to come from within and from the heart. I think that we need to keep having the conversation, we need to keep speaking truth and love, as I mentioned earlier because I do believe that as it was and still is in the gay rights issue, we have seen that tide turn somewhat, but it also has a long way to go. But it will change if we keep having the conversation.
Brad Means: How about you? Could you say, “Man, you’re not being a good Muslim?”
Imam Jamal Daoudi: For them, I am not a good Muslim and I’m on their maybe, watch list also.
Brad Means: But could you tell them, “You think you’re doing this “in the name of Islam, you’re not.”
Imam Jamal Daoudi: Yes, my message to you ISIS and radicals, and whoever extremist that will catch this clip, you are outlaws, you don’t represent. You don’t and you will never represent Islam and represent my faith. And I will not allow in any way, as long as I’m alive, that you hijack my faith, my beautiful faith, my peaceful faith.
Brad Means: Imam Mohamad Jamal Daoudi, Reverend Rick Rhen-Sosbe, I cannot thank you both enough. Again, I am sorry for your week and for your pain and I’m grateful for your time.
Rev. Rick Sosbe and Imam Jamal Daoudi: Thank you.
Brad Means: Welcome back to the Means Report as we continue to examine the incident in Orlando and terrorism in general. I am so grateful to have a political scientist from Augusta University. He is an assistant professor at AU. He’s Dr. Craig Albert. I was trying to figure out, preparing for this broadcast some way to summarize why ISIS hates us and the best I could do was because you come into our countries and kill our people and take our oil. Why do they hate us?
Dr. Craig Albert: That’s a complicated question. It’s a good question to start with. It’s much more than us occupying any of their lands. ISIS is, in their interpretation, is a very theologically invested organization. They want to establish a worldwide caliphate, a worldwide governance under the authority of a caliph.
Brad Means: They wanna take over the world.
Dr. Craig Albert: Precisely. All parts of the world. They began with just the idea of being able to take over all parts that had ever been in the hands of Muslim rulers before. And now gradually, that’s starting to expand into a larger scale. So it’s much more than just hatred against the US, it’s they believe it’s their theological right to be the government of the world.
Brad Means: That doesn’t sound like the kind of group that would ever give up.
Dr. Craig Albert: That’s correct. They are not gonna give up. If you study their theology, if you invest in a systematic understanding of their theology, there is no giving up for them. Once somebody buys in to ISIS, it not only changes their ideological viewpoint, it changes who they are as humans, really. Their nature revolves around this idea of their Islamist theology.
Brad Means: I talked to the ministers about how they might de-radicalize somebody or try to get them to not go down that road. What does ISIS say or do to these people, largely young people, to convince them to join?
Dr. Craig Albert: Well, they go after people. There’s two types of ISIS recruiting. There’s kinda the self-recruiting, the self-radicalization, and then you have the more firm, direct communication recruiting by ISIS. When they recruit themselves, they look at social media postings, they look at individuals, and they try to find three variables. They try to find people that post that they feel alienated, or oppressed by their government, by society, by people at work, any type of alienation or oppression. Then they look for people with criminal tendencies because it’s much easier to convince people that already have a criminal past to continue a criminal future. And then they look for individuals that are mentally unstable, some type of emotional disturbance. Preferably, they would like to find somebody that has all three of these areas. This makes for the perfect recruit for them because they know that once they buy in to the ISIS ideology, they’re gonna be in that for life and it’s gonna be very hard for them to get out of it because of these three tendencies.
Brad Means: You know, when I think of peace talks, or any sort of negotiations to end a war, I think of compromise, I think of middle ground. Is there anywhere we can meet these people, or the world can meet these people that would make them say, “Okay, you know what? “Maybe we’ll back off.”
Dr. Craig Albert: No.
Brad Means: No? It’s just not gonna happen.
Dr. Craig Albert: No, ISIS doesn’t believe in compromise. We have to understand this from their level and this is what I try to tell other academics, members of congress, when you deal with ISIS, you’re dealing with people that are theologically convinced that they’re right, that they’re doing the will of God. They believe that if they don’t follow through with their interpretation of Islam, that they will not get the rewards of heaven. So to compromise in their mind means that they go against what God wants.
Brad Means: Have they always been around on some level? They’re making a ton of headlines in recent years.
Dr. Craig Albert: ISIS is of Al Qaeda and Iraq. So they started as a branch of Al Qaeda. Now of course, what’s interesting is they broke off because they didn’t think Al Qaeda was ruthless enough. And Al Qaeda has kinda been in a civil war with the ISIS through the Nusra Front in Syria. So they’re both fighting each other which is interesting, sort of, we’re witnessing an Islamist civil war between these two groups. And Al Qaeda has said to ISIS back off, this isn’t what we are or what we want. So they believe that, Al Qaeda believes that ISIS is too brutal.
Brad Means: That’s disturbing.
Dr. Craig Albert: Yes.
Brad Means: Did we get out of Iraq too soon?
Dr. Craig Albert: I think we absolutely got out of Iraq too soon. There’s two types of strategies that we have here. We have the strategy to go in and defeat the enemy, we largely accomplish that through most of our missions, we have one of the strongest militaries, if not thee strongest military when it comes to strategic engagement. The second part of that is what the United States so often fails at, which is nation building, infrastructure. So it’s one thing to go in and destroy the enemy, but it’s a generational idea, it’s a generational tactic to rebuild a country, to rebuild a government in which they had no understanding before the United States went into Iraq.
Brad Means: Do you think that incidents like the one in Orlando and the ones sadly, that are sure to follow can be stopped? And if so, how or can they not?
Dr. Craig Albert: The lone wolf, the self-radicalization is much harder to stop than direct communications, direct recruitment from overseas. We can capture them, we can survey them, we can get snapshots of what they’re doing. Sometimes they can be lazy, they don’t understand that it’s much easier for our intelligence agencies, for the NSA to grab a screen shot of their messages.
Brad Means: Right.
Dr. Craig Albert: The self-radicalized individual is much harder living right here in America, is much harder to get. I would say it’s virtually impossible in a liberal, democratic, republic, such as the United States to prevent this from happening because what you would need is a total surveillance system, which of course goes against the ideas of freedom and liberty for US citizens. So you can’t stop this type of self-radicalization and these types of attacks in the type of government that we have.
Brad Means: Okay, so self-radicalized people aside, is there a head of the snakes somewhere we can target?
Dr. Craig Albert: We’re trying to get after al-Baghdadi, ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliph. Other sects of Islam are trying to go against ISIS and say this doesn’t represent who Muslim’s are. Other Jihadist groups are going against ISIS. To stop ISIS and we’re doing a great job at this, recently pushing them back, lessening their strength and control of territory that they have right now in Iraq and Syria. So we’re tightening the noose around their headquarters inside of Raqqa, Syria. We’re not sure how that’s gonna play out as far as destroying it, of cutting the head off of the snake. In their systematic understanding of Islam, there can be another election if you meet the certain standards under Sunni, Islam to be a caliph, the same as Baghdadi was declared. So it remains to be seen if killing him, or getting rid of him will do anything. It could have two effects. It could show potential recruits that ISIS is on the downfall, let’s not join them because it’s a dying mission and we don’t wanna be a part of that. Or it could galvanize support and create even more problems, that people would come out in more support of ISIS.
Brad Means: Do you think it might be appealing to a person who’s thinking about joining ISIS to realize, and maybe I’m wrong, to realize whatever I do in the name of ISIS, I’m probably, or ISIS probably is gonna get away with it because there don’t seem to be any ISIS ending repercussions yet. You think it’s probably an easy path to terrorism ’cause you can probably get away with it?
Dr. Craig Albert: It’s not just that you can get away with it, it’s the eternal rewards that you’ll get for going into something like this. So, how Baghdadi, how ISIS, how Jihadist camps recruit people is that promise of eternal salvation, the promise of heaven, the promise of paradise no matter what. So one of the reasons Mateen swore allegiance to ISIS during his 911 calls and on Facebook for instance, is that Baghdadi has told people and it’s in their publications, it’s all over their propaganda materials, that if you are Muslim and commit an act of terror, before you die, if you swear allegiance to me, if you swear allegiance to the caliphate, you will reap the rewards of paradise in that one simple act.
Brad Means: Can anything on the gun control front be accomplished that might prevent things like Orlando? Can we keep those types of weapons out of the bad guys’ hands?
Dr. Craig Albert: No.
Brad Means: I didn’t think so.
Dr. Craig Albert: And it saddens me, one that that’s the reality of the situation. There are more guns in America than there are people in America. So, even if you make gun ownership illegal, the guns are out there. People who wanna do bad things are gonna get them.
Brad Means: Yeah.
Dr. Craig Albert: So in Belgium and in France, you can’t buy a semi-automatic weapon. Period. But, we’ve seen those attacks there occurred with semi-automatic weapons. Bad guys who wanna do terrible things are always going to get those types of weapons.
Brad Means: Dr. Craig Albert, your information has been incredibly helpful and I appreciate it very much. I appreciate your expertise.
Dr. Craig Albert: Thank you.
Brad Means: An event we will surely never forget, You know, another one of the reasons that we decided to re-air this broadcast is because Marlena and I this weekend, are in Atlanta because this broadcast of the aftermath of The Pulse Nightclub shooting, the appearance by the Imam and the Pastor earned an Emmy nomination for The Means Report. And so we thank the National Association of Television Arts and Sciences for that. We’re hopeful certainly that we win, but above all, we’re prayerful for the people who are still feeling so much pain. As we leave you, a look at the people who paid the ultimate price that night at The Pulse Nightclub. For Levi, Marlena, and the entire Means Report family, take care.