Not a distant threat

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Not a distant threat

At least 49 people were killed and 53 more injured in a murderous rampage at an Orlando nightclub in Florida, the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. Sunday’s grotesque massacre against civilians on American soil follows similar attacks in Paris in November last year and Brussels in March, and refreshes alarm that everyone on this globe may be living in an age of terror.

What actually motivated the mass killing is unclear. The shooter, Omar Mateen, is an American of Afghan descent and had declared allegiance to the Islamic State group. But whether radical ideology or bigotry against same-sex relationships had promoted his homicidal rage against a gay venue may not be easy to decipher. There is yet no evidence of his taking orders or contacting Islamic State terrorists except for that he had called 911 before the attack to proclaim his commitment to the Islamic State. Islamic extremists tend to recruit and inspire lone wolves to act on their behalf.

American and European authorities have long been fearful of the self-growing population of “lone wolf” followers. The Orlando massacre underscores the limitations of law enforcement against home-grown terrorism. The killing comes at a sensitive time when nationalistic Republican Party nominee Donald Trump is pitted against liberal Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton in a tight presidential race.

Counterterrorism and firearm regulations pushed by President Barack Obama will likely become dominating election issues.

What is clear is that nowhere on this earth is entirely safe from terrorist attacks, and Korea is no exception. Four years ago, three Taliban activists posing as clerks entered the country. The Islamic State named South Korea as one of its targets for attack for joining the U.S. operations in Iraq and Syria.

We must keep in tune with global actions against terrorism while reinforcing our guard against any threat. But phobia should not lead to hostility toward the Muslim community. We must not forget that extremists are just a small few of the followers of Islam.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 14, Page 30
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