Her silence is a betrayal of all Muslims and puts all Americans at risk.
Documents revealed confirm that the wife of Omar Mateen, the Pulse Nightclub shooter, knew of her husband’s militant plans before he launched the June 2016 attack in Orlando that left 49 victims dead and 58 wounded.
In her own written account, Noor Salman admits to knowing of his plans as they developed and, on the night of the attack, being aware that he was heading to the club to kill. Secular law must prosecute her to the fullest extent, holding her responsible for the deaths of 49 Americans.
But under Islam, Salman has violated numerous religious laws and mandates that also carry punishment. Salman may not have been a militant herself, but she failed to prevent jihad when she had a high degree of certainty her husband was going to commit atrocities. For this complicity and complacency, it is critical she is vilified — not only in the context of failing her duties as an American, but also to prevent Islamists (including the Islamic State and its supporters) from seeking to lionize her as a heroine. We Muslims must also diminish and scorn her as a Muslim.
Islam sees her as unequivocally guilty.
Salman failed in her duties as a Muslim to help society and to bear witness (including against her own kin) when injustice is done. Because of the decisions she made, our religion holds her responsible for the loss of human life, a failing in Islam considered punishable by death. The families of the murdered could stay execution by exercising the Islamic right of accepting “blood money” in lieu of capital punishment. (Islam decrees that only the relatives of the murdered can intercede on behalf of the murderer seeking forgiveness.)
Salman’s actions are made more abhorrent because of the number of occasions when she could have alerted the authorities. If she had alerted police when he left for the club on the night of the murders, lives would have been spared. Instead, she continued to text him during the attack.
Islam determines Muslims have three duties: to oneself, to one’s maker and to one’s society. It is a Muslim’s categorical duty to our surrounding society and the responsibility of Muslims to bear witness when crimes are being committed or have been committed, including bearing witness against a member of our own family.
Muslims have a duty not only to follow the laws of the United States, but also to make sure that our fellow Muslims do the same. Islam calls this obligation “commanding the right and forbidding the wrong.” Widely documented in Islamic scripture, this duty is shared by both men and women.
Mateen’s wife could not refuse to fulfill this duty — even if she hated Americans or gay people, who comprised most of her husband’s victims — because when it comes to the defense of justice, Islam mandates impartiality. A Muslim cannot take sides when exposing injustice. He or she must cast aside his or her own prejudices or biases.
The Koran is clear on this: “And let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice.”
Impartiality is essential to the believing Muslim because a Muslim’s greatest allegiance should be to justice, above and beyond familial, tribal or coreligionist ties. In a widely documented hadith, prophet Muhammad, the messenger of Islam, reminded Muslims of this grave responsibility, even when they may not be able to act or speak up: “Whoever sees a wrong and is able to put it right with his hand, let him do so; if he can’t, then with his tongue; if he can’t, then in his heart, and that is the bare minimum of faith.”
So by failing to act to prevent the attack, Salman became complicit in murder.
The role of Mateen’s wife underscores the growing dilemma of the role of Muslim women in evolutionary jihadism, also known as “The Smarter Bomb.” Once seen as invisible, women are no longer overlooked in terms of their potential for jihadism.
Certainly, women in militant families may feel — or actually be — powerless to change course, escape or notify authorities. They often lack pragmatic means to get away while also being culturally, tribally and ideologically bound to the militant himself.
And indeed, Salman’s attorney has described Salman’s marriage to Mateen as abusive and claimed that Salman was traumatized, and until just before the attacks, did not have financial autonomy in her marriage. She did become the beneficiary on his accounts and life insurance immediately before his barbaric actions.
We now know that female attackers are increasingly important to the Islamic State, so it is more essential than ever to prevent the lionization of Salman as a female icon for militant sympathizers.
Prosecuting Salman is essential for justice to be done to the families of the victims of the Pulse nightclub attack. How authorities act in the face of her complicity will be key to deterring other members of militant families here in America from shielding the activities of would-be militants in the future.
In so doing, Muslims around the world will be rightly reminded of our Islamic duty to the societies we live in. We must defend against injustice and expose it not only as a matter of good citizenship, but also as a basic tenet of our great faith.