Despite the scale of the Las Vegas attack and Stephen Paddock being armed with more than 10 rifles, Sheriff Joe Lombardo immediately dismissed any ties to terrorism, classifying the gunman, a white male from a rural town 130km from the city, as a local individual and a lone wolf.

We have yet to determine whether Paddock was motivated by anyone or anything, so many are tiptoeing around terms such as terrorist.

But if Paddock were Muslim, his status as a local individual would be entirely irrelevant, and the motive of Islamic terrorism or jihad would likely be immediately assumed, even if there is no evidence.

The Las Vegas shooting also raises several questions linked to race and religion and how they figure into our imagining and policing of terrorism.


US President Donald Trump has ushered in the third phase of the War on Terror, and his brazen clash of civilisation rhetoric around US anti-terror policy and programming has fixated on Muslims.

Trump continues to carry forward counter-radicalisation policing - the signature anti-terror programme installed by former President Barack Obama - which seeks to identify and arrest homegrown Muslim radicals.

Like Paddock, Dylann Roof, who killed nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, was described as a lone wolf.

But why is one person homegrown while someone else is a lone or local wolf?

An extensive list of exemptions has become available to white culprits of mass violence, most notably lone wolf or insane, and the Las Vegas shooting adds the status of being a local individual to the roster.

Certainly, many of the Muslim Americans pursued as prospective radicals in Minneapolis, Boston, Los Angeles or Washington - cities where counter-radicalisation programmes are robustly enforced - are tied to specific communities. They, too, are local.

However, being brown, black and Muslim marks them as being perpetually foreign before the eyes of the state, and local law enforcement tasked with the responsibility to pursue and prosecute homegrown Muslim radicals.

While Muslim identity is often attached to possible collective action and foreignness, whiteness seems inextricably tied to the presumption of individuality and indigenousness.

In an April segment of Fox and Friends on Fox News, co-host Jon Scott alleged that Showtimes Homeland had a political agenda by challenging the trope that Muslim violence is driven by a violence inherent to the faith and tied to foreign terrorist actors.

Do we remember who the bombers of the Boston Marathon were? Scott asked. I mean, just an aside to the Muslim community, if you dont want to be portrayed in a negative light, maybe dont burn people alive and set off bombs and things like that.

Pete Hegseth added: Yeah, and point out the radicalism, and say thats not me.

Time and again, following a terrorist attack involving a (nominal or bona fide) Muslim individual, Muslim Americans are expected to disavow and condemn the attack. The burden of collateral and collective guilt has become a central component of the modern Muslim-American experience, which they are saddled with as a consequence of private and popular Islamophobia.

However, no one expects white men to apologise on behalf of all other white men, even though 63 per cent of mass shootings since 1982 have been committed by their demographic. While Muslim identity is often tied to terror suspicion, whiteness swiftly disconnects individuals like Paddock from other white Americans and any responsibility to disavow, condemn or apologise on behalf of one of their own.

Double standards and a conflation of terrorism with one group are not only a mirror of popular stereotypes, but also a reflection of core baselines in our legal system. They are messages that command us, as a society, to instantly seek vengeance and justice in the name of our country when the culprits of terror are Muslims, but retreat from any political analysis or finger pointing when the culprits are white.

While we focus on Muslim boogiemen both near and far, we neglect hateful, armed white terrorists right here at home.