Seddique Mateen is a US Citizen, the self-appointed President of Afghanistan, and the father of Omar Mateen, the man who killed more than 49 people at an Orlando nightclub this weekend in in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
In the aftermath of the shooting, which is now considered the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil since September 11, the elder Mateen appeared to fluctuate between grief and grandiosity. He was clearly devastated by the loss of his son and at least 49 others who died at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning. But Mateen, who calls himself the “president of transitional republic of Afghanistan” on his Facebook page and posts online videos of his own political commentary, clearly relished his moment in the spotlight.
At first, he reacted as any grieving parent would. “I don’t forgive him,” Seddique Mateen said Monday morning, shaking his head. Answering the door of his stately Port St. Lucie home in his pajamas, Mir said he had been up all night “in shock.”
But an hour later, Mateen appeared again, this time in an immaculate suit with a pocket square, inviting reporters to take off their shoes before entering his home. Only the “professionals” were welcome, he said, and it later became clear that “professional” was Mateen’s highest compliment. With wide blue eyes, a bushy mustache, and a calm demeanor, Seddique Mateen gave off the calm authority of a diplomat.
Sitting on an ornate upholstered couch inside the home, the elder Mateen continued to condemn his son and praise the United States, which he repeatedly called “my house” and “my home.”
“The United States is my house,” he said. “The United States is the house that is always taking care of me, my family, all the people from my homeland.”
The elder Mateen said the atrocity his son committed is completely inconsistent with his family’s religion. “It’s against the philosophy that I teach them,” he said.
But that philosophy is under intense scrutiny, as more details emerge about the elder Mateen’s political leanings and video statements that seem at once extreme and bizarre. In several instances, the statements he made to reporters Monday appeared to conflict with statements he has made in videos he published online before the shootings.
Seddique Mateen is something of an online personality, posting numerous videos on YouTube and his Facebook page about Afghan politics, including some where he appears to pass himself off as the President of Afghanistan. As recently as June 3, Mateen made statements on Facebook calling himself the “president of transitional republic of Afghanistan.”
Although he disavowed the hatred that motivated his son’s rampage in the gay nightclub, in a video posted early Monday morning he said “God himself will punish those involved in homosexuality,” according to several news outlets. That video has since been removed. Pulse nightclub is a destination for the gay and lesbian community, and the elder Mateen told NBC news Sunday that his son may have been angered when he saw two men kissing in public.
On Monday, Mateen expressed more tolerance when asked about his son’s feelings towards the LGBTQ community, saying “This is a free country, everybody should get a chance to live in the way that he or she wants to live.”
In another video, he appears to show support for the Afghan Taliban, according to translations by the Washington Post. But when asked Monday about his views on the Taliban, Mateen refused to answer definitively, saying first “I don’t want to talk about that,” and then blandly condemning the extremist group. “The Taliban, what they do is they are terrorists,” he said. “They are the terrorist people, and they have all kinds of problems.” He declined to elaborate on his previous statements in support of the group.
Mateen also said he would have called local law enforcement if he had suspected that his son was considering an attack like this. “I wish I did know what he was doing,” he said. “I would have arrested him myself.” But he also said he “supported” his son through his FBI surveillance, saying “I didn’t see any act of terrorism in what he did.”
The FBI are “very professional people,” he said with admiration.
The elder Mateen seemed especially bewildered that his son had attacked a country that had given him so much. “He was born in America, he went to school in America, you went to college, you was working here, why did you do that?” he said, directing the question to his deceased son.
It was mostly quiet at the Mateen’s home early Monday morning, before the crush of reporters arrived. There was a mountain bike outside, a deflated kiddie pool, a tiny bathing suit drying on the porch. Inside the home, Mother’s Day cards were displayed proudly on the front table.
Mateen said he had not slept at all Sunday night, that he was kept awake haunted by what his son had done.
“I am upset, they lost their loved ones,” he said. “I know how that feeling is. I lost a son, too, and that’s the only son I had.