After praising the Sept. 11 skyjackers and threatening to commit major terrorist acts himself within the U.S., alleged sniper John Muhammad, along with 17-year-old Lee Boyd “John” Malvo, paralyzed the Washington metropolitan area for three bloody weeks in October. Yet since his capture, most in the media have been loathe to focus seriously on jihad as a motive.
In fact, the standard analysis of what makes Muhammad tick seems to include anything and everything except jihad – the personal spiritual mandate to engage in “holy war” against the “enemies of Islam,” that is, non-Muslims, especially Americans, Jews and Christians.
Such violent directives, long central to militant Islamism, have grown exponentially in recent years, emanating not only from known terror leaders like Osama bin Laden, but from militant Islamic clerics worldwide, including some in the U.S. (Last month, Sheik Abu Hamza, affiliated with London’s Finsbury Park mosque, was caught on film urging his followers to kill non-Muslims – particularly Americans – and to commit other acts of terrorism.)
Despite these eerie, medieval calls for the murderous purging of “unbelievers,” jihad doesn’t easily show up on the radar of the media elite, in spite of America’s unwelcome crash course in radical Islam in the aftermath of 9-11.
Thus, the Los Angeles Times offered up no less than six possible motives for Muhammad’s killing spree, reports Daniel Pipes, an expert on militant Islam. They included “his ‘stormy relationship’ with his family, his ‘stark realization’ of loss and regret, his perceived sense of abuse as an American Muslim post-9/11, his desire to ‘exert control’ over others, his relationship with Malvo, and his trying to make a quick buck,” said Pipes – “but did not mention jihad.”
“Likewise,” he adds, “a Boston Globe article found ‘there must have been something in his social interaction – in his marriage or his military career – that pulled the trigger.’”
Is this see-no-jihad, hear-no-jihad, speak-no-jihad mindset unique to the sniper case? Far from it.
- On July 4, a cab driver named Hesham Hadayet walked into the Los Angeles International Airport and shot two people to death before being shot and killed by a security guard. Despite the fact that Hadayet was Egyptian and that he had chosen the Israeli El Al ticket counter as the site for venting his rage, any suggestion that Hadayet was carrying out his own personal jihad was immediately dismissed.
“Investigators … believe that Hadayet was simply an overstressed man who snapped,” reported the Los Angeles Times. “He was known as a quiet, observant Muslim,” added the Times, which explained away the killer’s virulent anti-Semitism by saying: “While Hadayet occasionally mentioned a hatred for Israel, [one former employee] saw it more as a cultural perspective on Mideast politics than an emotion that would fuel violence.”
- One of the worst air disasters in recent history, Egypt Air Flight 990 crashed into the Atlantic shortly after takeoff from New York in October 1999, killing 217.
Two-and-a-half years later, the National Transportation Safety Board finally reached the same conclusion last March that virtually everyone else had immediately after the crash – that the plane’s Egyptian copilot, Gameel El-Batouty, had cut power to the engines and intentionally sent the plane plummeting into the ocean, killing all aboard.
But the government panel declined to suggest a motive, except to speculate that El-Batouty might have “committed suicide.”
Suicide? To most, “mass murder” or “terrorism” would better describe the wanton annihilation of hundreds of innocent people. Yet, despite the fact the copilot had calmly repeated over and over the Arabic phrase “tawkalt” – meaning “I rely on Allah” – for almost a minute and a half during his deed – and that such behavior, according to the report, “is not consistent with the reaction that would be expected from a pilot who is encountering an unexpected or uncommanded flight condition” – the federal report steered clear of suggesting jihad as a motive.
Egyptian reaction to the report was adamant: The plane’s failure was mechanical and the American report was a craven attempt to protect Boeing, the aircraft’s manufacturer. “Committing suicide is not a trait that Egyptians and Muslims are known for,” commented the head of the Egyptian pilots association.
But Jim Brokaw, who lost his father and stepmother in the crash and is now president of Families of Egypt Air 990 Inc., said it was clear the copilot was responsible. “American families regret that Egypt continues to resist this unavoidable conclusion, even after the events of Sept. 11,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “We call upon President George W. Bush to move beyond his predecessor’s failure of leadership in this matter, and ensure that a full criminal investigation takes place.”
But there will likely be no criminal investigation. The perpetrator is already dead, and “jihad” is not considered a motive. So what’s the point?
If the obvious conclusion is off-limits, what possible motive is left to explain the calm taking of 217 lives? The best the Los Angeles Times could come up with was the suggestion that El-Batouty might have been taking revenge against an Egypt Air executive who was aboard the flight.
As if 9-11 never happened
From the Washington, D.C., sniper shootings (in which police wrongly profiled white males despite eyewitnesses who said they saw dark skin), to the anthrax murders (after more than a year, the FBI is still guided by its profile of a “homegrown” terrorist, an angry loner with science expertise), to the Oklahoma City bombing (with which famed prosecutor David Schippers claims there is a “dead-bang Middle Eastern connection”) to the downing of TWA Flight 800 (in which multiple eyewitnesses who claim they saw a missile hit the plane contradict the government’s official conclusion of mechanical failure) – it is as if 9-11 never happened.
There is a strange aversion in both the administration and most of the press to investigate seriously the “jihad factor” in attack after attack that Americans are enduring.
Yet, the truth is that virtually all terrorist acts against the U.S. or its interests in recent years have been perpetrated by militant Islamists. Indeed, a glance at the headlines shows we are in the midst of what can only be described as a global Islamic jihad against America and Israel.
Thus, the official face of U.S. policy – that Islam is a religion of peace, that most Islamic nations are America’s allies in the war on terror, and that terrorist groups like al-Qaida, Hamas and Hezbollah aren’t truly Muslim at all and, in any event, are supported by only a tiny fraction of the Muslim world – is increasingly at odds with reality.
Even after the resurgence of al-Qaida and the official confirmation that bin Laden is still leading the far-flung terror empire, as well as the recent mass atrocities in Bali, Moscow and elsewhere – all with direct ties to al-Qaida – the U.S. seems incapable of accurately defining its enemy.
The Islamic connection is always downplayed. Always.
John Muhammad’s militant Islamic belief system has barely figured into the analysis of his motivations. Yet, beyond the question of whether he was part of a known terrorist organization is the equally important, and ultimately more frightening, possibility that he acted as an unofficial “freelance” member of the global jihad forces.
After all, bin Laden – whom Muhammad reportedly admires – has repeatedly and publicly called for the wanton murder of Americans and Jews by all Muslims everywhere, acting on their own.
In the world of Islamist terrorism, tiny, independent sleeper cells and “freelancers” are every bit as much a part of the global jihad force as are “card-carrying” members of al-Qaida and other known groups. It is in the nature of such groups to be highly decentralized and autonomous, held together despite long distances and minimal (or no) contact with leaders by their fervent religious convictions and intense hatred of a common enemy.
Think militia. In the United States, as codified by the Militia Act of 1792 and other later acts, the “militia” comprises all able-bodied males between 17 and 45. But there are two parts to the militia that together defend the interests of America (or, in this case, Islam). There is the “enrolled” or “organized” militia, where members are under a commander in a military structure. And then there is the “unenrolled” or “unorganized” militia – all able-bodied men. But both organized and unorganized militias are bound together by loyalty to a common goal – the defense of the homeland and her inhabitants from all enemies.
In the same way, the global Islamist jihad has its “organized militia” – members of terror groups like al-Qaida – and its “unorganized militia” – angry Islamists who hate America and Israel.
Even the distinction between a member of a terrorist group and a freelancer is illusory. Rather than a hard line, there’s a continuum of participation representing every type and level of involvement, all bound together by a common hatred (of America and Israel) and a common justification (Allah and the Quran).
Indeed, “most of the thousands of militants who passed through al-Qaida’s training camps are not technically al-Qaida members,” says U.S. News and World Report. “But the group’s leaders offer many of them encouragement and seed money to independently plan terror attacks.”
One such “freelancer” was American Jose Padilla (also known as Abdullah al-Muhajir), who, after training in Pakistan after 9-11, was arrested for allegedly plotting a dirty-bomb attack on U.S. soil. Another, Algerian Ahmed Ressam, was arrested at the U.S.-Canadian border and convicted of attempting to blow up the Los Angeles airport during millennium celebrations. Then there was Richard Reid, the British “shoe bomber” currently in U.S. prison for allegedly attempting to ignite a bomb hidden in his shoe aboard an American Airlines flight.
What about the expected next round of assaults on America? As USA Today reported Nov. 1: “Future terrorist attacks in the United States likely will involve suicidal operatives working alone or in groups of ‘twos and threes’ to try to carry out bombings and other relatively simple assaults, according to U.S. analysts who are tracking al-Qaida’s resurgence.”
Yet, despite such clear indications of a more decentralized and multi-faceted battle plan, heavily reliant on freelancers and loners inspired by their hatred of America and spurred on by the incendiary rhetoric of maniacal Islamic clerics calling for jihad – official Washington and, apparently, the mainstream press still don’t get it.
And because they don’t understand the new paradigm of war, they flail away at shadows, missing the enemy in our midst, while robbing precious freedoms from law-abiding citizens with new police powers and ever-more-intrusive surveillance capabilities.
In fairness, this gross official denial of reality is almost understandable. The circumstances of our “terror war” represent an unprecedented and politically radioactive situation for authorities. The plain truth is that while sleeper cells, their supporters and fund-raisers are living undercover in America, many of the biggest and most “mainstream” Islamic groups in the U.S.A. have proven ties to terrorist groups like Hamas, and – most vexing of all perhaps – a lot of fund-raising, sustenance and networking for Islamist terrorism has taken place, knowingly or unknowingly, in American mosques, Islamic centers and charities.
But how are law enforcement authorities to deal with such a threat? America’s very identity as a bastion of liberty is based on constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of religion, speech and assembly. We don’t imprison people for saying bad things, or even for assembling together to say bad things. Do we now send police, FBI agents or new “Homeland Security Department” agents undercover into all 1,200 of America’s mosques?
Do we clamp shut all immigration of males from Muslim countries? Secretary of State Colin Powell certainly doesn’t think so. Despite the fact that the government has reportedly allowed some 50,000 men from Muslim countries into the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, Powell is on a campaign to open the doors wider still.
In November, Powell said he wants to expand programs to bring educators, journalists and political and religious leaders from Muslim nations to the U.S., telling a Ramadan gathering of Muslim-Americans: “We are committed to ensuring that our programs reach out to Muslims in all walks of life.”
Extremism and violence, not radical Islam, are America’s greatest enemies, said Powell, strongly criticizing major evangelical Christian leaders (including Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, although he didn’t name them) for their recent criticisms of Islam. “We must not listen to the siren song of the bigots, extremists who cloak themselves in false spirituality in an attempt to divide and to weaken us,” he said, according to an Associated Press report.
And yet, there is a price to pay for all of this pious inclusiveness, no matter how beneficial to the cause of diplomacy. An analysis by Mideast expert Daniel Pipes concludes that by not directly and publicly acknowledging militant Islam as the enemy, America is endangering its war on terror in the all-important areas of:
- Understanding the enemy’s motives: A virtual taboo exists in official circles about Islam’s role in the violence; in the words of one senior State Department official, this subject “has to be tiptoed around.” As a result, the violence is treated as though it comes out of nowhere, the work of (in Bush’s description) “a bunch of cold-blooded killers.”
- Defining war goals: The U.S. government’s stated objectives in the war are operationally vague – Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once described them as preventing terrorists “from adversely affecting our way of life.” Only by naming militant Islam as the enemy is it possible to see the goal of defeating and marginalizing this ideology (along the lines of what was done to fascism and communism in World War II and in the Cold War).
- Defining the enemy: Right now, it’s just “terrorists,” “evildoers,” “a dangerous group of people” and other non-specific monikers. Naming militant Islam as the enemy reveals that the problem goes beyond terrorists to include those who in non-violent ways forward the totalitarian agenda – this includes its funders, preachers, apologists and lobbyists.
- Defining the allies: Allies are currently restricted to those who help prevent terrorism. Naming militant Islam clarifies the ideological dimension and points to the crucial role of Muslims who reject this radical utopian ideology. They can both help argue against it and then offer an alternate to it.
A time for truth
While the government and “mainstream” media avoid mentioning the Islamist elephant in the national living room, the nation is ripe for further recruitment.
Dr. Saul B. Wilen, president of International Horizons Unlimited, a terrorism prevention and strategies think-tank in San Antonio, Texas, writes:
According to the American Correctional Association in 2001, the number of Islamic inmates in the federal prison system tripled over the previous nine years, and in some states, such as Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania, make up approximately 20 percent of the incarcerated population. This includes the 30 percent of all African-Americans who have embraced Islam in prison. Prison experts and experienced correctional facility administrators recognize that prisons offer radical fundamentalists such as al-Qaida a pool of potential recruits who can be prime targets for a religion advocating the overcoming of oppression with violence.
Explaining that the opportunities for militant Islamist recruitment are great, not only in prison, but in gang cultures and other negative environments with angry and confused young people, Wilen adds, ominously:
Ongoing recruitment efforts are much greater and even more complex than previously anticipated. The Justice Department and FBI have confirmed that in its major jurisdictions hundreds of suspects are being monitored 24 hours a day. This is only the beginning of the need for expanding investigation resources. The terrorist population drawn from America’s youth complicates intelligence and surveillance efforts by adding large numbers of potential terrorists who can strike widely and simultaneously against distant and multiple targets. Our preparedness and resources to respond, react and recover from such terrorist attacks would be overwhelmed.
The existence and growth of American al-Qaida cells significantly frustrates our present strategies for fighting terrorism and urgently raises the need for developing a new focus for terrorism prevention.
Islamic radicals come to America, not because they love freedom, but because they know they can exploit America’s unparalleled liberty, which they consider weakness, to either destroy America or to Islamize it – which of course would destroy it.
How do we dare deal with the fact that some Islamic mosques in America – although thousands of decent, law-abiding Muslims worship there – have also been and no doubt still are being used as cover for terrorists? How do we deal with the virulent, metastasizing hatred of Islamic militancy both around the world and on our own soil?
And most importantly, how do we deal with this vexing and deadly problem while still respecting law-abiding Muslims’ rights to fundamental freedoms, including freedom of worship, in America?
The solution will be difficult, but not impossible.
And it must start – as solving all seemingly intractable problems must start – with telling the truth.
Editor’s note: The December issue of WND’s monthly Whistleblower magazine, titled “TERRORISTS AMONG US,” is a groundbreaking special report detailing how murderous jihadists have set up shop, recruited, fund-raised, networked and planned “holy war” throughout America, and why the government seems unable or unwilling to root them out.
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