…Lo! God does not change the condition of a people until they first change that which is in their hearts… (13:11)
A Muslim American man carrying a duffel bag that holds six homemade explosives, a machete, and poison spray travels to a major U.S. airport. The man enters the airport, approaches the TSA security checkpoint, and then sprays two TSA officers with the poison. He then grabs his machete and chases another TSA officer with it.
This Muslim man is then shot and killed by the police. After the incident, a search of the attacker’s car by the police reveals it contained acetylene and oxygen tanks, two substances that, when mixed together, will yield a powerful explosive.
If this scenario occurred, there’s zero doubt that this would be called a terrorist attack. Zero. It would make headlines across the country and world, and we would see wall-to-wall cable news coverage for days. And, of course, certain right-wing media outlets, many conservative politicians, and Bill Maher would use this event as another excuse to stoke the flames of hate toward Muslims.
Well, last Friday night, this exact event took place at the New Orleans airport—that is, except for one factual difference: The attacker was not Muslim. Consequently, you might be reading about this brazen assault for the first time here, although this incident did receive a smattering of media coverage over the weekend.
The man who commited this attack was Richard White, a 63-year-old formerArmy serviceman who has long been retired and living on Social Security and disability checks. He was reportedly a devout Jehovah’s Witness.
Given the facts that a man armed with explosives and weapons traveled to an airport and only attacked federal officers, you would think that the word “terrorism” would at least come up as a possibility, right? But it’s not even mentioned.
Instead, law enforcement was quick to chalk this incident up to the attacker’s alleged “mental health issues.” That was pretty amazing police work considering this conclusion came within hours of the attack. There was no mention by police that they had even explored whether White had issues with the federal government stemming from his military service, if there was any evidence he held anti-government views, etc.
Perhaps Mr. White truly was mentally ill. Interviews with his neighbors, however, don’t even give us a hint that he had mental problems. Rather theydescribed White as a “meek” and “kind” man who a few had spoken to just days before the incident and everything seemed fine. You would think these neighbors would at least note that White had a history of mental illness if it was so apparent.
Now I’m not saying definitively that I believe Mr. White was a terrorist. My point is twofold. One is that if White had been a Muslim, the investigation into his motivation by the media and maybe even the police would have essentially been over once his faith had been ascertained. If a Muslim does anything wrong, it’s assumed to be terrorism. (Apparently we Muslims can’t be mentally ill.)
In contrast, when a non-Muslim engages in a violent attack, even on federal government employees, law enforcement and the media immediately look to the person’s mental history, not possible terrorist motivations.
No wonder so many parrot the line, “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” When the press uses the word terrorism only in connection with the actions of Muslims, the average person would assume that’s the case. However, as I have written about before, in recent years overwhelmingly the terrorist attacks in United States and Europe have been committed by non-Muslims.
My second point is that this could have in fact been act of terrorism. White clearly targeted only the TSA officers. He didn’t assault others in the airport, such as the passengers waiting on line at the security checkpoint. And for those unfamiliar, there has been a great deal of animus directed at the TSA by some conservatives and libertarians. Simply Google the words “stop the TSA” and you will see pages of articles denouncing the TSA as an organization hell bent on depriving Americans of our liberty.
For example, Alex Jones’ Infowars website is filled with anti-TSA articles claiming that the TSA’s goal is not to prevent terrorism but to “harass” travelers and get into “our pants.” Glen Beck warned in the past that the TSA was potentially becoming President Obama’s“private army” with the goal being to take away our liberties.
And in 2012, Senator Rand Paul lashed out against the TSA for what he viewed as the agency’s improper treatment of him. In fact after the incident, Paul penned an op-ed denouncing the TSA, writing that “it is infuriating that this agency feels entitled to revoke our civil liberties while doing little to keep us safe.”
Even more alarmingly, the attacks on the TSA have not been limited to words. In October 2012, Paul Ciancia traveled to LAX, where he took out a rifle from his bag and shot two TSA officers, killing one. Ciancia had written anti-government tracts in the past and was—to little media fanfare—actually charged months later with an act of terrorism.
Given this climate, how can the police not even mention that they investigated the possibility of terrorism and ruled it out? I spoke with Colonel John Fortunato, the spokesperson for Jefferson County Sherriff’s Office, which is the agency in charge of the investigation. Fortunato explained that due to state law, they couldn’t release any additional information regarding White’s mental illness or reveal information regarding any treatment he may or may not have undergone.
When I asked Fortunato if they had investigated White’s digital footprint to ascertain whether he had visited any anti-government websites or had searched his residence to see if he possessed an anti-government literature or made or written anti-government statements, he gave me what sounded like a boiler plate response that the investigation has revealed no affiliation to any outside groups. Fortunato expressed his confidence that White had acted alone and that no ties to any terror groups. But he added that we will never truly know what motivated White given he died before being questioned.
But part of me actually believes that there are some in the media and law enforcement who prefer to use the term terrorism only when it applies to a Muslim.
Why? Because it’s easy to do. Muslims are viewed by many as the “other,” not as fellow Americans. But discussing domestic terrorism carried out by fellow Americans is at best, uncomfortable, and at worst, undermines the narrative that some in our country have a vested interest in advancing.
I’m not sure what will change this mindset, but if we want to truly keep Americans safe, law enforcement and the media need to understand that terrorism is not just a Muslim thing.
If the author of The Atlantic Monthly article,” What ISIS Really Wants“, wanted to smear Islam and Muslims, he could not have done a better job. Picking a self-promoting Islamophobe like Bernard Haykel (“the foremost secular authority on the Islamic State’s ideology“) as his source of information helps to make naive readers believe in what Wood and Haykel wanted to promote; a deep suspicion of Islam and Muslims and that Muslims are only doing in ISIS, what they are rooted to do in faith.
If The Atlantic Monthly had done even a few basic fact-checks of this “article”, they would have found enough holes in it, to make a sieve proud. I guess the usual budget cuts, must have done away with their fact-checking department as well.
To: The Editors of The Atlantic Monthly.
Re: “What ISIS Really Wants” in their March 2015 issue.
“What ISIS Really Wants” (Graeme Wood. Atlantic, March 2015) might have been a most interesting article, but the author appears to have gotten carried away by his own theories, did anyone do fact-checks on the article? Continue reading
In every field of study, scholars serve a vital function, they help us understand the problems and how to resolve questions, they help us learn about the subject with help of their deep knowledge and they help lead us to higher levels of understanding.
But scholars can be wrong; they often have been and many, still are. There was a time when scholars said the speed of sound was the ultimate barrier; one could not go any faster. Before that, there were teams of scholars who said the Earth was flat, there were scholars who said the Earth was the center around which the universe revolved and it was not so long ago, when scholars said the limits of computing had been reached. The Genocide of the American Indian, the Aborigines of Australia and the White rules in Southern Africa, were all justified as Divine Mandate emanating from the Bible. Jews, Hindus, Shinto, no faith is immune from intolerant, extremist, religious scholars who promote and sanctify violence against “the other”.
In Islam too, as in all other faiths, there have been many scholars who insisted that theirs was the only valid point and anyone who disagreed, was not only wrong, but served the devil because he was spreading doubt about Islam. Continue reading
It was George W. Bush who started off with the rhetorical question, “Why do they hate us?” and then answered his own question by the now oft-repeated patter, “They hate us for our Freedoms”. “They” of course, meaning Muslims even though the word “Muslim” was disguised behind perfixes like “Radical” and suffixes like “Fundamentalists”. Both, the “Freedom”-loving West and the targeted Muslims, knew of course, that the West was and is, taking on the task of making sure Muslim countries remain in the Dark Ages and dependent on the West; imperialism was simply taking on a new persona.
After 9-11, America decided to rise to defend its “Freedom” by imprisoning over 14,000 Muslims within this country alone and to torture hundreds more and kill over a million more. This is how “Freedom” and “Democracy” are protected By America.
Moving on to the Charlie Hebdo slaughter. Continue reading
I would like everyone to take a brief break and read these two articles. The first one, about the Muslim hero, is barely-acceptable in today’s fashion where Muslims and Islam are best left open to condemnation by members of the so-called, “Judeo-Christian Civilization”. Unfortunately for the current populist narrative, Muslims are humans too. We are just as good and just as bad, as anyone else and yes, we ARE Americans in America, Canadians in Canada and Europeans in Europe; no different from other fellow-citizens.
Yes, our fellow Muslims did blow up buses in London and killed people in mainland Europe, but no, Muslims did not blow up trains in Spain or go on bombing sprees in Ireland or UK or, kill 70, 80 people, mostly children in Norway, inspired by Islamophobic “experts” from the USA. Those acts were committed by the so-called Judeo-Christian Civilization as evidence of the “Clash within Civilization” to borrow from other “experts” such as Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis.