Pipes makes terrorist out of drifter

Daniel Pipes, in a comment on the recent Seattle shootings in the New York Sun (on his web site), makes some really absurd leaps of the imagination in order to portray the incident as one of “jihad” rather than a frustrated loner taking out his frustrations with his personal life on new-found political enemies (via Islamophobia Watch). He describes it as an example of “Sudden Jihad Syndrome”, which he claims also manifested itself in Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, who drove a SUV into a crowd of people in North Carolina in March this year.

As ever, Pipes is seeing things others aren’t. Unlike the FBI in Seattle, who believed that the recent incident was “a lone individual acting out his antagonism” with no evidence that it was linked to terrorism, Pipes sees “a case of radical Islamic terrorism”. “As in other cases, if the police cannot connect a terrorist to Al Qaeda or some other group, he is deemed not a terrorist.” It seems that their definition of terrorism is the work of organised groups or a series of acts as part of a campaign (as with the Unabomber), not single acts of violence carried out by single individuals. In this particular case, “radical Islamic” does not accurately describe the perpetrator’s position at all. “Radical Islam” is a term generally applied to certain sects, certain ideologies and certain groups, to none of which Naveed Haq belonged. He was a loner, being treated for bipolar disorder (also called manic depression) with a lot of personal frustrations and a couple of guns.

He also accuses the Jews of Seattle of ignoring his own message that “the golden age of American Jewry [is] coming to an end”, delivered in that very mosque in April 2002. Given that American Jewry is still a wealthy and influential minority and that the US government still sends billions of dollars in aid to their cousins in Israel, the fact that one synagogue has been hit by an incompetent would-be mass murderer hardly constitutes a harbinger of a dark age. If Jews were being attacked in the street and synagogue fire-bombings were common, such a statement might be justifiable. As it is, there has been one serious attack, the perpetrator of which is now in custody.

Pipes cites the perpetrator’s less-than-exemplary character (drinking alcohol, a pending lewd conduct charge) and his unlikely background (father who worked in a nuclear facility, US Institute of Peace prize, two good degrees) before asserting that this is an example of “Sudden Jihad Syndrome”, “whereby normal-appearing Muslims unpredictably become violent”, which supposedly reinforces his position that there needs to be “special scrutiny of Muslims”. The question might be asked how, if it is to prevent such sporadic out-of-the-blue acts of violence? Refusing Muslims guns is a possible answer, which would leave the most determined people (and plain criminals) the route of acquring the guns illegally, assuming it is even constitutional in the US. It is a preposterous suggestion.

In Pipes’ article on “Sudden Jihad Syndrome” following the Chapel Hill incident, he cites a number of incidents of “normal-appearing Muslims abruptly becom[ing] violent”, among them Muriel Degauque, the Belgian convert who travelled to Iraq and carried out a suicide bombing, and Mohammed Ali Alayed, the son of a Saudi millionaire who stabbed a Jew, Ariel Sellouk, in an apartment in Houston in 2003. Degauque was known for her extremist approach to religion even when in Belgium (see this BBC report), and her act could only have been done in co-operation with a terrorist group; the London bombers also fail to fit the pattern; they certainly were not known as playboys or as placid religious Muslims in Beeston. As for the Sellouk murder, the motive for it, according to the article from Forward cited by Pipes, is unclear. What sort of special observation would prevent such a thing - perhaps Pipes wants to set up a register of kitchen knives?

Pipes also alleges that his supposed syndrome “never erupts in isolation, but results from a steady diet of antisemitic, anti-Zionist, anti-Christian, and anti-American incitement fed by Islamist mosques, schools, voluntary associations, and media”, linking to a number of articles, mostly on Jewish websites, which actually do not even suggest that this was the case with Naveed Haq (one of them, on the American Jewish Congress’s blog, would not load for me when I was writing this; another criticised Israel-Nazi comparisons on banners displayed at an anti-war rally in Michigan). Suspicion of Jewish influence is very widespread in the Muslim community anyway, and given that this individual was not very religious, the fact that he harboured these attitudes does not mean he learned them from mosques or at Islamic school.

To repeat a comment I made on Tariq Nelson’s blog regarding this issue:

It has happened many times before that the criminal acts of individual Muslims, some of them mentally ill and some of them common criminals, are thrown back at the whole community as evidence that Muslims are a danger. The fact is that the Israeli-Palestinian situation has been going on decades and there is no organised effort to bring “pressure” on Jews regarding Israel. You would expect there to have been arson attacks on Jewish-run shops and the like, something similar to the antics of animal rights freaks over here who rob graves, but no such thing has ever happened, which suggests that Muslims are in general not that way inclined.

An earlier example of the violent actions of mentally-ill Muslims being linked to jihad is this post about a knife attack in Manchester. Robert Spencer opined:

Says the police spokesman: “This appears to be a very unusual and untypical incident.” Hmm. He seems to have forgotten that the 9/11 hijackers, and the Bali bomber, and killers from the Philippines to Nigeria, have been seen reading the Qur’an. The idea that this is something different from those attacks because there was only one attacker and two victims is unfounded; it is most likely that this man had the same motives that jihadists do around the world.

The difference between a suicide bombing and a random double stabbing by a lone man who then gets himself run over by a motor vehicle should really be obvious to anyone reading it, but you can get away with making such absurd statements when you know your audience does not care (as with Joe Kaufman in his diatribe against Muslim bloggers earlier this year). Pipes is not quite as flagrant in doing this here as Kaufman or Spencer, but he has clearly made absurd suggestions and drawn connections where there may well be none. This was an isolated attack by a mentally-ill man with a gun. I might add that some mental illnesses, including manic depression, are worsened when political issues the sufferer feels strongly about become inflamed, and if Pipes had bothered to do any research on the subject, he might well have found this out; as it is, it’s so much easier for him to attack Muslims and to stupidly suggest that all of us be subject to “special scrutiny” without suggesting exactly what sort of scrutiny might prevent another incident like this.

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