"Why now? Why? Why? Why? Why? That's the question I think everyone is asking." So agonized the half-brother of Lee Malvo, the alleged 17-year-old sniper, baffled by the causes behind the Washington, D.C.-area shooting spree that left 10 people dead.
One answer came from a friend who quoted John Muhammad, the senior alleged sniper, saying that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks "should have happened a long time ago."
This implies that Muhammad might have seen himself as a foot soldier in the jihad (holy war) against the United States, and that he took up arms to terrorize Americans.
Media across the country as one, however, shut their eyes to this explanation. A Los Angeles Times article proffered six motives for Muhammad (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) but did not mention jihad.
Likewise, 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."
Unwilling to specify the possibility of jihad as even part of his motive, media analyses dismissed it by implication. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution merely reported that local Muslims rue the snipers having "once again tarred the image of a peaceful religion." All those interviewed by the Commercial Appeal in Memphis "agreed that it did not matter that one of the suspected snipers had converted to Islam."
By adopting this see-nothing approach, journalists effectively accept the strictures of American-based militant Islamic groups. The alleged snipers "weren't motivated by any religious or political agenda" but appeared to be "deranged individuals" who acted for reasons of their own, says Ibrahim Hooper, the Council on American-Islamic Relations spokesman. Hooper's colleague, Nihad Awad, dismissed the alleged snipers as "troubled and deranged individuals."
By emphasizing Muhammad's "deranged" condition, the gentlemen from CAIR conveniently pre-empt a discussion of the jihad element. But it cannot be so readily dismissed. That Islam is engaged in a titanic battle with the United States, the outcome of which will determine the world's future, is a central idea among Islamists. Significantly, this idea has no parallel among Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists or adherents of any other religion; its closest parallel would be the views of fascists and communists in decades past.
The expectation of a cosmic Islamic-American confrontation is a leading theme of all the strains of militant Islam, including bin Ladenism, Wahhabism and Khomeinism. It is present no less in America than in the wilds of Afghanistan or the shopping malls of Saudi Arabia, as three recent arrests of American Muslims suggest:
- Seattle, Wash.: The indictment of James Ujaama accuses him of setting up a training camp for al Qaeda.
- Portland, Ore.: According to Attorney General John Ashcroft, one of the six Muslims arrested joined the U.S. Army Reserves with the intention of gaining skills later to use fighting Americans.
- Lackawanna, N.Y.: A U.S. government affidavit revealed that two of the six Muslims arrested possessed audiotapes calling for jihad and martyrdom, one of which appealed for "fighting the West and invading Europe and America with Islam."
American Muslims also find themselves repeatedly encouraged from abroad to resort to violence. These enemies of the United States anticipate great results:
- An Iranian government-sponsored radio station gleefully predicts that its brand of militant Islam within the United States will "provoke a dangerous and crucial confrontation" with the American authorities.
- Islamists in Pakistan, reports Arnaud de Borchgrave, expect that "in the next 10 years, Americans will wake up to the existence of an Islamic army in their midst - an army of jihadis who will force America to abandon imperialism and listen to the voice of Allah."
None of this is to say that American Muslims cannot be patriotic citizens, and plenty of them are. It is to say that when Muslims engage in terrorism against Americans, the guiding presumption must be that they see themselves as warriors in a jihad against the "Great Satan."
Not to see this real and present danger renders the United States vulnerable to more violence by the forces of militant Islam.
Oct. 29, 2006 update: For a bibliography of my writings on the Beltway Snipers, see "Beltway Snipers]: Converts to Violence?" right after the text of the article.