The attempt by Mohammed Taheri-azar in March 2006 to drive a rented Jeep Cherokee onto a plaza at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and kill as many students as he could prompted me to coin the term Sudden Jihad Syndrome to describes cases "whereby normal-appearing Muslims abruptly become violent." I noted the many good citizens who surreptitiously adopt radical Islam and then violently lash out against non-Muslims in acts of terrorism, such as the 9/11 hijackers, the London transport bombers, Sajid Badat, Wail al Dhaleai, Asif Hanif, Zacarias Moussaoui, Iyman Faris, Adnan Gulshair El'Shukri-jumah, Aafia Siddiqui, and Waemahadi Wae-dao, Maher Hawash, Mohammed Ali Alayed, and Muriel Degauque.
I later applied this term to other surprise jihadis, including Hesham Mohamed Ali Hadayet and Naveed Haq. Most of the cases I chronicled at "Denying [Islamist] Terrorism" and More Incidents of Denying Islamist Terrorism" also fit this rubric. So do the Beltway Snipers.
In all these cases, I argued that the absence of ties to an international terrorist group like Al-Qaeda does not mean the act the act is not terrorism.
(This is a good place to clarify a possible confusion: by "sudden" I do not mean that the jihadi abruptly engages in his act of violence without preparation but that it comes as a sudden surprise to the victims, law enforcement, and the public.)
Others then found this term useful and picked it up; a Google search finds some 21,000 citations, including particularly prominent mention in the Sulejman Talovic and Omeed A. Popal cases. Several blogs have systematically documented the phenomenon, including rayra.net and Freedom's Enemies. Also, see an article by Srdja Trifkovic, "Sudden Jihad Syndrome in Vienna," for a listing of many cases.
I recall this history because, Sara A. Carter reports today at "'Sudden jihad syndrome' poses domestic risk" in The Washington Times, a U.S. government agency has just now picked up this term as well as the ideas behind it, giving it an official imprimatur. The newly-created Bureau of Information Analysis of the Texas Department of Public Safety on Dec. 6 issued a so-far non-public report distributed to federal, state and local law enforcement in Texas that notes how sympathy for Al-Qaeda has produced a "sudden jihad syndrome" in domestic terror cells unaffiliated with foreign terrorists. Carter, who obtained a copy of the report, records how the report
warns officials not to dismiss individual or homegrown terror cells as "wannabes," saying they pose a credible threat to homeland security. "Oftentimes, these attackers are dismissed as suffering from mental health issues, but their own words and writings reveal an affiliation with Islamic supremacy or an affinity for Islamic extremism. As a result, law enforcement should not be too quick to judge their attacks as having no nexus to terrorism." It said they might act with the intention of eventually joining al Qaeda or the jihad movement overseas. The intelligence analysis says homegrown groups are not purely "domestic," as their ideology is similar if not exactly like those of international terrorist groups.
The report then offers several examples, including the Lackawanna Six, the Liberty City Seven, Ali R. Warrayat, and Charles Bishop (né Bishara).
Comment: It is encouraging when a law enforcement agency feels free to deal frankly with Islamist terrorism. (January 2, 2008)
Nov. 20, 2009 update: In the aftermath of the Ft. Hood massacre carried out by Maj. Nidal Malik, the number of Google search references for "Sudden Jihad Syndrome" has jumped to 10,000. As noted above, the number was 3,000 less than two years ago. Also, the term has entries at Urban Dictionary and Conservapedia.com.