Sunday, August 6, 2006

Hiding behind potted plants, Naveed Haq laid in wait for a 14-year-old girl he could use as a hostage. With a gun in her back, he pushed his way past security and through the door. He coldly, deliberately shot six women. When a wounded Pamela Waechter tried to flee up some stairs, he followed her, leaned over a railing and killed her.

Are these the actions of a crazy person?

A crazy person might cause harm to himself, maybe even someone close to him. Mr. Haq, though, did not know anyone at the Seattle Jewish Federation. He traveled some distance late last month from central Washington, getting there after determining his target following an Internet search for “something Jewish.”

That wasn’t all of his planning. Because of Washington law, Mr. Haq waited to purchase his two semiautomatic handguns, picking them up one day earlier.

Premeditation is the antithesis of crazy. So why is it that the mainstream media has either ignored or played down this story? The New York Times has written only one story. Ditto for The Washington Post. Both papers buried what little coverage they did offer on page 22 and page 13, respectively.

Most of those outlets that publicized the shootings have focused on Mr. Haq’s history of mental illness, the most serious of which was bipolar disorder. Great attention has been paid to his apparently having acted alone. And some have reported that sometime last year, the accused murderer was a practicing Christian.

In other words, media outlets have spent fantastic energy exploring every possibility — except the obvious one. Moments after spraying bullets across the offices of the Jewish Federation, he announced, “I’m a Muslim-American; I’m angry at Israel.” So while Mr. Haq’s short-lived apparent conversion to Christianity might be interesting, it neither inspired the murderous rampage nor serves as evidence that something in his Islamic environment did not.

Where is the investigation into what messages Mr. Haq heard in his hometown mosque, which was founded by his father? Or how about a look at the culture and attitudes of his hometown Muslim community?

No doubt the sensitivities and hang-ups in part prevent such inquiries, but isn’t it possible that those issues are ignored out of fear? Having one case of homegrown terror wouldn’t just be about the single incident. With over 1,200 mosques in the United States — and that’s not counting the thousands of makeshift ones in homes and storefronts — the enormity of the potential threat becomes terrifying. How many would need to be bad seeds for another 19 to line up for the “glory” of killing another 3,000?

None of this is to suggest that any mosque is presumptively suspect. That’s just one possibility. Incendiary Islamic teachings can be downloaded in the click of a mouse. In the case of Naveed Haq, isn’t there just cause to wonder where his mind was poisoned?

What Mr. Haq almost certainly would not have heard in a mosque is any call to wage violent jihad or chants of “Death to America.” Almost no imam would do so after September 11. But what if he had been told that U.S. soldiers were regularly committing atrocities against innocent fellow Muslims in Iraq? Or what if his imam told him that Israel was ethnically cleansing his Muslim brethren?

From the records of terror suspects arrested since September 11, a clear pattern emerges: Operatives are inspired most by the belief that Islam or Muslims are under attack. It is indisputable that Mr. Haq was acting in response to perceived wrongs committed against his fellow Muslims in Iraq and Lebanon — and he blamed Jews.

The leader of the now-arrested Canadian terror cell, Imam Qayyum Abdul Jamal, reportedly did not preach violent jihad to his congregation, but he did tell them, among other things, that Canadian soldiers were going to Afghanistan “to rape women.” Not only does this dehumanize non-Muslim Canadians, but it leaves the clear implication that killing them is not just moral, but obligatory.

Someone who digests and accepts such propaganda — about “ethnic cleansing” in Lebanon, for instance — can have one of three possible reactions: 1) becoming tolerant or even supportive of Islamic terror, 2) deciding to join al Qaeda or its ilk in order to defend his Muslim brothers and sisters, or 3) snapping after being overcome with rage at what is happening, and then taking matters into his own hands.

Recent college graduate Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar slammed a rented SUV this March into a crowd of students at the University of North Carolina, hitting nine. The Iranian-born 22-year-old told the 911 dispatcher that he was attempting to “punish the government of the United States for [its] actions around the world.” In court days later, he said he was “thankful for the opportunity to spread the will of Allah.”

While Naveed Haq’s mental problems might have lowered his inhibitions or impaired his judgment, there is little else that distinguishes his actions from those of Mr. Taheri-azar — except that he was successful. He clearly had become consumed with the malicious belief that Jews were committing atrocities against his fellow Muslims, and he saw it as his duty as a Muslim to do something.

Calling Mr. Haq “crazy” is comforting, but hardly congruous with known facts. Avoiding necessary questions is not the answer. Ignoring the simmering threats won’t keep them from boiling over.

Joel Mowbray occasionally writes for The Washington Times.

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