August 07, 2006
Jeff Jacoby In P-I On "Sudden Jihad Syndrome" In Seattle

Give the Seattle Post-Intelligencer opinion pages some credit for restoring a bit of balance that has largely eluded excuse-disposed daily local news reporters and news editors in covering Naveed Afzal Haq's Seattle Jewish Federation killings. A day after it first appeared elsewhere, the P-I online runs columnist Jeff Jacoby's spot-on commentary arguing Haq represents another deadly, disturbing case of "Sudden Jihad Syndrome."

At a time when jihadist murder is a global threat and some of the most malevolent figures in the Islamic world -- Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah chieftain Hassan Nasrallah, to name just two -- openly incite violence against Americans and Jews, the attack in Seattle should have been a huge story everywhere. Yet after six days, a Nexis search turned up only 236 stories mentioning Haq -- one-fourth the number dealing with (actor Mel) Gibson's drunken (and anti-Semetic) outburst. Why the disparity?

No doubt part of the answer is that Gibson is a celebrity, and that "The Passion," his 2004 movie about the crucifixion, was criticized by many as a revival of the infamous anti-Semitic motif of Jews as Christ-killers. Gibson, who belongs to a traditionalist Catholic sect, was already suspected of harboring ill will toward Jews. His crude remarks on July 28 confirmed it, and pushed the subject back into the spotlight. But if previous behavior and religious belief explain the burst of interest in the Gibson story, they only deepen the question of why the Seattle bloodshed was played down. After all, Haq is not the first example of what scholar Daniel Pipes has called "Sudden Jihad Syndrome," in which a seemingly nonviolent Muslim erupts in a murderous rampage.

Just this year, for example, Mohammed Taheri-azar, a philosophy major at the University of North Carolina, deliberately rammed a car into a crowd of students, saying he wanted to "avenge the death of Muslims around the world." Michael Julius Ford opened fire in a Denver warehouse, killing one person and injuring five. "I don't know what happened to him yesterday," his sister Khali told the press. "He told me that Allah was going to make a choice and it was going to be good and told me people at his job was making fun of his religion."

Other cases in recent years include Hasan Akbar, a sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division, who attacked his fellow soldiers at an American command center in Kuwait with grenades and rifle fire, killing one and wounding 15; Hesham Mohamed Ali Hadayet, who killed two people when he shot up the El Al ticket counter at the Los Angeles airport in 2002; and Ali Hasan Abu Kamal, who was carrying a note denouncing "Zionists" and others who "must be annihilated & exterminated" when he opened fire on the observation deck of the Empire State building.

If the Catholic Gibson's nonviolent bigotry is a legitimate subject of media scrutiny, all the more so is the animus that spurs Muslims like Haq and the others to jihadist murder. As The New York Sun asked the other day, how many more Haqs must erupt in a homicidal rage before we open our eyes "to the possibility that they are part of a war in which understanding the enemy is a prerequisite for victory?"

It has been the first instinct of Seattle's media and liberal monolith to emphasize Naveed Afzal Haq's previous but sporadic signs of mental instability. However, the vast majority of people who suffer mental illness and specifically bipolarity, do so without becoming killers. In the end - if his words are to believed - Haq's anger at Israel's defense of itself and at the U.S. presence in Iraq led him to target, kill one, and attempt to kill other innocent Jews and their co-workers in Seattle. That is quite some way, especially in peaceful Seattle, of expressing discontent about U.S. and Israeli military actions against Muslim opponents. Haq shows every indication of being a political Islamist, rather than an overtly religious one. Haq's muted religiosity, and his dabbling in Christianity, even, have been helpful in persuading Seattle's dithering, judgement-averse moral relativists he was likely just a troubled man who "snapped." But Haq's political extremism is no less deadly and more importantly, no less a manifestation of Jihadist sensibilities than if he had a Koran in his pocket when he pulled the trigger again and again.

UPDATE: With a hat-tip to commenter to Tom Rekdal, here Pipes himself writes in The New York Sun about Haq and "Sudden Jihad Syndrome."

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at August 07, 2006 09:56 AM | Email This
1. The Syndrome also encapsulizes the reasons behind the far left wanting to kill off Lieberman. There are other Dem. Senators, including, Nelson, Hillary,and Cantwell, who endorsed the Iraq war.
\Why Lieberman, then? I think because he's Jewish.

Posted by: john425 on August 7, 2006 10:03 AM
2. well, the word 'syndrome' is an open door for excuses, pap psyco-medical tripe and other 'unusual' speculation for ignorant juries to think it's some unfortunate disease like whooping cough;

lest's not downplay the obvious--terrorism and anti-semitism--to downplay it and call it an 'illiness' or 'syndrome' devalues the victims' lives and ignites the liberal "oh--poor guy" reaction for the perp;

Posted by: Jimmie-howya-doin on August 7, 2006 10:13 AM
3. john425, the "syndrome," as discussed and well-documented by Pipes and in media reports, has to do with murders and attempted murders inspired by anti-U.S. and anti-Israel sentiment of Muslim extremists in our midst. The political targeting of Lieberman may include some anti-Israel or anti-Semitic elements, but other factors are in play there, AND it is all legal and non-violent. No comparison between the two in my view.

Perhaps you know this quite well and are just a troll......?

Posted by: Matt R. on August 7, 2006 10:14 AM
4. Jimmie, I agree with you generally on use of the word "syndrome," but if you read Pipes' discussion of what he calls "Sudden Jihad Syndrome" (see my link in the post), there's no excuse-making going on there. Pipes argues that because Islamism (extreme Islam, not everyday Islam) is by its nature totalitarian, it contains the seeds for the sort of violence by individuals that he documents. The extremist believer as a walking time-bomb, if you will, one who does NOT need to be connected with an official terrorist cell to kill based on his beliefs. This is the "syndrome" of which Pipes speaks.

An example: Pipes additionally documents (see link in post on Hasan Ali Akbar--the Muslim U.S. soldier who killed one of his own and wounded 15, on purpose) Akbar's diary entries evidencing Akbar's hatred of non-Muslims as motivation for his killings.

Akbar was sentenced to death, by the way.

Posted by: Matt R. on August 7, 2006 10:19 AM
5. fair enough, Matt--thanks--i was just reacting to a over-used term;
you know how words these days can inflame; take for example that definition of 'racism' from our enlightened Seattle Schools;
RVP Syndrome ('reactive verbal hypersensitivity') on my part--and yes--i'm trying to collect disability on that newly-coined, golden goose, victim status concept of mine--kinda has a ring to it, eh? like 'institutional racism'

Posted by: Jimmie-howya-doin on August 7, 2006 10:29 AM
6. Wow! In considering the religiosity of all this, I think I've had an epiphany! The looney, appeasing, ostrich left, who would like to see religion erased from public consumption, have actually taken a passage from the Bible to heart: "The meek shall inherit the earth". And they will get just as violent as it takes, verbally and otherwise, to ensure that they remain meek enough to inherit whatever is left of the earth.

Posted by: katomar on August 7, 2006 10:55 AM
7. But the roots are more than just in the inherent totalitarianism of Islam under Sharia Law or as implemented in the Middle Eastern Theocracies. It's the active subsidy and support of the explicit preaching of hatred that goes on every day in Middle Eastern mosques that truly whips up the would-be Jihadi. Basically, it's the incitement of violence which the Mullahs in the Middle East are party to, that provides the critical link between the philosophical constructs of Islam as a government and the daily flock of Muslims.

The key to ending terror and beginning the reparation of the Middle East is to dismantle the regimes that tolerate the spread of hatred through their clerical populations. Each Middle Eastern theocracy has two choices. They can stop supporting the preaching of hatred, and reign in their mullahs, and control the spread of hatred, much as Egypt has done. Or, they can wait until Western peoples have hardened their resolve through continued terror attacks to the point that even our appeasment and anti-semitic left will finally admit that we must confront and dismantle these regimes.

Let's hope it is the former more peaceful option, but I for one am part of a growing number of Americans that believe that we should establish this line in the sand, and then smash these Terror Supporting Theocracies if they fail to police their own vile hatred.

The litmus test is simple. We would never allow such a hateful group to continue their spread of hatred in the US. Especially if it lead to documented violence. Why is there idelogical patience for Muslims who commit terror, but no ideological patience for Skinheads who do the same? It's probably the brown vs. white skin which just shows how far our elitist left has let PC thinking run amok.

Posted by: Jeff B. on August 7, 2006 11:55 AM
8. Pipes coined the expression "Sudden Jihad Syndrome" to describe the smoldering Islamist whose rage is touched off by some external political event. To the extent that they exist in large numbers they represent a huge potential resource for the extremists, since, as many have noted, they do not have to be organized to wreak havoc.

I would imagine that people who are psychologically impaired in some way are the ones most susceptible to this kind of rage, which makes it all the more difficult to distinguish politics from pathology. From the victims' point of view the distinction hardly matters, but from a public policy perspective it does.

I am curious to see what Pipes himself makes of the Haq case.

Posted by: Tom Rekdal on August 7, 2006 12:04 PM
9. Tom,

I think you've hit the nail on the head:

Since this phenominon seems to be an explosive combination of mental instability and Islamist rage how do we identify it and stop it before it happens? We can infiltrate terrorist cells. We can track the flow of money from "charitable" organizations into the coffers of terrorist organization. But how can we hope to stop the angry loner with a gun, a knife, a bomb?

Haq seems to be the classic angry loner. He had no job. He had no place to live. He had trouble dating. Perhaps this is the type of individual that the terrorist organizations in Gaza find and recruit to become suicide bombers?

I frankly have no idea how we will stop this.

Posted by: Sstarr on August 7, 2006 01:04 PM
10. good old fashioned profiling and surveillance; works for El Al airlines and they don't fret over the "whatever street's" opinion--screw them--their collective safety is first;

not advocating Big Brother here, but more sensible acceptance that law enforcement and antiterror folks need to watch things; preventive maintenance; and to libertarians: if you run with the bad guys, then you deserve to be watched; just like watching Hells Angels gang & others; we don't wait till there's a full-blown riot, do we? we gather intel;

Posted by: Jimmie-howya-doin on August 7, 2006 01:40 PM
11. WE cannot stop this. The Muslim world community must put a stop to this. Only when they no longer hate Jews, the West in general, and stop preaching hatred and inciting their fanatics to violence will the bloodshed end.

The Koranimals are stuck in the middle ages. Only when they join the rest of us in the 21st century will we see improvements. But until then, the world is going to remain a scary place. With Iran trying to get the bomb, and the nutcase that's the president willing to use it, believing that it will herald the return of the 12th Imam, well things are not going to get better soon.

We in the West burned "witches" at the stake, people were hanged for blasphemy, women had to wear long dresses and cover their ankles, and women didn't get the right to vote in the US until 1920. So western civilization has it's own past similar to what is happening today in Muslim countries. A major difference, of course, is that we never believed that killing innocent women and children would earn us a place in heaven. Only with the advent of the concept of personal freedom and individual liberty did western society really flourish.

Unfortunately, Islam is twisted to suit the aims of the fascists and ideologues. Only the Muslim people can change the culture that breeds hate and fanaticism.

Posted by: Obi-Wan on August 7, 2006 02:47 PM
12. With all due respect, this loonie's rampage is only international news because it's a Jewish organization that was shot up by a deranged guy who happened to be a lousy Muslim. (I say "a lousy Muslim" - he was recently baptized as christian, and I certainly haven't heard anything about him attending a mosque regularly, suggesting he's no Ayatollah.)

Crackpots shoot up all kinds of public places every day in this country for all manner of grievances. I hail from Pensacola, where "pro life" "Christians" have repeatedly shot and killed abortion clinic workers, so I know first hand that Muslims have no monopoly on self-righteous, religiously-inspired vengeance.

The very nature of "asymmetric warfare" requires the amplification of a minor (in the grand scheme of things) event through the media to instill a disproportionate sense of threat. I can't shake the feeling that publicizing these events is counterproductive - there are solid epidemiological reasons, after all, why news media have careful guidelines around reporting of suicides.

(see for the AFSP's recommendations on suicide reporting)

Posted by: huh on August 7, 2006 04:44 PM
13. Isn't sudden jihad syndrome just another lifestyle choice? Who are we to judge another culture.

If you don't want to be killed by a Muslim don't be a Jew

(or a Christian, or a Hindu, or a Animist, or an Atheist, or a ...)

Posted by: Jericho on August 8, 2006 08:35 AM
14. Daniel Pipes weighs in on this topic in an article just published in the New York Sun, "'Sudden Jihad Syndrome' in Seattle." He also has some thoughts posted on his weblog.

For the most part, Pipes makes the same points that Matt does, but with more emphasis on inquiring into the influences that pushed Haq's rage into the direction it took. He asks one interesting question I had not thought about before. When Haq complained to the 911 dispatcher that he was tired of "our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East. . .," who are the "our people" he is referring to?

Posted by: Tom Rekdal on August 8, 2006 11:03 AM
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