SPEAKING OF CNN — they’re now calling John Muhammad “John Williams,” in an apparent policy of only calling people by adopted Muslim names when they’re not terrorists. (They don’t call Muhammad Ali “Cassius Clay,” now do they?)
This seems to be part of an overall move to “de-Islamicize” the sniper case. For the authorities, there are two obvious motivations for this. First, if it’s “not terrorism,” then the fact that it happened isn’t a failure of “anti-terrorism.” Second, to the extent that people buy this it makes the anti-American Islamic movement look weaker. For the PC forces of the media, it probably appears necessary to ensure that mobs of peasants with torches and pitchforks won’t set out for the nearest mosque. (Though in fact such distortions make such violence more, not less, likely in my opinion, by breeding distrust of the authorities.)
Anyway, here’s the actual bin Laden fatwa, which clearly encompasses individual acts of terror against America. So the notion that an Islamic terrorist has to be a card-carrying member of Al Qaeda to be a genuine terrorist is absurd under its own terms. Excerpt:
The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies–civilians and military–is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim. This is in accordance with the words of Almighty God, “and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together,” and “fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God.” . . .
We — with God’s help — call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God’s order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.
(Emphasis added.) Now this doesn’t tell us the specific motivations of John Muhammad, but it does make clear that claims that people who act without a direct connection to Al Qaeda, or people who also rob liquor stories, can’t be Ladenite terrorists are just, well, wrong.
(Fatwa link via Neal Boortz). NOTE: Reader Haggai Elitzur has sent this 1998 analysis of the Fatwa by Bernard Lewis from Foreign Affairs. Lewis’s translation differs slightly; Elitzur says it’s better, but I’m not in a position to judge. Don’t miss this point in which Lewis notes that that even if most Muslims disagree with this kind of reasoning (and they do) only a few need believe it to create problems. STILL MORE: Aziz Poonawalla emails that it’s not a real fatwa, but a call to hirabah (senseless or stupid war), and sends this link to a discussion on alt.muslim on the subject.
UPDATE: And as people have tried to minimize the Al Qaeda connection to the Bali blast, too, it’s worth remembering that bin Laden threatened Australia last year based on its role in the independence of East Timor.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reid Stott emails this link to the arrest warrant, which uses the name “John Williams.” He adds: ” agree with what you’re saying re: playing down the adopted Muslim name, but it isn’t CNN that’s doing it.” Well, it isn’t just CNN. As I said, the government has an interest in playing down this connection, too.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Jay Caruso responds.
STILL MORE: Then there’s this from The Smoking Gun:
A jovial, laughing John Allen Muhammad can be heard on an official audio recording of the alleged sniper’s appearance last year in Pierce County District Court to formally change his name. In April 2001, Muhammad made a brief appearance before Judge Molly Davis to request that his name be formally changed from John Allen Williams for “religion purposes” (he had converted to Islam years earlier). When Davis granted the name change after only a few perfunctory questions, Muhammad joked, “I feel cheated,” since he was not called on to present witnesses or paperwork or approach the bench. “These are fairly routine,” Davis said.
(Emphasis added). There’s streaming audio of the hearing there, and lots of other links. Reader Allan Gornow, who sends the link, remarks: “Perhaps Ted Turner will provide some decent computers to his news operation so they can access significant information about serious stories.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: Bill Herbert says I’ve gone off the deep end on this issue. Well, I was thinking about why this bugs me so much while I was shopping, Lileks-like, at Target. What this reminds me of is the Administration’s absurd claim last year that no one could possibly have foreseen the 9/11 attacks. It may have been true that the failure to prevent the attacks was entirely non-culpable — but the claim that they were utterly unforeseeable was so absurd that it was an insult.
Likewise, it may well turn out that — despite rather a lot of suggestive evidence — the sniper attacks by a guy named Muhammad who said he supported the 9/11 attackers and who seems to have had a lot of money and airplane tickets for a homeless guy will turn out to be pure, garden-variety nuttiness. But that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of people seem to be bending over backward to be sure it looks that way, and that’s why I’m harping on the issue.
LAST UPDATE: Natalie Solent explains what I mean.