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Oklahoma Beheading Trial: Is Obeying the Qur’an a Form of Mental Illness?

The trial of Alton Alexander Nolen -- a.k.a. Jah’Keem Yisrael, who beheaded a coworker, Colleen Hufford, and tried to behead another, Traci Johnson, at Vaughan Foods in Moore, Oklahoma in September 2014 -- has revealed anew the incoherence and inconsistency of our official response to the jihad threat.

Nolen insists he was merely following the Qur’an. In statements he made days after the attack that have just been revealed during his trial, Nolen couldn’t have been clearer about his mindset, worldview, and motivations. When he was read his rights, he responded:

I’m a Muslim.

When asked why he beheaded Hufford, he answered:

I just feel like ... I did what I needed to do. What Allah ... says in the Qur’an to do. Oppressors don’t need to be here.

Nolen has a case. The Qur’an says:

When you meet the unbelievers, strike the necks (47:4).

Nolen thought Colleen Hufford was not just an unbeliever, but something even worse: she was, he explained, a “slave to the devil.” Nolen himself, on the other hand, was a “slave to Allah.” He told police:

You know the Muslim is somebody who submits their will to Allah … Whatever he wants done, that’s what we do … And you know he wants us to get the oppressors out of this place.

When asked if he regretted murdering Hufford, Nolen answered:

This wasn’t nothing but a trial for me. I passed it ... because, like I said, I felt oppressed. ... I knew for sure that ... if I was to die right then ... I was going to heaven.

He added:

I feel, you know, you know what I’m saying, if I was to die in five or 10 minutes I’m going to Heaven. That’s all that matters to me.

Here again, Nolen has a case. The Qur’an promises Paradise to those who “kill and are killed” for Allah (9:111). Nolen is, of course, still alive, but like the Fort Hood jihad mass murderer Nidal Malik Hasan, he likely believes that if he were to be executed, it would complete the requirements of the passage, and ensure his ticket to Paradise.

When asked if anyone had told him to behead unbelievers, he was quite clear about where he got the idea:

Uh, no. I read the Qur’an. Like I say, the Qur’an is easy to understand. … No one guides me but Allah.

Nolen also confirmed that he screamed “Allahu akbar” as he beheaded Hufford.

Both prosecuting and defense attorneys, however, seem to be discounting Nolen’s statements. The Oklahoman reported:

[H]is court-appointed defense attorneys are asking the jury to find him not guilty by reason of insanity. They have told jurors he is mentally ill and believed what he was doing was right because of delusional misinterpretations of Islamic teachings.