A few years ago, Robert Lorenzo Hester, Jr. of Columbia, Mo., met “several young men who suggested that Islam was a religion that valued men like him.” That was when his troubles began: prosecutors announced Wednesday that they want Hester to serve twenty years in prison and be under supervision for the rest of his life for plotting a jihad massacre in Kansas City. His case shows yet again how politically-correct willful ignorance regarding the motivating ideology and magnitude of the jihad threat renders us all vulnerable.
True to form, federal prosecutors are already busily ignoring the possibility that Hester was inspired to try to kill non-Muslims by Qur’anic exhortations such as “kill them wherever you find them” (2:191, 4:89; cf. 9:5). According to the Columbia Tribune, they claim that “mental health issues combined with a mockery of his race and intellect by fellow soldiers led him to extremists ideologies.” Federal public defender Troy Stabenow also notes that Hester suffered from an “abusive childhood” and engaged in “drug use at an early age.” He “wanted to feel accepted and do something to make others proud, so he joined the Armed Forces,” but he didn’t stick.
And so, apparently, he got the idea that committing mass murder for ISIS in Kansas City would be just the thing.
All that may be, but the “extremists ideologies” to which he fell prey were ready to hand in his new religion. Where did this convert to Islam (who has also called himself Ali Talib Muhammad and Rami Talib) learn about his new religion? From whom? How many other American converts were taught by the same people? Where are they now? Generally media reports about jihad plotters tell us that they were “radicalized on the Internet.” These reports never explain why the supposedly peaceful Islam that these Muslims presumably learned at the local mosque was unable to withstand the appeal of the allegedly twisted and hijacked online version.
According to prosecutors, Hester “repeatedly glorified violence, and proclaimed his excitement to help ISIS carry out a terrorist attack. Hester thought he was assisting in a plan to cause widespread deaths, doing everything he could to help. Hester did not act in a vacuum. His conduct was part of a larger movement of growing support for ISIS in the United States and abroad.”
And of course he was, we are to believe, motivated by humanitarian concerns, as Stabenow hastens to tell us: “As a new father himself, he was heartbroken and infuriated when he watched carefully edited footage of Western forces engaging in violence that resulted in the deaths of women and children in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. In the videos, he was consistently told that the American military had been corrupted and that the United States government had adopted a policy of actively trying to hurt young Muslim families. Robert expressed his anger about the violence he saw online, and began to parrot some of what he saw.”
And so in response, according to prosecutors, Hester “wanted to hurt the economy ‘by hitting oil pipelines’ or ‘computer systems.’” He plotted a jihad attack for Presidents Day 2017 in Kansas City, hitting buses, trains and a train station. He bought ingredients to make bombs. He said that the day of the massacre was “going to be a good day for Muslims worldwide” and that he wanted a “global jihad” that would target installations not just in Kansas City, but also “military bases,” “federal places,” “government officials,” and “Wall Street.” “Any government building in D.C. would get attention of everyone,” he added hopefully.
Someone converted Robert Hester to Islam. That person or group was unable or unwilling to convince him that his new religion did not command him to commit treason and mass murder. That person or group was unable or unwilling to convince young Ali Talib Muhammad of the truth of the peaceful version of Islam that virtually every non-Muslim politician in the Western world assures us is as plain as day in the pages of the Qur’an. The implications of that are serious. No one dares contemplate them.
Thus Hester becomes yet another convert to Islam who has gotten the idea that his new religion mandates that he become violent toward unbelievers. This is a frequently recurring phenomenon. But authorities remain completely indifferent to it; even if any had a mind to start studying this phenomenon, they would be deterred by fears of appearing “Islamophobic.” And so nothing is more certain than that there will be many more Robert Lorenzo Hesters.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 19 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.