ISIS in America
If the Texas shooting was meant to be the Islamic State’s (ISIS) big American moment, then it deflated like a sad balloon. Known for its ruthless efficiency, ISIS, for reasons unknown, entrusted its first US hit to rank amateurs. The newly minted “mujahideen,” Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, wore body armor and carried assault weapons, but somehow fell to the single pistol of a moonlighting traffic officer. These men targeted the May 3 “Draw Muhammed” (PBUH) contest in Garland, Texas, but were killed before claiming any “infidels.” Furthermore, thanks to the Pakistani-American Soofi, his father’s country is back to being a media punching bag.
Comparisons have been made to the Charlie Hebdo killings in January, but they don’t work. The Kouachi brothers were well trained, well armed and had comprehensively scoped their target. The timing was also crucial: everyone knew that Charlie Hebdo would be attacked, but not when. In the Texas shooters’ case, they picked a time and place that law enforcement officials knew would attract violence. The contest sponsors, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (ADFI), had spent $10,000 on extra security, and SWAT teams and bomb squads patrolled nearby. On that day, Simpson and Soofi would have had better luck jumping the White House fence.
Even as ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, most experts were skeptical. Former FBI agent Tim Clemente didn’t “think they were directed by ISIS,” and the White House wasn’t sure either. On May 5, its Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the matter was “still under investigation” Using modern forensics, ISIS’ involvement should have been confirmed “fairly easily” and immediately, according to former CIA agent Brice Riedel. Junaid Hussain, Simpson’s jihadist contact and ISIS cyber-guru, also verified the shooters’ novice natures through his celebratory tweets. He wrote: “The brothers in Texas…had no experience in shooting.”
Elton Simpson, an African-American, was on the FBI radar long before his 2011 conviction for possible terrorism. He converted to Islam in high school, seeking a spiritual out from the vices of poor, black neighborhoods. Nadir Soofi is a more complex puzzle. He studied at the elite International School of Islamabad from 1992 to 1998, where old friends remember him as being “suave and charismatic.” Soofi’s troubles began when he moved to America in his early teens after his parents divorced. He had problems fitting in, and later sank ever business venture he started. Confronted with constant material disappointments, Soofi became a born-again Muslim.
The ADFI is your garden-variety band of Islamophobes championing “free speech.” Its founder, Pamela Geller, calls the ADFI a “human rights organization,” but the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) lists it as a hate group. In a fundamental way, Pamela Geller and the Islamic extremists she opposes are alike. Her literal interpretation of the U.S Bill of Rights is similar to how extremists interpret holy texts. After the shooting, Geller huffed online: “The freedom of speech is under violent assault here in our nation” and “This is war.” The same woman once claimed that U.S President Obama was the “love child” of Malcolm X.
The rise of Muslim hate crimes in the U.S has ignited a debate on the constitutional right to free speech. John Szmer, from the University of North Carolina, says there are two exceptions to this right, and the ADFI may have invoked them both. Defamation is unacceptable, and so are “fighting words.” He explains this is “the idea that you are saying something that is so offensive that it will lead to an immediate breach of the peace.” Ibrahim Hooper, of the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), finds the problem more akin to emotional cannibalism. Both groups “feed off each other’s extremism and hate.”
Predictably, many Muslim leaders in the U.S fell prey to the ADFI’s religion-baiting. Azhar Azeez, of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), deplored the violence “committed by people identifying themselves as Muslim.” Similarly, Omur Orhun, an adviser to the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), said Muslims condemned “any violent act or any attempt at the lives of innocent people under any guise.” Unfortunately, this collective show of hands at the actions of a few is counterproductive, since it implies a collective guilt. After all, the Christian Church did not apologize for the serial-killer Albert Fish, a man who murdered because God commanded him so.
Religious psychopathy, as displayed by Fish, does not necessarily surface in everyday behavior. For someone feared as the “Brooklyn Vampire,” he was a wonderful spouse and father. Friends and family remember Simpson and Soofi as kind and soft-spoken, clearly unaware that something had snapped inside. It is regrettable that these individuals, especially Soofi, felt the only way to make a statement was through committing “suicide by cop.” If the American lifestyle so irked him, Soofi could have moved back to Pakistan, and a more Islamic society. Now all he has done is become part of the problem; just another cog in the Muslim-hate machine.