Did Bin Laden Motivate the D.C. Serial Shooter?


The Washington, D.C. area shooting spree is over. Authorities have captured two suspects, John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo, with a high degree of confidence that these guys are the culprits.

For three weeks, these killers terrorized the Washington, D.C. area. Most commentators have focused on Muhammad's failed military background, preferring to view this tragic chain of events as an isolated case of a man somehow gone wild. No one has seriously considered Muhammad's conversion to Islam and any potential terrorist role he might have played.

In four earlier DefenseWatch articles, I have analyzed the general threat to the civilized world posed by Islam in its current incarnation. (They are: "War and Religion - Islam's Embrace of Violence," Dec. 5, 2001; "Battle Still Raging for Islamic World Support," Dec. 26, 2001; "Violence and Terror - Fundamental to all Islam," March 20, 2002, and "Bid the Little Ones Come Unto Me - Forbid them Not," Apr. 3, 3003.) In this article, I re-examine this threat more closely in light of what I believe motivated John Allen Muhammad.

In brief overview, Muslims believe that they emanate from Abraham's son Ishmael and his mother, Haggar, in parallel with the Israelis, whom they believe emanate from Abraham's other son, Isaac, and his mother, Sarah. Islam is based on two writings, the Qur'an, believed to have been revealed by Allah to Mohammad during the 7th century, and the Sunnah, which records the Prophet's life. Taken together, the Qur'an and Sunnah form the basis for Islamic jurisprudence, very much like our Constitution forms the basis for our secular laws.

The Shari'ah, which is analogous to codified law in Western society, consists of the Qur'an, Sunnah, and a constantly evolving collection of Fatwas or rulings that deal with every aspect of Islamic life from ideology to practical daily matters. Throughout Islamic history, Imams and Mullahs have issued Fatwas, which have the force of law among Muslims, similar to a ruling by a Western court. These Fatwas or rulings can be confirmed or overturned through a Fiqh issued by a higher authority, similar to a ruling by a Western higher court.

Here the analogy begins to break down, however. Western society is built upon a relatively fixed fabric of law that doesn't change much from day to day, or from place to place. In Western society, new laws are created by legislative bodies at different levels of government, and these laws affect their specific areas of interest. Sometimes, this creates a situation where something is against the law in one community, but allowed in another. In general, however, the fabric of law is relatively consistent throughout our society.

Shari'ah, on the other hand, emanates from holy men, and applies to all Muslims, everywhere. There is no set of parallel jurisdictions or even a hierarchy of jurisdiction within Islam. Shari'ah is universal.

Since the nature of Shari'ah is constantly evolving as Fatwas and Fiqhs are issued by Islamic clerics, no one knows for sure exactly what Shari'ah commands at any given moment. What is certain, however, is that Osama bin Laden carefully and deliberately linked the 9/11 attacks to Fiqhs issued by the Prophet himself, and effectively ordered all Muslims to take up arms against the Western world in general, and against America specifically. These terrible Fatwas that were broadcast around the world thanks to al Jazeera and CNN have never been countered or negated by any Muslim cleric with perceived authority greater than that of bin Laden. With every passing day, these edicts become more entrenched within Shari'ah.

Let's review what this means. Fundamental Islamic law now contains a provision that specifically orders Muslims to kill non-Muslims, especially Jews and Americans. Jihad has been ordered down to the individual level, and it has carefully been leveraged away from the so-called popular interpretation of Jihad as a struggle within, to a direct order emanating from the Prophet himself to kill.

If you are a confused new convert to Islam, eager to follow the rules, to be part of the system, how do you respond to a direct order carrying the weight of the Prophet himself?

Maybe you go out and spread terror by killing ten seemingly random people.

That's what John Allen Muhammad did; and that's what I fear a lot of other confused young Muslims will do in the coming months ahead.

Can this be stopped?

As I see it, the only way to prevent increasing acts of individual terror in our country is for Muslim leaders worldwide to come out strongly and definitively against terror and violence. There is some indication that, at least in America, this might finally be happening.

Quannel X, a New Black Panthers minister, told Fox News last Sunday, "Just like there's Christian extremists who taint the Christian faith there are Muslims who degrade their faith by cloaking terrorist activity in Islam." When challenged to make a specific statement condemning terrorism and violence, he said, "We would never condone attacking innocent men, women and children." He seemed to be taking a stance aligned against the current trend in Islam, which is to support any kind of violence perpetrated against America, Israel and their supporters.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the public should not stereotype Islam because of the last name of the DC Sniper suspect. "We are concerned that because a suspect in this case has the last name of Muhammad, American Muslims will now face scapegoating and bias," he said. "Police reports indicate the suspects acted alone, based on their own motivations. There is no indication that this case is related to Islam or Muslims. We therefore ask journalists and media commentators to avoid speculation based on stereotyping or prejudice. The American Muslim community should not be held accountable for the alleged criminal actions of what appear to be troubled and deranged individuals."

Imam Hassan Qazwini, a Shi'ite religious leader at the Islamic Center in Detroit, said, "I am amazed that this has happened and I am shocked to find out he is a Muslim. That's very difficult, very disturbing to find this out." He said the possibility of the sniper being a Muslim never crossed his mind, especially because of the presence of a tarot card at the site of the Oct. 7 shooting of a 13-year-old boy in Bowie, since Muslims do not believe in tarot mythology.

The American Muslim Council also praised law enforcement authorities for ending the D.C. terror. "We pray that God will rid our land of such malcontent sickness," said Eric Erfan Vickers, executive director of the council.

What we are not seeing, however, are specific purposeful statements as formal Fiqhs by leading Islamic clerics that countermand bin Laden's Fatwas. Until this happens, the terror will continue. If it doesn't happen, eventually, we will experience a battle to the finish with the survival of Western civilization as its focus.

Anyone care to predict the outcome?