Letters to a Friend (and Terrorist)
Terrorism in the USA will thrive not only because of the absence of meaningful protest by those who are likely as not to be its first victims. Those who ought to be on the forefront of opposition to the radicalization in their communities seem far more likely to excuse the most bloodthirsty atrocities.
Case in point are the friends (yes, still) of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a Somali-born U.S. citizen, who was arrested in 2010 for attempting to bomb a mass gathering of his fellow citizens Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square at the city's annual Christmas tree-lighting event. He drove a van to the area and tried to detonate an explosive device that could have murdered hundreds of innocent people.
Fortunately, the device was an FBI dummy bomb that could not have exploded. Mohamud was arrested 18 minutes before the ceremony was about to take place.
Those who gathered were a cross-section of Portland's citizenry whose sole commonality was that a good number of them were probably Christian. That was enough for Mohamud to deem them a target worthy of execution.
It hardly needs to be stated that there is no possible motive that could excuse such an atrocity.
In the context of Islamist terror attacks worldwide, Mohamud's arrest is old news. There have been several hundred attacks since then, committed by Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Al Shabaab (in Mohamud's former homeland, Somalia), Hamas and affiliated jihadist freelancers. But what is new was a project by Bassam Tariq of the "30 Mosques" project, who told the esoteric website Boing Boing, "I gave a Livescribe Smartpen to the friends of someone who was convicted as a terrorist, and asked them what they would say to him now if they could."
The answers were startling for their messages of sympathy, if not solidarity, with Mohamud's view of the world, in which the failed terrorist saw himself as fighting "monsters" and "injustice"... by committing mass murder of his fellow Americans.
"Dear Moe Moe...
"The good ol' days where we would go out on a Friday night and have a good time together with all of our friends but sadly that all came to a sudden stop once you chose to do all those messed up things that ended up being a setup thankfully... Anyway, keep your head up and deal with what's coming to ya and Playa says Wassup!"
Maybe I'm reading too much into the word "setup". After all, the FBI did indeed provide the dummy explosives that Mohamud tried to use to to kill. Perhaps it is merely a poor choice of words, given that "setup" tends to carry a negative connotation -- as though Mohamud would still be an innocent, free man with no blemish on his record if only the US government hadn't "tricked" this poor teenager into committing a monstrous act. Then again, the informal note of support at the end of the letter appears to show whose side this friend is on.
As a thought exercise, try to imagine a friend of Norway killer Anders Breivek giving similar sentiments. "It's lame that you did what you did. But Playa says Wassup!"
The next letter from another friend of this convicted terrorist is far worse.
This letter seems to suggest that Mohamud's conception of injustice is actually a common and reasonable one. Mohamud was fighting injustice. He was just "confused" about how to fight it. And of course, he was not going to commit his crime against humanity if he hadn't been set up by this cruel, vampiric government agency (the FBI, presumably) whose raison d'etre apparently is stoking fear and hatred in society (instead of, say, enforcement of federal laws against criminals and terrorist psycopaths).
"If in us exists hate, aggression and ill wishes for the individuals of our society who have committed injustice then in us lies the same hate that Mohammed Osmad had within him. He was confused, suffering from an identity crisis and instead of our society offering assistance, a Government Organization found a flaw. In that flaw they created a story, a story of a confused Muslim boy who was set up, to create in our society more fear, more hate and more barriers between one another."
This is unsettling. But the final letter, once more communicating in a kind of code, is perhaps even worse.
"The biggest fear when fighting a Monster is becoming a Monster yourself.
"A child of the light discerns the difference between righteousness and blind aggression.
"The path towards peace and prosperity is paved with patience.
"Forever my friend."
Who is the Monster that Mohamud was fighting? The FBI? The American government? America's society, as personalized in that crowd standing in Portland's civic square?
It is clear that the writer agrees with Mohamud's definition of who the Monster is, even if he suggests that his friend ("forever") was wrong about his timing and tactics.
The 30 Mosques in 30 Days Project aims to provide a perspective on Islam in America that sees the community as a positive and integral part of the nation's story. It is to the project's creator's credit that they did not cover up this episode, but instead chose to publicize these sympathetic letters from the friend of a convicted Islamist terrorist.
A more skeptical mind might suggest that Tariq and his colleague Aman Ali simply didn't understand just how unsettling and inflammatory these letters could be, instead focusing on the positive aspect of loyalty to a friend through thick and thin -- even if the friend is a cold-blooded man bent on indiscriminately killing as many of his fellow Americans as he could.
Jonathon Narvey is the Editor of The Propagandist