I like to think of myself as someone who gathers all of the facts, along with some educated opinions, before I formulate my stance on things. It is for that reason that I read publications from both sides of the aisle on a daily basis when it comes to politics and from publications around the world when examining world events.
The barbaric slaughter at Virginia Tech did not – and does not – escape this approach. In the end, the examination of the facts surrounding the senseless deaths of 32 and the suicide of the shooter have left me with more questions than answers and dredged up still unanswered questions about past events.
Admittedly, my examination of the events that took place on Virginia Tech’s campus may be influenced by terrorism. I spend a good portion of my work day researching terrorism for two non-profit groups, Basics Project and America’s Truth Forum, whose missions are to, among other things, focus on the threat posed by radical Islam. Through researching first-source, fact-based information from credible think tanks, organizations and advocacy groups on both sides of the issue I am now keenly aware of the subtleties presented in news items.
The components of the Virginia Tech slaughter that bother me most are the use of the term “Ismail Ax” by Cho Seung-Hui and the fact that no news agency – or governmental agency for that matter – has come out with information on Hui’s religious background. Couple that with the fact that some of his slaughterhouse floor tactics mimic those described in terrorist training manuals and that some of the verbiage used in his final “video manifesto” rails on along the lines of a final video tape issued by an Islamic suicide bomber. A call for further examination into the motives behind his actions is a valid request.
It is reported that authorities found the words “Ismail Ax” scrawled in red ink on Hui’s arm when they finally secured his body. It was also reported by NBC News that a package that they had received from Hui, which was mailed between attacks to NBC News by Hui via priority mail, used the moniker “A. Ismail” in the return address. There are a few theories behind Hui’s use of “Ismail Ax.”
The Chicago Tribune, which did a very good job covering the event, reported that there were several possible meanings behind Hui’s use of the term; two relating to literature, one to a possible video game user name, one to a Turkish rap musician and the one that piqued my interest the most, a religious connotation.
It made sense to honestly consider the possibility that the source was literary in nature due to the fact that Hui was an English major. In James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Prairie, Ishmael Bush is depicted as an outcast, an outlawed warrior, something that Hui gives us the impression he considers himself in his video manifesto. The possibility that he was referring to the narrator in Moby Dick is less feasible to me.
Where the matters of the Turkish rap star and the video game user name are concerned, those possibilities simply didn’t jive with the verbiage Hui used in his manifesto.
The concept that I was drawn to, and which makes the most sense to me, is the religious one.
In the religious context, Ismail is translated as meaning “God has harkened”. Ismail was the son on Ibrahim (Arabic for Abraham, a significant presence in Judaism, Christianity and Islam).
In Islam, Ibrahim, father of the prophets, becomes upset that people in his hometown were worshiping idols and not Allah. He smashed all but one statue (idol) in a local temple with an ax.
In Islam, Ismail, not Isaac, is the first born son of Ibrahim and is said to have also been appointed a prophet of God. Where in Judaism Ismail was generally viewed as “wicked though repentant,” in Islam he is viewed more positively, as a prophet and the “son of sacrifice.”
In a Biblical reference to Ismail (Genesis 16) it is said that an angel told Ibrahim’s wife Sarah, “He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”
If one examines Hui’s condemnation of American culture from a religious context it is not far fetched to see that he very well could have equated the luxuries he railed against in his video manifesto with the “craven idols” of Ibrahim’s day:
“Your Mercedes wasn’t enough, you brats. Your golden necklaces weren’t enough you snobs. Your trust funds wasn’t enough. Your vodka and cognac wasn’t enough. All your debaucheries weren’t enough. Those weren’t enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything.”
One of his death notes cited his contempt for “rich kids,” “debauchery” and “deceitful charlatans.”
To date, there has not been one statement about Hui’s religious background, yet his own words and seeming knowledge of religious writing is evident. If in fact Hui was referencing religion with his use of “Ismail Ax,” he would have demonstrated a greater grasp of religious tenants and scripture than the average person, a common trait among practicing Islamists, especially fundamentalists.
It needs to be acknowledged that the Western world is indeed embroiled in a declared war (fatwa) with radical Islam. To that extent religion – and a person’s religion – becomes relevant. Further, it is naïve not to admit that radical Islam’s chief tactic is terrorism through mass killings and suicide attacks and that these attacks by definition are acts of terrorism.
The fact that the religious component to the Virginia Tech slaughter has been ignored is nothing new. It isn’t new for the news media not to explore it, due to their politically correct agenda, and it isn’t new for the government to remain silent on the matter.
It took a home video uploaded to YouTube from the Trolley Mall shootings in Utah to expose the fact that the shooter in that event was screaming “Alluh Akbar” repeatedly as he went about shooting innocents and when finally confronting police before being dispatched from this earth. “Alluh Akbar” in Arabic means “Allah is great!”
It took eye-witness accounts expressed on blogs to finally bring to the public’s attention that Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, the radical Islamist who ran over students at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill campus in 2006, did so to avenge the US “killing of his people across the sea.”
There are still so many seemingly unexplored testimonies leading to a connection to a Middle Eastern component in the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City that one would think the government was complicit in the atrocity.
In each case, religion and terrorism were routinely ignored or purposefully left unreported by the press and never addressed by the US government.
Slaughterhouse Floor Tactics
Hui’s slaughter has been found to be premeditated. Authorities are speculating – as far as we have been told – that his planning was at least a six day event. By the nature of his rhetoric I am inclined to believe it was quite a bit longer than that.
Hui purchased two weapons and filed the serial numbers off of them. He purchased enough ammunition for an extended killing spree complete with larger volume magazines for each weapon. He purchased ammunition vests in which to hold the quantity of rounds needed for a prolonged killing event.
Judging from the pictures included in his video manifesto, he had several other weapons at his disposal as well. Whether he took them with him on his rampage is yet to be known. One of the pictures depicts him with a knife to his throat (in his on-camera diatribe he asks, “Have you ever felt your throat cut from ear to ear”).
One thing is certain; Hui did a very thorough job of making sure he had everything that he needed to commit an act of carnage that would strike terror into the hearts of men.
The one tactic that struck me as remarkable was the fact that he used chains to secure the egresses of at least one of the shooting locations. This is a trademark tactic of al Qaeda used to maximize the number of victims.
Further, by his utilization of a “multi-media manifesto” he mimicked the practice of creating martyr video tapes filmed and issued by terrorists who “martyr themselves” in suicide bombings throughout the Middle East.
Unsettling as the images of Hui railing against the culture in which he was living may have been, his chosen topics provided insight into his troubled mindset.
In almost every instance Hui denounced the permissive culture of the West. He used words like “debauchery” and “deceitful charlatans.” He referred to what he perceived as cultural excesses by using terms such as “rich kids,” referring to them as “brats” and “snobs” with their “Mercedes”, “gold chains” and “trust funds.” He even used the term “hedonistic.”
By studying the many grievances that Ayman al Zawahri, Osama bin Laden and many of the other fundamentalist Islamist zealots have with Western culture you will find among them their contempt for what they define as Western excesses. The words “debauchery” and “hedonistic” are common in their anti-West doctrine.
Hui’s reference to “gold chains” and “Mercedes” align well with the religious connotations of “Ismail Ax,” where Ibrahim struck down all of the false idols using an ax.
Finally, Hui alluded to the fact – and with great emphasis – that he wanted to be remembered as a martyr who had to die for the “sins” that were being perpetrated all around and inflicted on him:
"You thought it was one pathetic boy’s life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people."
I don’t doubt that Cho Seung-Hui was mentally diminished. That the State of Virginia knew he was, and to the extent that they allowed him to fall through the cracks of a mental health system that shielded the sharing of his information with those who held Hui in their charge, is a testimony to the fact that our nation has to dispense with the ineffective and dangerous trappings of an ever encroaching political correctness; the dogma by which the sequestering of this information was born. We must dispense with the limitations of laws born of this severely flawed ideology and start initiating common sense legislation and societal practices that can actually protect people.
Hui may have been deemed mentally challenged and a danger to himself and others but that simply doesn’t preclude the notion that this mentally ill individual wasn’t emboldened by the ideas of terrorism or by the influences of fundamentalist Islam.
In the end, 32 innocent people are dead and another 15 injured – four critically – at the hands of someone who prepared like a radical Islamist terrorist, spoke the language of radical Islamist terrorists, held a belief system that sympathized with radical Islamist terrorists and executed a mass murder like a radical Islamist terrorist.
Call me biased, call me paranoid, but there are too many similarities between the slaughter that was perpetrated on the Virginia Tech campus and the tenants and tactics of jihad inflicted on the innocents of the world by radical Islam to just let this issue be.
There are still many questions yet to be answered. Let’s all pray that there is a genuine effort to come to a legitimate conclusion. But if the Trolley Mall shootings, the UNC-Chapel Hill killings and the Oklahoma City bombing events are any indication, we will soon be given, yet again, excuses instead of answers and the details of yet another terrorist attack on American soil will be scuttled in an attempt to suppress, yet again, information needed by the American people to come to the realization of just how dangerous the mindset of radical Islam is.
Many theories for ‘Ismail Ax’
Bin Laden’s Fatwa (Declaration of War)
Utah Trolley Mall Shooting
Warrant cites long planning
Jayna Davis: The Iraq Connection (Wall Street Journal)
Oklahoma City Bombing
Al Qaeda training manual
Frank Salvato is the managing editor for The New Media Journal. He serves at the Executive Director of the Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(C)(3) research and education initiative. His pieces are regularly featured in over 100 publications both nationally and internationally.