As more information comes out about Abdul Razak Ali Artan’s Facebook manifesto, his rationale for his actions looks like something you’d expect to see from a typical “lone wolf” terrorist:
Appearing three minutes before the beginning of the rampage that left 11 people injured, the post reads: “I can’t take it anymore. America! Stop interfering with other countries, especially the Muslim Ummah. We are not weak. We are not weak, remember that.”
The post also invokes the name Anwar Al-Awlaki, a radical American-born al-Qaeda cleric, describing him as a “hero.” Al-Awlaki was killed in 2011 but his propaganda has been linked to several domestic terrorist attacks in the years after his death.
“If you want us Muslims to stop carrying lone wolf attacks, then make peace,” the post reads. “We will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims.”
There’s been no official claim of responsibility by ISIS, though Artan’s tactics are consistent with advice that ISIS has been disseminating on the use of vehicles and knives as opposed to guns and explosives, which are more easily tracked. But a claim of responsibility is almost beside the point–ISIS will claim responsibility for anything and there’s really no way to prove them wrong. And ISIS seems, at this point, to be incidental to the attack, a convenient brand that we can slap on today’s events to make them fit The Narrative. We’re still left with a crime that, had it been motivated by racism or caused by psychosis (and we don’t even know whether Artan may have been suffering from something like that), would never in a million years meet any imaginable definition of “terrorism.”
Nothing I’m writing here will matter. This attack is already “terrorism” in the public consciousness and has been since Artan’s name was released. Today’s events will be used to help justify whatever dystopian plan our President-elect and his collection of grotesques plan to visit upon the Muslim community here in the US. That’s all locked in. But the thing is, people do bad things every day, often violently so and sometimes on a grand scale. Dylann Roof murdered people in a Charleston church, and nothing changed. Elliott Rodger murdered people at UC-Santa Barbara, and nothing changed. Adam Lanza gunned down elementary schoolchildren at Sandy Hook, and nothing changed. It’s only when the perpetrators have Muslim names that we selectively identify their crimes as part of a Pattern that requires punishment to be meted out to an entire community.
Whatever President Trump does–immigration bans, reviving/expanding the Bush administration’s Muslim registry, torturing suspected terrorists, killing their families–it’ll be our fault for letting it happen. We elected the guy. But some part of it will be Artan’s fault too, and Omar Mateen’s, and Syed Rizwan Farook’s, and Tashfin Malik’s, and Dahir Adan’s, and so on. That might not have bothered some of them–it certainly won’t bother ISIS, which needs Western countries to mistreat their Muslim residents in order for its rhetoric to gain currency. But Artan doesn’t seem like someone who wanted to heighten the contradictions or destroy the “gray zone.” He seems like an angry 18 year old who wanted America to stop hurting his fellow Muslims. But assuming the feelings he expressed on Facebook were genuine, then he picked absolutely the wrong way to convey his message. These lone wolf attacks aren’t going to make the United States stop interfering with the Muslim world, or to start treating Muslim Americans with more decency and respect; they’re going to do precisely the opposite. Artan’s dead now, so he won’t have to live with the consequences of his actions, but the people on whose behalf he seemed to feel he was acting will have to live with them.