March 29, 2006
Before he drove a rented SUV onto the campus of the University of North Carolina and tried to run down and kill as many people as he could on March 3, Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar left a letter of explanation in his apartment. It is chillingly detached, almost clinical: “In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate. To whom it may concern: I am writing this letter to inform you of my reasons for premeditating and attempting to murder citizens and residents of the United States of America on Friday, March 3, 2006 in the city of Chapel Hill, North Carolina by running them over with my automobile and stabbing them with a knife if the opportunities are presented to me by Allah.”
In the letter, Taheri-azar identifies himself simply as “a servant of Allah.” He declares that “in the Qur’an, Allah states that the believing men and women have permission to murder anyone responsible for the killing of other believing men and women.…After extensive contemplation and reflection, I have made the decision to exercise the right of violent retaliation that Allah has given me to the fullest extent to which I am capable at present.” And further, “Allah’s commandments are never to be questioned and all of Allah’s commandments must be obeyed. Those who violate Allah’s commandments and purposefully follow human fabrication and falsehood as their religion will burn in fire for eternity in accordance with Allah’s will.”
In a letter written a week later, Taheri-azar asserted: “I live with the holy Koran as my constitution for right and wrong and definition of justice…. Allah gives permission in the Koran for the followers of Allah to attack those who have raged [sic] war against them, with the expectation of eternal paradise in case of martyrdom and/or living one’s life in obedience of all of Allah’s commandments found throughout the Koran’s 114 chapters. I’ve read all 114 chapters approximately 15 times since June of 2003 when I started reading the Koran.” And he did not try to murder UNC students “out of hatred for Americans, but out of love for Allah instead. I live only to serve Allah, by obeying all of Allah’s commandments of which I am aware by reading and learning the contents of the Koran.”
Taheri-azar may have been referring to passages such as Qur’an 2:190 (“Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you…”) and 9:111: “Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs in return is the garden of Paradise: they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain…” There are numerous other passages enjoining violence against unbelievers (2:216; 9:5; 9:29; 47:4; etc.). But in response, according to a local news report, “several leaders of the Triangle Muslim community say Taheri-azar’s personal interpretation of the Quran is wrong and it goes against the true belief of Muslims across the world -- which is peace.”
Such a response was predictable both in its content and lack of specificity. Every day brings more evidence that Muslims believe the Qur’an enjoins anything but peace: Monday saw hundreds of Muslim clerics demonstrating in Afghanistan against the release of Christian convert Abdul Rahman. They chanted “Death to Christians!” and called for the killing of Abdul Rahman in accord with Islam’s traditional prohibition of apostasy. One cleric, Faiez Mohammed of Kunduz, was succinct: “Abdul Rahman must be killed. Islam demands it.”
It is abundantly clear that even if Mohammed Taheri-azar acted alone on March 3 in Chapel Hill, his view of the Qur’an is not eccentric among Muslims worldwide. Yet three and a half years after Muhammad Atta and his crew flew a plane into the World Trade Center out of love for Allah, we still don’t see any sustained or concerted effort by self-proclaimed peaceful Muslims in the United States or anywhere else to disabuse their coreligionists of this jihad ideology, and its globalist, supremacist, totalitarian political agenda. Such an effort should not be seen as optional or incidental; without it, the very commitment of these self-proclaimed moderates to the United States and its Constitution can and should be called into question.
Also, analysts keep focusing on the question of whether or not Taheri-azar was a “terrorist.” I don’t care if you call him a canteloupe. The real problem here is that anyone anywhere at any time can read the Qur’an and come to the same conclusion that he did. If American officials were really serious about preventing a future attack, they would address that. If American Muslim advocacy groups were really serious about being loyal, patriotic Americans, they would address that.
Am I saying that the Qur’an should be outlawed, as was attempted long ago in Calcutta and about which there have been some rumblings recently in Germany?
No, I would prefer to deal more in the realm of what is realistically possible. I’d like to see an honest public discussion of the elements of the Qur’an and Sunnah that give impetus to violence and fanaticism. I’d like to see American Muslim spokesmen explain how they will specifically address these elements, and teach Muslims to reject them in favor of the principles of the equality of dignity and rights of all people, women as well as men, non-Muslims as well as Muslims. And I’d like to see them follow through on these explanations with real action.
Only then might we be getting somewhere against the phenomenon represented by Mohammed Taheri-azar. I am not holding my breath.
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Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of five books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). He is also an Adjunct Fellow with the Free Congress Foundation.