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Notes on the San Fran rampage

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By Michelle Malkin  •  August 31, 2006 05:30 PM

popal1.jpg

Readers, you know of my strong views and work debunking the “myth of the lone Muslim avenger;” reporting on the rash of “lone” Muslim shooters who have murdered Americans; and combating P.C. whitewashing of jihad. Most recently, I’ve extensively covered the Jeep Jihadi Mohammed Taheri-Azar in North Carolina and Seattle’s Jew-hating killer Naveed Haq.

But after thoroughly considering both sides of the debate over Omeed Aziz Popal and reading the latest accounts of Popal’s disturbed family history, I’ve concluded that this case does not quite belong with the others I’ve covered. Allah reviewed the theories and counterevidence yesterday and dubs Popal “old-fashioned crazy.” Be sure to read a healthy debate in the comments thread over the role of blogs, speculation, and the MSM. Both Allah and Bryan at Hot Air make good points:

Allah:

You build trust with your readers. And if your response to that is, “Well, we trust you no matter what” — that’s bad. I jumped in head first on the Adnan Hajj story because I know a Photoshop when I see one; the chance that I was right substantially outweighed the chance that I was wrong, so I was willing to gamble on the fallout if the latter happened. Did the chance that he was a jihadi substantially outweigh the chance that he wasn’t in the Popal case? I don’t think so, but I guess people can differ.

Allahpundit on August 31, 2006 at 12:02 PM

And Bryan:

It’s good to be wrong about these things sometimes. Better that than that we have yet another freelance jihadi that the government isn’t being upfront about. Like…the El Al shooter, for instance, where it took more than a year for the government to finally admit that the guy was motivated by the usual Islamonazi nonsense. And I do wonder why people who emigrated to an “evil society” decided to remain here.

But regarding speculating about this story (and others), blogs are made for speculation. Not irresponsible speculation, but speculation that gets behind the headlines and is grounded in recent history and a reasonable reading of the facts as currently understood. If we don’t try to peel back the press and official government statements about things, what’s the point of blogging? Seriously. I certainly didn’t speculate irresponsibly. And if I can’t speculate on a blog at all, I seriously wonder what the whole point is.

Bryan on August 31, 2006 at 11:39 AM

Here’s my two cents:

1) Of course we should all be careful as we sift through media reports and search for the truth. One of the most valuable roles bloggers can play is to bring the expertise of readers to light in a largely read forum–the rapid sharing and analysis of open-source intelligence. The instant feedback about the neighborhoods where Popal mowed down people, for example, was extremely helpful.

2) People are fed up with the MSM whitewashing of jihad. This is the reason for the strong counter-response to the knee-jerk denials of the press, politicians, and police who always seem so bent on denying that Islam ever has anything to do with criminal acts. The skepticism over the “mental illness” card is well-grounded in reality. (See Sudden Jihad Syndrome.) And on a side note, the phenomenon of faked Muslim hate crimes, most recently documented by Patrick Poole at The American Thinker and on this blog and in my columns (here here here and here) has exacerbated distrust of media reporting that serves the “Kafir-phobia” agenda.

3) It is not alarmism to point out biographical information, religious affiliations, locations and other factual bits and pieces that might be relevant.

4) At this point, given all the evidence available, Popal does not appear to be a jihadi –not in the unequivocally vengeful way that Haq and Taheri-Azar were. Popal’s rampage wasn’t a vendetta targeting Jews, striking out against Israel, or protesting America’s wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. So far, there’s been no statement, no letter, no taped conversation with a 911 operator, in which Popal expresses those clear, unmistakable, Koran-inspired sentiments.

As I linked the other day, we have one report of an eyewitness who told KTVU that she heard Popal say “I’m a terrorist, I don’t care.”

It’s a piece of the puzzle. I’m just not sure how large it is, or how reliable. I do know that it is definitely not as strong a piece of evidence of jihadi intentions as the statements Haq and Taheri-Azar made at the time of, and in the aftermath of, their assaults made in the name of revenge on behalf of Muslims. Or consider the extensive Muslim diatribes of Beltway-area snipers Lee Malvo and John Muhammad. It’s possible this could change with an outburst during his arraignment, letters to the press citing chapter and verse of the Koran, or (unlikely) disclosure by San Francisco police of statements Popal may have made to them that indicate anti-Israel/anti-American bias. Possible, but unlikely, I think.

5) That said, Popal’s family’s Muslim beliefs and culture seem most definitely to have played a role in pushing him over the edge. Via the San Jose Mercury News:

The arguments began over the weekend. Omeed Popal begged his father for permission to return to Afghanistan to be with his new bride.

The tension heightened Tuesday morning when his mother, like his father, refused to let him go.

By around noon, police say, Popal — who has a history of mental problems — was so enraged he jumped in his family’s black sports utility vehicle and began a rampage. He plowed through pedestrians up and over sidewalks, police say, leaving one man dead in Fremont and 14 others injured in San Francisco.

On Wednesday, as Popal faced a murder charge in the psychiatric ward of a San Francisco jail, a cousin offered the first detailed account of what may have triggered the deadly drive.

Hamid Nekrawesh told the Mercury News that he had gathered with Popal’s extended family Tuesday night and had a lengthy conversation with Popal’s mother, Zakia.

“I didn’t know he had these mental problems until last night,” Nekrawesh said Wednesday. “They were keeping everything pretty much within themselves.”

Popal is 29 years old, but Nekrawesh said he was under such strict control from his parents — who believed they needed to protect him from America’s “evil society” — that Popal probably felt his arranged marriage was a ticket to freedom.

From another Merc report:

Afghan community leader Farid Younos said Popal comes from a “decent, pious and respectful” family, devout members of the Abu Bakr Siddiq Mosque in Hayward.

The family stories have changed so dramatically, I have whiplash following all twists and turns. Relatives and friends first suggested Popal was stressed about participating in an arranged marriage. Now, the story is that he was fighting his parents because he saw the arranged marriage as a way out of his stifling family environment. Another cousin says he “thought the devil was coming for him.” Maybe Popal’s bride will be able to shed some light on the family turmoil surrounding the marriage.

Here’s some related reading on Afghanistan and bad marriages and sharia-sanctioned imprisonment of women for crimes of love.

Meanwhile, Popal’s attorney has dropped the case and referred Popal to the public defender’s office as a prosecutors seek a murder charge and 14 counts of attempted murder. Friends and family of hit-run victim Stephen Wilson mourned his death yesterday.

I will call Popal, the crazed thug accused of mowing down innocent men, women, and children on the streets of San Francisco, many names. But for the moment, “jihadi” isn’t one of them.

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