Politics & Policy

Faisal Shahzad, Jihadi, Explains Terrorism

Shahzad's testimony undermines Obama's efforts to ignore the dangers of Islamism and jihad.

Jaw-dropping court testimony by Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square bomber, single-handedly undermines Obama-administration efforts to ignore the dangers of Islamism and jihad.

Shahzad’s forthright statement of purpose stands out because jihadis, when facing legal charges, typically save their skin by pleading not guilty or plea bargaining. Consider a few examples:

Mohammed Taheri-azar, who tried to kill students at the University of North Carolina by running over them in a car and issued a series of jihadi rants against the United States, later experienced a change of heart, announced himself “very sorry” for the crimes he had committed, and asked for release so that he could “re-establish [himself] as a good, caring and productive member of society” in California.

These efforts fit a broader pattern of Islamist mendacity; rarely does a jihadi stand on principle. Zacarias Moussaoui, 9/11’s would-be 20th hijacker, came close: His court proceedings began with his refusing to enter a plea (which the presiding judge translated into “not guilty”) and then, one fine day, he pleaded guilty to all charges.

Shahzad, 30, acted in an exceptional manner during his appearance in a New York City federal court on June 21. His answers to Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum’s many questions (“And where was the bomb?” “What did you do with the gun?”) offered a dizzying mix of deference and contempt. On one hand, he politely, calmly, patiently, fully, and informatively answered questions about his actions. On the other, he in the same voice justified his attempt at cold-blooded mass murder.

After Shahzad announced an intent to plead guilty to all ten counts of his indictment, the judge asked him: “Why do you want to plead guilty?” — a reasonable question given the near certainty that guilty pleas will keep him in jail for long years. He replied:

I want to plead guilty and I’m going to plead guilty a hundred times forward because — until the hour the U.S. pulls it forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan and stops the occupation of Muslim lands and stops killing the Muslims and stops reporting the Muslims to its government — we will be attacking [the] U.S., and I plead guilty to that.

Shahzad insisted on portraying himself as replying to American actions: “I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing [of] the Muslim nations and the Muslim people, and on behalf of that, I’m avenging the attacks,” adding that “we Muslims are one community.” Nor was that all; he flatly asserted that his goal had been to damage buildings and “injure people or kill people” because “one has to understand where I’m coming from, because . . . I consider myself a mujahid, a Muslim soldier.”

When Cedarbaum pointed out that pedestrians in Times Square during the early evening of May 1 were not attacking Muslims, Shahzad replied, “Well, the [American] people select the government. We consider them all the same.” His comment reflects not just the idea that American citizens are responsible for their democratically elected government but also the Islamist view that, by definition, infidels cannot be innocents.

However abhorrent, this tirade does have the virtue of truthfulness. Shahzad’s willingness to name his Islamic purposes and spend years in jail for them flies in the face of Obama-administration efforts to avoid naming Islamism as the enemy, preferring such lame formulations as “overseas contingency operations” and “man-caused disasters.”

Americans — as well as Westerners generally, all non-Muslims, and anti-Islamist Muslims — should listen to the bald declaration by Faisal Shahzad and accept the painful fact that Islamist anger and aspirations truly do motivate their terrorist enemies. Ignoring this fact will not make it disappear.

— Mr. Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. © 2010 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.


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