Tragedy struck again yesterday. It happened at a Christmas party at Inland Regional Center, a social services center for the developmentally disabled, in San Bernardino, California. Fourteen were killed, and an additional seventeen were injured, including a police officer (numbers may change as further reports come out).
|Inland Regional Center, site of the tragedy|
photo credit KTTV via AP
The details are available in multiple news reports, and more information will continue to come out. But when something like this happens, logic and experience tell us it is likely one of two things: an insane individual (usually male, loner, and known—or should have been known—to be insane and possibly dangerous), or Islamist terrorists.
A couple of other possibilities also come to mind: drug cartel violence or gang violence. In fact, inner city black-on-black gang violence is so common (more killed and injured in Chicago inner city over the weekend than in yesterday's slaughter) that it ceases to be news. There was also a shooting spree in New Orleans on November 22; 17 were injured (no deaths, at least by the time of the story I read). Almost no news about it.
This one was radical Islamist terrorism. In this case, the suspects, who were killed in a shootout with police later in the day, were not as easily identifiable as some. The male, Syed Rizwan Farook, age 28, was a US citizen, a graduate of a local high school. He attended local mosques, was known as mild mannered, and fellow Muslims were unaware of his Islamist radicalism. He worked as a food inspector.
The other perpetrator was female—his wife, Tashfeen Malik, age 27. He went to Saudi Arabia a year or more ago (reports vary—maybe just last spring), during Hajj, and had plans to marry her there. Some reports say they had a baby. I have not seen reports of where the baby was during their attack, and where the child is after the death of its parents. For the child’s sake, it may be better that we don’t learn that from media. But curiosity leads to some questions: was someone else notified of the parents’ plans? Did a childcare provider have anything to do with the planning?
Explosives, AK-47s, pipe bombs, as well as other weapons are reportedly part of the incident, including the makings of maybe a dozen pipe bombs and/or IEDs in the couple’s garage. Neighbors of Farook report seeing Middle Eastern men delivering large boxes to the garage, where police found the explosive materials. Neighbors hadn’t reported suspicious activity, however, for fear of appearing racist. When the perpetrators were apprehended in the vehicle, police were cautious about possible explosives being rigged in their SUV.
The couple wore assault-style clothing and gear (may have included body armor). It should go without saying, but one doesn’t accumulate assault gear and explosives on the odd chance that an argument might come up at a workplace. Clearly it was a planned event. The particular target may have been a spontaneous decision, but they appear to have been preparing for such an attack for some time.
The news reports, and details coming from police and FBI officials throughout the afternoon and early evening, refused to say what they knew about the perpetrators—that they were Islamist terrorists. There may have been some tactical reason for keeping that information from the public. But it makes us in the public wonder whether it wouldn’t be better to be honest with us, so we can keep a lookout for additional danger.
|San Bernardino Chief of Police Jarrod Berguan|
at a news conference following the attack
photo credit KTTV via AP
A couple of essential questions come up. Why would anyone do such a thing? And how do we identify people who would do such a thing?
I can’t say why someone would become a radicalized Islamist. I am guessing it has something to do with wanting meaning in life while also wanting control over anyone who isn’t part of the meaning-granting ideology.
The question of how we identify people who would do an Islamist terrorist attack grows increasingly challenging, especially if we don’t want the dragnet to sweep up many innocents. But we can start with the stereotypes:
Muslim. That should go without saying, because no Islamist terrorist isn’t Islamist, which is an ideology within or attached to Islam. The questions should, therefore, include belief. But if the people who attend at the same mosques can’t identify the radicals, that is definitely problematic.
Middle Eastern heritage, or possibly Pakistani (Farook was from a Pakistani family). Although black American Muslims (a good number of whom are converted/recruited in prison) and black African Muslims might also be among the suspicious. And occasionally even white Americans have been recruited and radicalized. Still, Middle Eastern Muslim is the most likely radical Islamist.
Male. Probably between age 16-45. But because that is the stereotype, radicals are learning to push the envelope, including women, children, and older men. The second perpetrator in this attack was a woman, with a child. Which adds to the difficulty of identifying the radicals. Still, those radicals beyond the stereotype are probably attached to someone within the stereotype.
We also don’t know what changes a regular Muslim into a radicalized Islamist (defined as enforcing Islam as the only power in the world, subjugating or killing all others, including moderate Muslims). Farook was born and raised in America. He had all the benefits of other citizens. The mosques where he worshipped, at least according to what we know so far, are made up of people who are horrified by his terrorist attack.
What we need is an omniscient way of reading minds, to clear the innocent and watch those who are wavering or turning bad. That is a power God has, but that I do not trust government officials to do. So, we need government, which we have tasked with the responsibility of our protection, to be diligent in noticing patterns, listening to sources, and following those with suspicious connections and suspicious behaviors.
What we do not need is a government that fails to admit that radical Islamist terrorism exists—anywhere in the world, but especially not on our shores. We do not need a government that uses the tragedy to assert power over innocent American citizens, claiming that we just need stricter gun laws.
Does it even need to be pointed out that AK-47s and pipe bombs are already against the law in California, which has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. Because reports are still sketchy, maybe we can’t be certain AK-47s were involved, but any fully automatic rifle (machine gun) and most semi-automatic weapons are illegal in California.
Here is what the president said in his response to the attack: "We're going to have to, I think, search ourselves as a society to make sure that we can take basic steps that would make it harder—not impossible, but harder--for individuals to get access to weapons.”
So let me rephrase what our president is saying: Even though the right to bear arms has been greatly infringed already, especially where this attack just happened, we are sure that further infringing on those rights for law-abiding citizens will make people safer from the lawless killers who use already outlawed weapons to kill innocent people.
In looking at things through the Spherical Model lens, we can see that radical Islamist terrorism is savage. It is deep down in the southern hemisphere where you find tyranny and savagery, and in the southwest quadrant of chaos. Tyranny intended to control politically, as Islamists intend, is in the southeast quadrant of statist oppression, so they are offering up a choice: continued terrorist attacks until you submit to tyrannical rule.
There may be, at least for now, a difference of depth, but tyranny that infringes on innocent citizens’ right to protect themselves is also southeastern statist tyranny. For those who only see the southern hemisphere, offering relief from the chaos is a common response of those vying for power.
But the better way to get away from both chaotic and statist tyrannies is to move north to the freedom that guarantees God-given rights of life, liberty and property. It takes a civilized, self-governing people—religious people with strong families—to get there and stay there. The northern hemisphere ideas beat every flavor of tyranny every time.