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No doubt part of the confusion stemmed from the killer’s supposedly inconsistent motive. What could explain the motivation of a murderer who sought to kill in cold blood both Muslim soldiers and Jewish children? Yet, as Front Page reported, on inspection these motives were not so contradictory. Anti-Semitism is of course a well-documented feature of Islamist ideology. But even a minimal acquaintance with the history of the Islamic world shows that Muslims have never balked at killing their co-religionists. Recently leaked correspondence between Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s American born media strategist Adam Gadahn shows that the terrorist organization has even started feeling guilty about killing so many Muslims in places like Iraq, so much so it has attributed its recent setbacks to “the tragedy of tolerating the spilling of [Muslim] blood.”
Nor is it surprising that this should happen in France. Religious radicalism is now a major force in France’s Muslim immigrant-populated suburbs, as the eruptions of violence in the past decade attest. It’s precisely that discontent that the media-savvy bin Laden tried to harness in recent years. On two separate occasions, the al-Qaeda chieftain instructed his followers to attack France, both for banning the burqa in public places and for sending troops to Afghanistan. “The same way you threaten our security, we are threatening your security,” bin Laden declared in an October 2010 message.
Mohammed Merah seemed to be carrying out those instructions when he killed the three Muslim paratroopers, whose unit had recently served in Afghanistan. Echoing bin Laden, Merah declared, “You kill my brothers, I kill you!” when he shot the first paratrooper. After killing the other two paratroopers just days later, Merah called out “Allahu Akbar.” The press may have ruled out a Muslim extremist because the victims were Muslims, but Merah’s words make clear that he saw no contradiction between his faith and killing Muslim soldiers when al-Qaeda’s cause of killing “Jews and crusaders” commanded it.
It’s true of course that there was no way to know immediately that the Toulouse killer was a Muslim radical and an al-Qaeda sympathizer. But the media’s near-unanimous refusal even to entertain the possibility, and to float instead a wrongheaded theory about right-wing extremism, stands as a grim indictment of its unwillingness to acknowledge uncomfortable realities about Islam.
Fortunately, French police did not seem distracted by such illusions. From the very beginning of their investigation into the Toulouse murders, the police focused on a government watch list of suspected French Islamists who had visited Afghanistan and Pakistan. That focus ultimately led them to Merah, who had traveled to the Taliban stronghold of Waziristan in Pakistan where he reportedly received al-Qaeda training.
There is little consolation in the horrific murders that have shocked France and the world, including Jews and Muslims alike. But if there is a small measure of relief, it is that French police did not bow to media wisdom and steer their investigation on a misdirected course that might have left a monstrous killer on the loose.
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