The three young men, Brendan Mess, Erik Weissman and Raphael Teken, were found murdered in an apartment in Waltham, Massachusetts on September 12, 2011. They had been killed the night before. All three victims had their throats slashed, and their bodies were covered in marijuana. The crime scene was described as particularly brutal, with an investigator saying, “their throats were slashed right out of an al Qaeda training video. “ But Weissman had been arrested previously on charges of possession with intent to distribute, and neighbors also suspected Teken of being involved in the drug trade. For these reasons, police initially suspected a drug connection. At the time of the killing, investigators were looking for two suspects, who were believed to be known to the victims.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was known to at least one victim. He has been described as having been a “friend” of Brendan Mess, although, notably, Tamerlan later claimed “I don’t have any American friends.” While Tsarnaev’s turn away from alcohol and cigarettes for religious reasons has been highlighted in the press, this declaration also contains intense religious undertones. Explicit prohibitions against friendship with nonbelievers appear repeatedly in the Qu’ran (see 5:51,5:80,3:28,3:118,9:23). It is important to note that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the second bombing suspect and Tamerlan’s brother, has been described as a “pot head,” which suggests another possible connection.
Far from being merely randomly cruel, throat slitting could be justified religiously, for instance, by Sura 47:4, which reads, “So, when you meet those who disbelieve (in battle), smite (their) necks until you have fully defeated them, then tighten their bonds[.]”
And also Sura 8:12: “Remember thy Lord inspired the angels [with the message]: “I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.”
The killing of victims by slitting the throat is indeed an Islamic terrorist trademark for this very reason. This is perhaps best demonstrated by the murders of reporter Daniel Pearl and businessman Nick Berg. Not coincidentally, both men were also Jews.
The targeted murder of Jews by an increasingly radical Muslim population is already well underway in the Western world, especially in France. Just on Tuesday, April 23rd, a knife-wielding maniac screaming “Allahu akbar” attacked a Rabbi and his son in Paris, attempting to murder them. In 2012, Mohammed Merah, a French-Algerian terrorist with Al-Qaeda ties, murdered a Rabbi, and three young Jewish children, along with two French soldiers, before being killed by French counter-terror forces. In 2006, Ilan Halimi, a Jewish salesman, was tortured to death by Islamist gangsters in Paris. According to witnesses, passages of the Quran were chanted while Halimi was stabbed and burned.
Islamic anti-Semitism played a role in all of these killings and attacks. Indeed the legacy of Islamic anti-Semitism is extensive, and developed independently from classical Western anti-Semitism, although there are areas of cross-influence.
If evidence is discovered that shows that the Tsarnaev brothers (either one or both) played a role in the murder of these three young men (at least two of whom were Jewish) back in 2011, it will be easy to claim that, in hindsight, they should have been obvious suspects. This is somewhat unfair. The world is a violent place, and the drug underground even more so. Police see far too much murder and mayhem to be expected to immediately jump to such a conclusion.
But an understanding of how men like Tamerlan ascribe great import to classical, and violent, interpretations of Islamic texts does provide motive, and modus operandi that would have been valuable for investigators to understand. And unfortunately, these classical understandings are of the kind taught in far too many American mosques, including, likely, the one Tsarnaev attended.
More important is what it suggests moving forward. If Tamerlan was involved in the deaths of these three men on the anniversary of September 11th, in 2011, then he was already a hardened killer well before his return trip to Chechnya in 2012. All talk of his having been “radicalized” in Chechnya, already an unlikely claim, would be undermined. If Tamerlan was involved in the deaths of these three men, it also means that European-style, violent, Islamic anti-Semitism has reached American shores, and, as in France, carries with it direct ties to what is sanitized as terrorism, even though for men like Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Mohammad Merah, casual murder and high-profile bombings are simply different manifestations of the same jihad.
Given the tendency by the media to give short shrift to the religious motivations and violent ideology of Islamist terrorists, preferring instead to seek any other kind of explanation, and the federal government’s move to purge counter-terrorism trainers who can provide instruction on the religiously-based motives and methods of Islamist violence, we can expect that more Islamist violence is likely to go undetected. And more murders may go unsolved.
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