Forgetting Jihad

The Boulder massacre took place less than a year ago. Why is it so difficult to remember?

William Kilpatrick is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.  His books include Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West (Ignatius Press), What Catholics Need to Know About Islam (Sophia Press), and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad.

Note: This piece was written several days before the attack on a synagogue in Texas by an Islamic jihadist. The hostage situation, which resulted in the death of the Muslim gunman, is in the news now, but if the media's handling of such events holds true to form, the story will soon be dropped down the memory hole. A year from now, in all likelihood, the Texas synagogue hostage drama will be as little remembered as the Boulder massacre is today.

If you’re a regular reader of FrontPage or JihadWatch, you’re well aware of the scope of global jihad activities:  daily massacres of non-Muslims in Congo, Nigeria, and other African nations; vicious persecution of Christians throughout the Muslim world; and the stealth jihad infiltration of key cultural and governmental institutions in the West.

You are also aware that almost the whole raison d’etre of Islam is to conquer the non-Muslim world for Allah.  And you take it for granted that America is high on the target list of various stealth jihad organizations.

Because you’re well acquainted with the realities of jihad, you need to remind yourself that most of your fellow Americans are not.  And they’re even less aware that powerful forces in academia, media, and government don’t want them to know the facts about jihad

The silencing mechanisms are highly effective.  How do they work?  Well, suppose someone becomes curious about a news item concerning jihad terrorism.  A friend recommends Jihad Watch as a good resource.  The information-seeker googles “Jihad Watch” and the first thing that meets his eye is a box on the right-hand side of the page informing him that “Jihad Watch is a far-right anti-Muslim conspiracy blog operated by Robert B. Spencer.”  “Hmm,” he says to himself, “I’ll steer clear of that.”

 Fearful that it might be one of those sites that infects your computer with a fatal virus, he googles the word “jihad” instead. The Britannica site informs him that jihad means “a meritorious struggle or effort.” If he turns to the BBC, he finds that jihad is “a believers internal struggle to live out the Muslim faith as well as possible.” Wikipedia concurs: jihad means “struggling, especially with a praiseworthy aim…it can refer to almost any effort to make personal and social life conform with God’s guidance…”  Some sites admit that “jihad” may also mean “holy war,” but they hasten to add that this usage is out of date.  The Britannica site helpfully informs readers that “it [jihad] has often been erroneously translated in the West as “holy war,” whereas it “primarily refers to the human struggle to promote what is right and to prevent what is wrong.”

While “woke”encyclopedias engage in 1984-style re-definitions, the “woke” media prefers to drop inconvenient facts down the “memory hole.”  Thus, the vast majority of jihad attacks outside the U.S. are given only grudging coverage by America’s mainstream media, if they are covered at all.  As a result, very few Americans are aware of the daily butchering of Christians that takes place in dozens of African nations, or of the thousands of forced “conversions” and forced marriages of Christian girls in Pakistan.

Americans are usually better informed about events in Europe.  But if the “event” is a jihad attack, only the most spectacular attacks (such as beheadings in broad daylight) or the deadliest (such as the Bataclan theater attack) make it into American news reports.  Sometimes, in order to protect the Islam-means-peace narrative, even very spectacular attacks are ignored (for example, have you ever heard of the Muslim bus driver who hijacked a bus filled with fifty Italian schoolchildren a few years ago and then tried to set them on fire?)

In the old days, editors adhered to the rule, “If it bleeds it leads.”  Nowadays, there’s an additional rule to remember: “If you must mention Islam, be sure all is ‘salaam’.”

Ignorance of the Islamic threat is, of course, not confined to readers of the liberal press or viewers of liberal new channels. Conservative news outlets would much rather report on the rising rate of inflation than on the rising rate of crime in Muslim-controlled Paris suburbs.

As a result, many conservatives are also unaware of the magnitude of the Islamic threat.  Recently, I’ve gotten in the habit of asking friends, relatives and acquaintances if they are familiar with certain large-scale jihad attacks.  By “familiar,” I mean, did they have any knowledge of the attack at all.

Although most were politically and culturally conservative, college-educated, and generally up-to-date with current events, most had difficulty recalling the attacks and many had never heard of them.  Among the attacks I mentioned were the massacre in Nice, France in which a jihadist in a large truck plowed through a crowd of strollers celebrating Bastille Day on a closed-off boulevard.  Almost 90 people, many of them children were killed. More than 450 were injured.

My list also included:

  • The Bataclan theater massacre in Paris
  • The attack on the Manchester Arena during an Ariana Grande performance
  • The attack on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, India
  • The coordinated bombing attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels in Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • The Brussels airport and subway attacks
  • The jihadist takeover of an elementary school in Beslan, Russia which resulted in over 300 deaths, many of them children
  • The coordinated bombing attacks on four commuter trains in Madrid, Spain which resulted in almost 200 deaths and over 2,000 injuries.

Although I didn’t keep count, I was surprised at how many of these well-educated and conservative-minded people had difficulty recalling these attacks or had never heard of them.  I did notice, however, that those of middle-age and beyond did a better job of identifying the attacks.  That makes sense, of course; if you asked someone under the age of twenty-five about the first attack on the World Trade Center (in 1993), you’d likely be met with a blank stare or a question: “Do you mean, the first plane?”

One could argue that the list doesn’t include terrorist attacks in the U.S., but I did occasionally mention some.  Most of my “sample” remembered the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, but few remembered the truck massacre of eight cyclists on a bike path in Manhattan in 2017, or the shooting massacre of 10 customers in a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado less than a year ago.

When I asked one young man about the Boulder massacre, nothing came to his mind at first.  However, when I offered a few more details, the incident came back to him.  But that may be because he has a relative in the Boulder area who was there at the time.

From others without that advantage, I got the blank stare.  That’s understandable.  Within five days after the attack, the media had essentially laid the story to rest. Unlike the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman—a story that remained in the news for years—the Boulder massacre was soon forgotten. I wrote about its disappearance here.

Regular readers of Jihad Watch, and Front Page wouldn’t have any trouble with the quiz, but they shouldn’t assume that other conservatives are as up-to-date on the Islamic threat or that they feel any sense of great urgency about it.

Judging by my admittedly small sample, there are a lot of big holes in our collective memory about the destructive acts of Islamic ideologues. The holes are the result of deliberate misinformation and widespread suppression of critically important news.

What accounts for the epidemic of amnesia over Islamic terror?  We all have reasons for forgetting past events.  New events push them out of our minds.  We have work to do, bills to pay, children to raise.  We can’t be expected to remember every news item of the last decade.

Yet some events stick in our memory, and some don’t.  Why do the names of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman stick in our minds, and the name Ahmad Al-Issa (the Boulder killer) does not?

George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012.  And the court ruled it was self-defense.  Ahmad Al-Issa killed 10 people in a premeditated act of murder on March 22, 2021.  Yet, after ten years, the names of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman still ring a bell, and after 10 months, the name Ahmad Al-Issa does not.  The death of Trayvon Martin is important to the media, and they want you to remember it.  But apparently the death of ten people at the hands of a man who often complained of Islamophobia, doesn’t matter nearly as much to them.  It doesn’t fit their narrative and so they turn their attention elsewhere.

As a result, the public turns its attention elsewhere.  The name of Al-Issa is forgotten and so are the names of his victims.  And so is the question of his motive (which at this time is still officially unknown.)

According to the old adage, “what you don’t know, won’t hurt you,” but sometimes, what you don’t know can suddenly hit you with devastating effect.

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