This week's syndicated column
Nearly 20 years after a Hasidic Jewish boy riding across the Brooklyn Bridge was killed by a Muslim fighting jihad, a British soldier was hacked to death and reportedly beheaded on the streets of London by Muslims fighting jihad.
Thanks to the happenstance of a passer-by with a video recorder, the world heard almost immediately from one of the two London suspects, Michael Adebolajo. His hands red with blood, Adebolajo confessed to the murder of Lee Rigby, 25, that he had just committed in Koranically correct terms of revenge, presumably for Britain’s efforts against jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. We also know that cries of “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is great”) punctuated the knifing and meat-cleavering of the victim.
But if “Allahu Akbar” is the historic cry of Muslims engaged in jihad, it is also the contemporary trigger for Western denial that jihad exists. “We will defeat violent extremism by standing together,” British Prime Minister David Cameron stated, gravely opaque. How? “Above all by challenging the poisonous narrative of extremism on which this violence feeds,” he said, definitely not referring to the verses of the Koran that inspire jihad.
Islam, the prime minister was saying, has nothing to do with this murder in the streets. Furthermore, global jihad is not under way, and no caliphate in which Jews and Christians will defer to Islamic law as “dhimmi” is on the horizon.
Flash back almost two decades to March 1994, one year after the first attack on the World Trade Center and shortly after an Israeli doctor, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 Muslims in a mosque in Hebron. Goldstein’s act was uniformly denounced by Israeli and Jewish authorities, but it nonetheless engendered calls for jihad from Islamic authorities around the world. It was at this point in New York City that 16-year-old Ari Halberstam was shot and killed on the Brooklyn Bridge by Rashid Baz, a “Middle East” man or “Arab” – the vernacular of the day for Muslim.
Nonetheless, in an earlier iteration of jihad-denial, discussion of the Brooklyn Bridge case actually focused on “road rage.” What we were looking at, of course, was an act of jihad – among the first of many thousands leading up to the recent London attack.
This became clear during Baz’s murder trial. According to testimony presented by the defense, Baz thought of himself as “an Arab soldier crusader” – what we now know as a “mujahid,” or jihadist. Such was the testimony of Baz’s own psychiatrist, Dr. Douglas Anderson.
Before Baz, a Palestinian Arab from Lebanon, went on his Brooklyn Bridge jihad, Anderson testified that Baz visited a local Palestinian friend, Musaffaq Askar, who, according to the New York Times, told Baz that he personally was eager to “make jihad” after the Goldstein attack.
Together, the two men went to the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge (which would become notorious for its “extremism,” but was celebrated in a three-part series by the New York Times). There, according to Anderson’s testimony, the imam railed against Jews, calling them racists and fascists like the Nazis. Meanwhile, terror groups such as Hamas urged revenge.
Within days, heavily armed and ready, Baz would pursue and open fire on the van carrying the Hasidic boys – as identifiable as “infidels” by their religious garb as the British soldier was this week in an army charity T-shirt.
Baz, however, would be convicted only of second-degree murder – not terrorism. Ari’s family would spearhead a successful effort to see the murder case re-classified in 2000 as terrorism.
Equally important, however, this terror attack was also jihad. Indeed, 10 days after the 1994 van attack in New York, Hamas made Baz the child-killer a “mujahid” (holy warrior) and “Ibn Islam” (son of Islam) – a role model for others.
It still is jihad. Last week in New York, 16 Palestinians (14 of them in the U.S. illegally) were charged in a multi-million-dollar cigarette smuggling case, raising the possibility that authorities may have cracked a new jihad financing ring. As New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly put it, “Similar schemes have been used in the past to help fund terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.”
Hamas, a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran’s Hezbollah (“Party of Allah”) are indeed terrorist organizations, but they are also avowedly jihadist. Kelly went on to note that several of the men were “on our radar with links to known terrorists.”
One is Rashid Baz’s confidante Musaffaq Askar! According to Ari’s mother, Devorah Halberstam, Askar should have been investigated long ago in a wider, deeper terrorism investigation that never took place.
Also nabbed in the cigarette ring is Mohannad Seif, who, the New York Daily News reports, used to room with the aide of longtime Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk. There is also Youssef Odeh, whose baby formula business (please) included a $10,000 investment from Omar Abdel Rahman, better known to Americans as the “blind sheik” behind the first World Trade Center attack. That investment, as NYPD Commissioner Kelly pointed out, was arranged by Rahman’s spokesman at the time, Ahmed Sattar. The Daily News reported that Kelly called Sattar a “close friend” of Musaffaq Askar.
Nineteen years later, we seem to be looking anew at the jihad terror cell that killed Ari Halberstam. No wonder Kelly last week declared the Halberstam case “open.” There is much more to investigate – but this time with our eyes open to jihad, please. Ari Halberstam, Lee Rigby, the people of New York, London and beyond deserve that much.