UNC Chapel Hill "Jeep Jihadist" -Taheri Azar-Pleads Guilty To Attempted Murder
August 13, 2008
UNC Chapel Hill "Jeep Jihadist" - Taheri Azar - Pleads Guilty To Attempted Murder
By BEILA RABINOWITZ and WILLIAM MAYER
August 13, 2008 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - A Muslim UNC Chapel Hill student pleaded guilty this morning to two counts of first degree attempted murder after having driven a rented SUV into a crowd of people on the school's campus in March of 2006, seriously injuring nine.
As a result of a plea bargain, nine counts of aggravated felonious assault were dropped. Mohammad Reza Taheri Azar will be sentenced on two counts of first-degree attempted murder on August 25. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 40 years.
Taheri Azar has been held in a mental institution since 2007 when he erupted in court. He was released last month and transferred to the North Carolina Central Prison.
At the time of his arrest, "Taheri's statements indicated that his actions were those of a terrorist, claiming that the attack took place to "avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world."
Before his court appearance " a smiling Taheri Azar said of the murder attempt that he was, "thankful for the opportunity to spread the will of Allah." [see, http://www.pipelinenews.org/index.cfm?page=taheri3606.htm]
Taheri Azar also wrote a rambling letter to a local journalist in which he proclaimed:
"I live with the holy Koran as my constitution for right and wrong and definition of injustice...My attack on Americans at UNC-CH March 3, was in retaliation for similar attacks orchestrated by the U.S. governnebt on my fellow followers of Allah in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and other Islamic territories. I did not act out of hatred for America but out of love for Allah instead. I live only to serve Allah by obeying all of his commandments of which I am aware by reading and learning the contents of the Koran." [ see, http://www.pipelinenews.org/index.cfm?page=taheri31606%2Ehtm]
An article titled "Is Reza Taheri Azar a Takfieri?" which appeared on these pages, analyzed his actions:
"Taheri-azar's long term preparation, overall demeanor and sense of achievement after the attack are indications that he might well be an adherent of a little understood "mutant strain" of Salafi Islam known as Al wal Takfiri Hijra - Takfiri - whose interpretation of Islam is so strict that it is said they even tried to kill Osama bin-Laden and have attacked the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt for what they deemed "un-Islamic" practices. The Takfiris permit themselves to violate the tenets of Islam in order to feign assimilation into the "infidel" culture, thus deflecting suspicion that they could be potential attackers and to facilitate their access to targets...The best way to combat Takfiri violence is through social vigilance and through that increased awareness, possibly recognize those who might be morphing into "Islamo-kazes" before they strike." [see, Is Reza Taheri Azar a Takfieri?"]
In a piece entitled, "Sudden Jihad Syndrome in North Carolina," Dr. Daniel Pipes, who coined the term explains, "Until his would-be murderous rampage, Mr. Taheri-azar, a philosophy and psychology major, had a seemingly normal existence and promising future...In brief, Mr. Taheri-azar represents the ultimate Islamist nightmare: a seemingly well-adjusted Muslim whose religion inspires him, out of the blue, to murder non-Muslims." [see, http://www.danielpipes.org/article/3450]
MIM: Notes and letters from Mohammed Reza Taheri Azar.
Letters from a mujahid
From the letters: a detailed Qur'anic justification for killing in Allah's name
Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, the Tarheel jihadist, has written six letters to the Daily Tar Heel, student newspaper of the University of North Carolina (thanks to Joseph), where he tried to kill students for Allah by running them over in an SUV.
The letters are revealing on many levels. Pdfs of them are available here, here, here, here, and here.
There is a strong apologetic content to these letters. He is engaging in da'wa, trying to convert those who read them to Islam. They are also revealing of the jihadist mindset. He also describes what he did on the day of the attack in great detail, including which sections of the Qur'an he read at which hours leading up to his attack. He also says that he rises at 3AM in his jail cell to...read the Qur'an.
A few other observations about them:
1. Taheri-azar is not insane. He is articulate and perfectly in control of what he is saying.
2. He was not motivated by poverty or deprivation. Nor was he an ignorant bumpkin manipulated by sophisticated machiavels.
3. He firmly believes that he acted in obedience to Qur'anic dictates -- see the image above. (Yet in response we will no doubt get another flat statement from Islamic apologists, to the effect that the Qur'an absolutely condemns what he did and yet quoting no Qur'an, or if quoting any then only 5:32.)
The implications of this must be faced, and soon, by both non-Muslims and Muslims in America.
A few brief quotes from the letters:
Allah demands of believers to retaliate violently against persons responsible for attacking them or their fellow Believers around the world. ([Qur'an] 2:178-179, 5:45, 8:72, 9:38, 9:71, 42:39-42, 49:10).
People who fight in the cause of Allah are not guilty if and when they have no intention of killing more persons among their enemies than their enemies have killed among the Believers.
I have heard and read that people calling themselves "Muslims" claim that I "misinterpreted" the Qur'an, as grounds for denouncing my attack on March 3rd. I respond by appealing to logic as I've done in Meditation III. [Also see the image above.]
Due to my religious motivation for the attack, I feel no remorse and am proud to have carried it out in service of and in obedience of Allah.
Considering that I injured several people both physically and psychologically, who were also American taxpayers, I feel that I succeeded in obeying Allah's commandment to fight against the enemies of His followers.
Since I acted only in obedience and reverence of Allah, I could never be sorry for hurting the victims, unless Allah wanted me to be sorry -- which I don't believe is the case, to my knowledge.
Note also his second reason why the Qur'an allows fighting in the name of Allah:
To release anger and rage from Allah's followers' hearts (9:14-15).
Is he misinterpreting the Qur'an? Here's 9:14-15:
Fight them, and Allah will punish them by your hands, cover them with shame, help you (to victory) over them, heal the breasts of Believers, and still the indignation of their hearts. http://jihadwatch.org/archives/011397.php
MIM: A judge sent Taheri Azar to a mental hospital after an outburst in court.
Outburst reveals 'other' Taheri-Azar
Judge sends defendant in attack last year at UNC-CH to Dorothea Dix
Jessica Rocha, Staff Writer HILLSBOROUGH - To Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar's family, there's the normal Ray, and the other Ray.
Normal Ray smiles at his sisters and parents in court. He writes poems. He no longer owns a Quran, and regrets driving onto the UNC-Chapel Hill campus last year aiming at people, as he said then, to avenge Muslim deaths.
The other Ray still struggles with extreme religious views his family says he picked up from a one-time family friend. He thinks he did what he had to for Allah to secure a good place for himself in the afterlife.
On Monday, a judge sent the other Ray to Dorothea Dix Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation after Taheri-Azar shouted curses in the courtroom, proclaimed his hatred of Jews and America and called his court-appointed lawyer a moron.
"One minute he's Ray, our brother," older sister Laila Taheri-Azar said in an interview. "He's kind and sweet and everything. And the next, he doesn't know who we are and who he is. ... He can't tell the difference between who he is and who he was."
In January, Taheri-Azar, 23, formally pleaded not guilty to nine counts of attempted first-degree murder and nine counts of felonious assault.
After Monday's brief court session, Public Defender James Williams said his client "has a severe mental illness" that had just affected his actions in court and on March 3, 2006, the day he drove through campus, injuring nine people.
Williams questions his client's ability to participate in his own defense. If a judge finds Taheri-Azar incompetent, his case could be delayed until he is judged competent.
It's too early to assume incompetence, Orange-Chatham District Attorney Jim Woodall said.
"All indications, frankly, are that he is competent," he said. "He seemed to be voicing his position. ... I think that's what throws people off. He's just expressing opinions that most of us would disagree with."
In recent months, Taheri-Azar had appeared in court clean shaven and composed, wearing sport coats and trousers. On Monday, he entered the courthouse with a beard, wearing an orange jumpsuit with his arms, waist and legs chained.
Turning from the judge, he addressed the gallery: "Everybody, I hate all Americans and all Jews."
"Death to Israel," he added.
Taheri-Azar also turned to Williams, his lawyer, and said, "Who is this fool? Who is this moron? I don't know who this moron is."
Within seconds he was led out of court, and the proceedings finished without him. Superior Court Judge Kenneth Titus agreed to move Taheri-Azar to Dorothea Dix Hospital for assessment. For most of the year he has been held in safe keeping at Raleigh's Central Prison in lieu of $5.5 million bail.
To Laila Taheri-Azar, her brother's outburst shows his mental instability.
She said he has tried to kill himself in Central Prison at least twice: once by fasting, and once by ingesting a hair lotion. Department of Correction spokesman George Dudley would not comment, saying Taheri-Azar's medical records are private.
Laila Taheri-Azar said that if her brother truly believed in Islam he would never attempt suicide because it's essentially an unforgivable sin.
"Honestly, every letter we get from him, we open it not knowing what to expect. His shifts in state of mind and mentality have been one surprise after another," she said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon.
The Taheri-Azars moved from Iran when Ray, as close family and friends call him, was 2. They went briefly to California, then to Charlotte, where Taheri-Azar grew up. Now, family is scattered, with his mother working in Afghanistan, his father in California and Laila Taheri-Azar, 30, studying in a Miami cosmetology school. His youngest sister is in college in Charlotte.
Taheri-Azar, a U.S. citizen, speaks rudimentary Farsi and no Arabic, Laila Taheri-Azar said. He was raised in a largely secular household, sometimes attending a Baptist church though the family had a Muslim background.
After moving to Chapel Hill to attend UNC-CH, a family friend exposed Taheri-Azar to Islamic beliefs that the family thinks bordered on extreme. By August 2005, he had begun to distance himself from family, communicating mostly by e-mail and avoiding the phone.
In December 2005, Taheri-Azar graduated from UNC-CH with dual majors in psychology and philosophy. But he skipped an annual family get-together in Charlotte even though the other family members traveled several time zones to be together. Instead, he went to Canada to be with the family friend who was his religious mentor, Laila Taheri-Azar said.
Taheri-Azar applied to graduate schools, worked at the Jimmy John's sub shop on Franklin Street and often delivered sandwiches to campus locations.
"He was very anti-social," said Atif Mohiuddin, a Muslim student at UNC-CH who ran into Taheri-Azar a few times in the prayer room and also spent several hours a day studying at Jimmy John's.
"He couldn't converse with the rest of the employees," he said. Similarly, in the prayer room, Taheri-Azar refused to pray toward Mecca and only prayed in English, suggesting other worshippers do the same.
Then, on March 3, 2006, wearing a black coat and tie, Taheri-Azar drove a rented Jeep Grand Cherokee through campus. He hit nine people, though none required overnight hospital care.
After his arrest, Taheri-Azar saw his parents once while in custody, but then refused to see them or his two sisters for six months. Finally, after a court hearing in September, he consented to a visit.
"Devastating," is how Laila Taheri-Azar describes those six months. Her brother wouldn't write to them then.
During the September visit, Taheri-Azar told them he had expected to be killed, and he feared for his family's life, Laila Taheri-Azar said.
He believed "there was no other way to save himself in the upcoming afterlife and his family's otherwise imminent deaths in the present life," she wrote in e-mail last month.