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Dr. Daniel Pipes: Denying Terrorism

Update : Murder of Christian family in New Jersey
February 8, 2005

Ostrich Authorities Deny Domestic Terrorism
By Daniel Pipes | February 8, 2005

Anyone following the investigation into the mid-January slaughter of the Armanious family (husband, wife, two young daughters), Copts living in Jersey City, N.J., knows who the presumptive suspects are: Islamists furious at a Christian Egyptian immigrant who dares engage in Internet polemics against Islam and who attempts to convert Muslims to Christianity.

The authorities, however, have blinded themselves to the extensive circumstantial evidence, insisting that "no facts at this point" substantiate a religious motive for the murders.

Somehow, the prosecutor missed that all four members of this quiet family were savagely executed in the ritualistic Islamist way (multiple knife attacks and near-beheading); that Jersey City has a record of Islamist activism and jihadi violence; and that an Islamist website,, carried multiple threats against Hossam Armanious ("we are going to track you down like a chicken and kill you").

Law enforcement seems more concerned to avoid an anti-Muslim backlash than to find the culprits.

This attitude of denial fits an all-too-common pattern. I have previously documented a reluctance in nearby New York City to see as terrorism the 1994 Brooklyn Bridge ("road rage" was the FBI's preferred description) and the 1997 Empire State Building shootings ("many, many enemies in his mind," said Rudolph Giuliani). Likewise, the July 2002 LAX murders were initially dismissed as "a work dispute" and the October 2002 rampage of the Beltway snipers went unexplained, leaving the media to ascribe it to such factors as a "stormy [family] relationship."

These instances are part of a yet-larger pattern.

The 1990 murder of Rabbi Meir Kahane by the Islamist El Sayyid A. Nosair was initially ascribed by the police to "a prescription drug for or consistent with depression."

The 1999 crash of EgyptAir 990, killing 217 by a co-pilot not supposed to be near the aircraft's controls at that time who eleven times repeated "I rely on God" as he wrenched the plane down went conspicuously unexplained by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The 2002 purposeful crash of a small plane into a Tampa high-rise by bin Laden-sympathizer Charles Bishara Bishop went unexplained; the family chimed in by blaming the acne drug Accutane.

The 2003 murder and near-decapitation in Houston of an Israeli by a former Saudi friend who had newly become an Islamist found the police unable to discern "any evidence" that the crime had anything to do with religion.

Nor is this a problem unique to American authorities. Other examples include:

The 1993 attack on foreign guests dining at the Semiramis Hotel in Cairo, killing five, accompanied by the Islamist cry "Allahu Akbar," inspired the Egyptian government to dismiss the killer as insane.

The 2000 attack on a bus of visibly Jewish schoolchildren near Paris by a hammer-wielding North African yelling "You're not in Tel-Aviv!" prompted police to describe the assault resulting from a traffic incident.

The 2003 fire that gutted the Merkaz HaTorah Jewish secondary school in a Paris suburb, requiring 100 firefighters to douse the flames, was described by the French minister of interior as being merely of "criminal origin."

The 2004 murder of a Hasidic Jew with no criminal record as he walked an Antwerp street near a predominantly Muslim area left the Belgian authorities stumped: "There are no signs that racism was involved."

I have cited thirteen cases here and provide information on further incidents on my weblog. Why this repeated unease acknowledging Islamist terrorism by the authorities, why the shameful denial?

And for that matter, why a similar unwillingness to face facts about right-wing extremists, as in the 2002 murder by a cursing skinhead of a Hasidic Jew outside a kosher pizzeria in Toronto, which the police did not find to rate as a hate crime?

Because terrorism has much greater implications than prescription drugs going awry, road rage, lunatics acting berserk, or freak industrial accidents. Those can be shrugged off. Islamist terrorism, in contrast, requires an analysis of jihadi motives and a focus on Muslims, steps highly unwelcome to authorities.

And so, police, prosecutors, and politicians shy away from stark realities in favor of soothing and inaccurate bromides.

This ostrich-like behavior carries heavy costs; those who refuse to recognize the enemy cannot defeat him. To pretend terrorism is not occurring nearly guarantees that it will recur.

Daniel Pipes ( is director of the Middle East Forum and author of Miniatures (Transaction Publishers).


More Incidents of "Denying Terrorism" I published a column by this title today, documenting thirteen cases of presumptive Islamist terrorism, when the first response of the police, prosecutors, and politicians is to look the other way, insisting that there is no link.

But my column lacked space to include all the prior cases, and no doubt future ones will come along, so here is an ongoing factual appendix:

Additionally, some airplane incidents might have been whitewashed. The year 2001 saw the shooting down over Ukraine of a Sibir airliner from Israel to Russia, killing 77, ascribed to the accidental launching of a Ukrainian military missile;[1] and the crash of American Airlines 587 Permalink in New York, killing 265, where the NTSB found "no evidence [of] any criminality" despite the possible presence of an Al-Qaeda operative.


MIM: The latests information on the Armanious slayings from Jihad Watch.

Fear in New Jersey

New disclosures on the New Jersey murders from Maria Sliwa in the New York Sun, including information from Hossan Armanious' father-in-law that the family's jewelry was not taken:

Anies Garas, whose daughter, Amal, was among the victims, told me: "The police have vouchered all of the jewelry," he said. "None of it was taken. In fact, my daughter was still wearing a ring worth $3,500 after she was murdered." Mr. Garas says that though a small amount of money was taken, no valuables were removed from the house.

When Michael Meunier, the president of the U.S. Copts Association, met with the prosecutor last week he expressed serious concerns about the progress of the investigation. "The prosecutor told me that robbery was no longer the focus and acknowledged that this was the worst murder he has ever seen," Mr. Meunier said. "He told me he believes it was a vengeful crime."

Many Copts fear that New Jersey officials are caving in to pressure from Islamic lobby groups and the Egyptian government in order to "whitewash" this investigation. One of them, Rafique Iscandar, told me that he is fearful that investigators will discount the possibility that the murders were committed by radical Islamists who want to intimidate Christians in the United States, as they do in Egypt.

There is more, including statements from Hossam Armanious' best friend. Read it all.

Coptic Leader Calls for FBI Unit to Investigate Slayings

The president of the American Coptic Association calls for more action on the murders of a New Jersey family that may have been killed by a Muslim or Muslims angry with their proselytization efforts. From AINA, with thanks to Robert M.:

Jersey City -- Monir A. Dawoud, M.D., acting president of the 31 year old American Coptic Association, is urging officials investigating the Jersey City murders to call in the hate crime unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation....

Five law enforcement agencies have been investigating this case: The Hudson County Prosecutor's Office, The Jersey City Police, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, The Immigration and Naturalization Service, and The Federal Office of Immigration and Customs. According to an FBI spokesperson the Federal authorities were called in under the doctrine of "domestic police cooperation". The lead on the case is the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office.

"Adding the FBI Hate Crimes Unit to the investigation would make us feel that nothing was being overlooked," said Dr. Dawoud.

"We have faith in the American system of justice, but the initial conflicting reports and the lack of progress have caused fear to overtake our community. Children are afraid to sleep alone. People are installing double locks on their doors, bars on their windows and sophisticated alarm systems.

The discovery of a web site where Christians had their identities revealed, and were targeted for voicing their religious beliefs makes us, as Christians, fear for our safety, and contributes to the speculation that this was a hate crime."


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