Tag Archives: terrorism

Art under attack

Rape, murder, and arson flood the airwaves. Flagrant disregard for the sanctity of human life clog television screens. Iraq and Syria are buried in rubble, and perched on top of the ruins like flocks of vultures is the Islamic State. Dust from destroyed homes, places of worship, and businesses coats everything in a fine gritty film. The landscape is so foreign it might as well be the moon.

Sadly, it’s not just modern trappings of domesticity that have been incinerated by ISIS’ vicious wave of terror. Mixed amongst glass windows, steel beams, and cement cinderblocks are millennia of priceless relics from the ancient world. For nigh on a year, Islamic State militants have been toppling, drilling, and torching irreplaceable pieces of art all over Syria and Iraq.

art under attack
“Mixed amongst glass windows, steel beams, and cement cinderblocks are millennia of priceless relics from the ancient world.”

Only last month in August, ISIS succeeded in blowing up the best preserved temple in Palmyra, Syria; which had previously survived almost 2,000 years of turmoil. The story for other artifacts is similar. Statues, reliefs, paintings all had managed to withstand the brutal tests of time; holding out against wars, erosion, and the black market. Monuments to the awe inspiring color and complexity of the Ancient Near East decimated where they reside. Museums and their staff bombed, ties to our collective past shredded. The horrors being committed by these religious extremists are numerous and unspeakable. The devastation and despair being inflicted onto hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians can not be understated. Flesh and blood are worth more than limestone and lapis lazuli ever will. However, when the basic principles of our collective humanity are being systematically turned into gravel, when the bedrock of our past and the eyeglass to our future lies in potholes, and the world’s heritage is actively threatened  by men who are so frightened of the idea of a world where things are not black and white that they are willing to kill the scholars who protect the greyscale? Then we as a global community must come together.

Dr. Khaled al- As’ad was a world renowned Syrian professor of antiquities, who spent his entire career preserving the Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra. When ISIS demanded he lead them to the temple’s greatest treasures, the 82 year old refused. Khaled al- As’ad was beheaded on August 19, 2015 for protecting the past, maintaining the present, and ultimately, preserving the future for generations to come.

What makes something an act of terror?

On Sept. 25, a 30-year-old man walked into his former place of employment, beheaded a woman and stabbed another repeatedly. Alton Nolen was fired from his job at Vaughan Foods right before he attacked the women, obviously killing the woman he beheaded, and seriously injuring the one he stabbed. Immediately after this incident was reported, people began searching into the background of this criminal.

Some news source’s first headlines of the story included that Nolen had recently converted to Islam. Of course, many viewers tried to force the focus on this unrelated fact. Scrolling through Fox News’ ever-entertaining comment section on the story, many viewers insisted that this was an act of terror. But why? When any other group commits a crime such as murder, it’s just that. But when a Muslim commits a crime, many are quick to cry “terrorism.”

Alton Nolen. Graphic from NBC News
Alton Nolan. Graphic from NBC News

Some other fans of Fox insisted that this was a hate crime because the two women who were murdered were white, and the assailant was black. But the fact of the matter is, this guy committed this crime out of rage. He had just been fired and reacted violently, taking the lives of two employees. This wasn’t a crime out of cold blood, it wasn’t a hate crime, it wasn’t terrorism; it was violence in the workplace. Many conservative viewers criticized liberals for calling this “violence in the workplace,” because for whatever reason, they continually want to believe that every crime committed by a Muslim is somehow an act of terrorism.

So why is it that whenever a Muslim commits a crime, terrorism is the first thing viewers look towards? Why do so many try to classify these acts, when the truth is they’re just murder? More comments from Fox News viewers claiming that this was a hate crime felt the need to point out that when a white person kills a black person, it’s a hate crime. Many of the less intelligent comments argued that there needs to be a movement for hate crimes against white people. Hate crimes are defined as violent acts that are motivated by sex, race or other prejudices.

I find it funny that so many of these commenters, predominately white folks, want to push that this was a hate crime. Many times, when a white person commits a crime against someone of a different race, many people assume it’s a hate crime. So it makes sense that some of the more close-minded people would want so badly to believe that a hate crime could also be committed against us white people. But why continue to try so hard to categorize these crimes? Murder is murder, no matter what race the person is who commits the crime. Justice should be blind to race, treating all those who chose to commit violent crimes the same.

Nolen didn’t commit a hate crime or an act of terror. He was motivated by his hatred for a company that had rejected him. He didn’t specifically kill those women because they were white and somehow that infuriated him, he was angry because he was fired. That’s it. Common sense tells me it’s safe to assume that Nolen committed these crimes in an act of rage, due to his being fired.

The close-minded seem to think it’s safe to call this an act of terrorism just because of the man’s religion. Unless he confesses his hate for this country and admits that he did this to horrify the public, there is no reason this man should be assumed to be a terrorist.


ISIS brandishes a new weapon of mass destruction: Twitter

As much of a threat as al-Qaeda has been in the past few decades, they’ve never gotten over the phase of cave dwelling and using cheap camcorders to publish their beheadings. Unfortunately, if you want to get people’s attention nowadays, you have to do it in 140 characters or less, and your videos must have the option to skip the ad before it.

Twitter is the new weapon. Graphic by Grace Higginbotham
Twitter is the new weapon. Graphic by Grace Higginbotham

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, commonly referred to as ISIS, is becoming the center of attention because of their ability to do what so many marketing companies are struggling to do — market their product through social media. The same sites you use to complain about biased refs in football and stand on your soapbox for whatever activism is going on that week are now being used to recruit terrorists.

Their attempts to reach out to the youth of the world goes as far as to draw on quotes from TV dramas and popular video games to use in their videos. They use tools like YouTube and Soundcloud to release reports and reach a wider audience. Every time their Twitter account gets suspended, they open a new one and start all over. They use infographics, have an annual publication, and post videos in a variety of languages. This new batch of terrorists has such a firm grasp on social media that the Department of State (DOS) has a hard time keeping up with it all.

Using careful phrasing and effective trigger words, ISIS is able to portray themselves as a group that vows vengeance for the oppressed Muslim groups and swears to seek justice against its oppressors, buying them a bit of support from people who would be interested in joining.

Using the hashtag #thinkagainturnaway, the DOS has been launching a Twitter war with ISIS recruiters in a way that would make the Drake Bell / Justin Bieber flame war seem trivial. Counterterrorism now comes in 140 characters or less. God bless America.

The worst part is that when they finally release the video of the beheadings, news sources like CNN rush to be the first to put it online so everyone can see. The virality of the content is through the roof, because there’s always a fringe group of people who are curious enough to want to see the beheadings for themselves.

Our elders like to complain that too much social media will destroy our generation’s ability to communicate with one another, but when it’s used to find potential terrorists around the world with little to no effort, it raises a whole new range of concerns that would make that aunt of yours scan through your recent Facebook statuses and find that one questionable post.

Much still remains to be seen about how credible the ISIS threat is, but one thing is for certain, they’ve really got a grasp on 21st century cyber warfare, and that is as scary as it gets.

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: 9/11 sentiment

Everyone who is at least 18 years old remembers what happened on the tragic day of Sept. 11th, 2001. Every year on 9/11, Facebook is a gleaming reminder of all of the sentiments shared on that day twelve years ago. I have no problem with sharing memories or posts that remember those who lost their lives and the heroes who died to save others. I think its a great thing when people can come together and have a sense of unity after such a tragedy.

Continue reading Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: 9/11 sentiment

Contemporary tyranny

A report issued by the Open Society Justice Initiative revealed that more than 50 countries have participated in a program where the CIA sends suspected terrorist subjects to other countries to be interrogated and sometimes tortured. Some of these suspects reportedly ended up at CIA “black sites,” which are secret prisons operated by the CIA in foreign countries. There’s even an account of a suspected terrorist being held aboard a Navy ship for over two months. In total more than 130 specific suspects have been interrogated through this process known as “rendition.”

I’m torn between the principle of the matter and my gut reaction. The utilitarian in me can appreciate the pressing need to obtain information to prevent another terrorist attack. Torturing one to save hundreds is easy math. However, after considering the implications of these actions, I conclude that abducting/exporting suspected terrorists to far away countries like Kazakhstan, Romania or Zimbabwe to torture them is not a good thing for our country or our world. Continue reading Contemporary tyranny

Terrorism: Are the fingers pointing in the right direction?

The entire country felt the crippling blow on Tuesday, Sept. 11, as tragedy struck the nation once again. Riots broke out in both Egypt and Libya, the latter resulting in the death of several US diplomats. The mobs, inspired and assembled by radical Islamic parties, were rioting in response to a highly offensive and very poorly made Youtube video that gained mass international attention. The apparent “trailer video,” called “Innocence of Muslims,” depicts the prophet Muhammad as an unintelligent womanizer with pedophilic and homosexual tendencies.

The foreign disasters sparked a now largely disputed debate on a federal scale that can be seen (and completely altered) on every news channel. However, the debate exists not just in politics, but also in the lifestyles of citizens. Continue reading Terrorism: Are the fingers pointing in the right direction?