It is claimed that Utah media withheld information about the religion of the murderer who rampaged recently at Trolley Square. I don't think they knew at the beginning that he was Muslim, but I do think that it is important that we know that information. The more we know about the motivations of killers, the more likely we are to be able to prevent the next mass killing attempt. Excluding religion as a possible attack factor is weak minded, and is an invitation to more such killers and killings. But attacking individuals who share certain demographics with killers is also wrong.
Some weblogs are claiming that Utah media deliberately suppressed the fact that the young man was a Muslim who murdered several people at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City. I don't think they even knew this at first. It would be irresponsible to withhold that information when it became known, but it would be also irresponsible for a news provider to speculate on such information.
When I read the newspaper the other morning about the murders, my first thought was, "I wonder if he was a Muslim." (As you read on, it will become evident why.) When I found out that he was from Bosnia, I was pretty sure he must have been Muslim, and my confidence in that fact became greater when I found out his first name. It appeared that in the course of normal reportage it was discovered that he was a Muslim.
There is no proof that the killer was motivated to kill because of his religion, but it is instructive (and safe) to wonder about it. These kinds of murder sprees have been committed by non-Muslims before (consider Columbine High School). Nevertheless, here's why my immediate suspicion was regarding whether he was Muslim, and here's why it's important.
A few months ago, I began thinking about the relative ineffectiveness of suicide bombers. Suicide bombers have one chance. If they blow themselves up in the wrong place, they kill only one person--themselves. In American society it's much more difficult to get explosives into a place where they can be deadly against large groups of people. So I began to suspect that the next wave of Islamic fanatics would begin to use firearms as a much more effective means of mass killing. And then it happened at Trolley Square.
If you've read this far, you probably think that I am an advocate of gun control. You would be wrong. You might also come to the conclusion that I hate Muslims and that I think all Muslims are violent. You would be wrong again.
The fact that such violence has occurred creates an ever greater likelihood that it will occur again. It is critical that we take steps to reduce this likelihood. Here are the critical factors.
- Over the next few days as civic leaders extol the heroism of police officers who brought the murderer down and issue words of solace to the victims' families, they must also not be afraid to let the world know that we will not countenance such murder sprees, regardless of whether such violence be based on religious hatred, and that steps will be taken to ensure that such mayhem comes with a high cost.
- We no longer have the luxury of the gratuitous entertainment that we have gorged ourselves on ever more gluttonously in the past few decades. If we expect not to have to endure real-life mass murder, then we cannot afford to be entranced by it on the movie and television screens.
- We cannot afford to go about our lives in isolation. The more each of us get to know our neighbors, the less chance there is of something like this occurring again, whether because our friendship removes the desire from someone to take such action, or whether we notice individuals in society who might be predisposed to such violence.
- In today's over-charged political environment it has become commonplace for us to think of members of other races, religions, or nationalities as somehow less human than we are. Such feelings contribute to a polarized world in which violence is much more likely. It is important to understand each others' religions and cultures so that we don't breed the sense of rage or hopelessness that results in wanton killing.
- The next time it happens, there may not be an off-duty policeman to cut short the blood and gore. This attack could have been worse by several degrees. The more people who know how to defend themselves the better off we will be if it happens again. The police cannot possibly be expected to prevent all such attacks in the future. This exigency helps to clarify the original meaning of a well-regulated militia as discussed in the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution.