Wednesday, August 30, 2006

and his name is...

According to this article, a certain Omeed Aziz Popal got in his SUV and started mowing people down with it, killing one person in Fremont, CA, then injuring over a dozen more in San Francisco.

I'll be following this story to see if the guy is Muslim, and whether his motivations are similar to those of the crackpot who opened fire on Jews in Seattle, Washington.

Could killing sprees be the American version of "the Muslim problem"? In France, gangs of young Muslims beat up Jewish teens. In Europe as a whole, imams preach violence to avid congregations. In America, where guns are easily available, it's not hard to imagine a near future where angry Muslims obtain firearms* or hop into cars and regularly "make statements."

Of course, in the above-linked article, the driver was armed with a car, not a gun. But what worries me is the combination "angry Muslim + weapon + desire to make a public statement."

If this man turns out to be Muslim, and further turns out to have been harboring a grudge against us infidels, this is going to cement some people's opinions about Islam in general. I can foresee a day when this sort of violent attitude will ultimately prove harmful to all Muslims residing in America. Innocent or not, they'll be ushered out. That's a shame, but the blame rests entirely on these violent folks, who aren't "pushed" by a "system," but who make choices, just as every rational person does.** As I've written before, this is why I refuse to demonize these people, to call them animals or barbarians or any other name that implies they are not responsible for their actions. They are responsible.

And my patience isn't infinite.

*I should note, too, that the usual argument-- that firearms are somehow effective in preventing violence-- looks fairly lame when sprees like this happen. Firearms are, at best, effective at preventing further violence, and then only if the gun owner uses his or her firearm effectively. Looks like it's time for ol' Kev to start reading up on firearm stats. I'm not anti-gun, but I have my doubts about some of the wilder claims to come out of the NRA camp. I think the NRA as a whole does a great deal of good by promoting the safety aspect of gun ownership; you can't promote gun safety if you're busy arguing that guns simply shouldn't exist. Too late: they exist, and millions own them. But some of the louder, less reasonable voices in the NRA treat as gospel the specious argument that mere ownership of a gun is insurance against gun violence.

**I remember the arguments being trotted out after 9/11: "They were pushed by poverty into this." This is unbelievably facile thinking, not to mention wholly inaccurate. How, then, do we explain why hundreds of millions Indians aren't hijacking airplanes and flying them into buildings? Or hundreds of millions of Africans? Or poor hicks in Appalachia? Sorry, folks: poverty is neither a necessary nor a sufficient cause of the international violence we see perpetrated-- repeatedly-- by a certain demographic.


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