Seung Hui Cho & Sudden Jihad Syndrome?

There has been some speculation on the right that Seung Hui Cho could be a jihadi because he had “Ismail AX” on his arm. Here’s Jerry Bower at TCS Daily expounding on this theory,

“This morning I read that the Virginia Tech shooter died with the name Ismail Ax written in red ink on his arm. The mainstream press doesn’t seem to have a clue as to what this might mean. To quote Indiana Jones, “Didn’t any of you guys go to Sunday School?”

The story starts with a man named Abraham. He is the father of the Jews, the Muslims and the Christians. He was born in Iraq, the son of a wealthy idol manufacturer. He came to believe that there was only one true God and, according to tradition, took up his ax and destroyed his father’s idols.

Eventually he left Iraq and moved to what is now known as Israel. He had a son with his concubine whom she named Ishmael. The Muslim world prefers the Arabic spelling of the name: Ismail. Eventually Abraham had a son by his rightful wife and named the son Isaac. Ishmael and his mother were disinherited and sent out into what is now Saudi Arabia. Isaac became the heir.

Eventually, God decided to test Abraham by telling him to kill his son, Isaac. Abraham took up the knife, but God stopped him at the last moment. Isaac lived and eventually became a man of great wealth. Ishmael became a desert warrior chieftain.

The Jews are the descendants of Isaac, the Arabs are the descendants of Ishmael.

In the 7th Century, Muhammad, the founder of Islam, re-wrote the story, claiming that Ismail was the true faithful descendant of Abraham and that it was he, not Isaac, who God told Abraham to sacrifice. Ismail was the one saved. For Muslims, Ismail (not Isaac) was the true ‘Son of Sacrifice.’ In the original version of the story, Abraham used a knife, in some of the later Muslim versions, he used an Ax.

Flash forward 1,400 years: a sullen, angry young man who rages against rich people and apparently against Christians, writes a play in which a mother and son try to kill his step-father, but in the end the boy (age about 13, the age many think Ismail was when he was exiled) is murdered by the step-father with ‘a deadly blow’. Father issues? Yeah, I think so.”

You can never say never, but that seems like a pretty thin reed to hang a theory on at this point given what we know.

The killer obviously had serious mental problems, no one has reported that he went to a mosque, and the descriptions of him make him seem too withdrawn and shy to seriously discuss Islam with anyone. Additionally, the guy has written a suicide note and made a suicide video and although neither have been released yet, no one has mentioned any sort of references to Islam.

That’s why trying to hang everything on the words “Ismail AX” would seem to be a real stretch, particularly in this day and age, when so many people his age have off-the-wall nicknames on instant messenger and MySpace. Combine that with the fact that Seung Hui Cho was severely mentally disturbed and loved to try to be mysterious (He apparently signed his name “?” more than a few times) and “Ismail AX” could mean just about anything.

Since that’s the case, I think it’s a good idea for people not to read too much into the name “Ismail AX” at this point. More likely than not, it’s relatively unimportant rather than being a window to the shooter’s soul.

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