Why isn’t he being called a terrorist?
Cesar Altieri Sayoc was arrested on charges of mailing explosives—pipe bombs—to former presidents, politicians, media, and other supporters of liberal causes. Had those bombs gone off, think of the bloodshed and lives lost! These people were targeted for their political and ideological views. Until the suspect was apprehended, the nation went through two days of terror not knowing where the next pipe bomb would land, or who would be the next target? And even now, we don’t how many pipe bombs are still in the postal pipeline? I am grateful that no one was hurt, and I applaud the investigative authorities for catching the suspect so quickly. But I am disappointed that the leadership has stopped short of calling Sayoc out—as in—terrorist.
This issue is personal. First a disclosure. I am Muslim. Now let me explain, if you haven’t already figured it out. If his name had been Mohammad Fayad—a Muslim sounding name—you can bet that the word ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorism’ would be all over the map, the news, the headlines, the talk shows, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…. Tell me if I am exaggerating. On few occasions during the evening news, one network or perhaps two, referred to the incident as domestic terrorism. And that’s about it. When Dylan Roof shot and killed nine African Americans in the Charleston Church tragedy; when Robert Dear opened shooting at the Planned Parenthood, Colorado, killing five police officers and four civilians; when Nikolas Cruz killed seventeen people in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida; or Michael McWhorter bombed a mosque in Minnesota; none of the perpetrators were called out as ‘terrorists’. Nor was the act referred to as ‘terrorism’.
A woman once challenged me on my position. I was a guest at a book club meeting—the group had been reading my memoir, Threading My Prayer Rug—had invited me to join the discussion, and this subject came up. I elucidated saying that when a white Christian male commits mass murder, as in school shootings, he is labeled as being mentally deranged; or if he places a bomb outside a mosque, it is called a hate-crime; but when a man of the Muslim faith carries out a murderous act, he is labeled a terrorist. The woman opened her phone, and pulled up the legal definition of the term terrorist, and read it out loud:
“The U.S. Code of Regulations defines terrorism as the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."
She argued that this definition fits the aims and objectives of the Muslim murderers, but not those of the non-Muslim killers. The latter were indeed deranged or driven by hate, but did not have political or social objectives.
Over the last few years, this topic has surfaced in op-eds of leading newspapers every time a mass shooting occurs, most being school shootings. Muslim organizations have challenged the media and national leaders to call the perpetrators what they are—terrorists. Often, the same counter-argument is presented i.e. it does not fit the legal definition of terrorism.
Which brings us to today. The evidence of political motivation is posted all over Sayoc’s van, with anti-Democrat stickers and photos of Hilary marked in cross-hair. Come on! If that isn’t politically and ideologically motivated, what is? Yet, we hesitate to call him a terrorist.
Is it because the term ‘terrorist’ is reserved for Muslims only?
I hope not.