Tuesday, January 18, 2022
It's Tuesday, January 18th, 2022.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
‘What We Know is That This is a Very Intelligent Terrorist.’: Aafia Siddiqui and Colleyville Synagogue Hostages
Major news came out of Colleyville, Texas on Saturday and it continues to spill out as revelations and details come concerning the hostage taking event that took place in a Jewish synagogue in that city on Saturday, extending as a news story well into Sunday and beyond.
We're talking about a global impact news story here, but it also comes with some really significant worldview implications, including theological implications. We're going to have to look very closely at what actually took place in Fort Worth and how connected to a larger global or international agenda. What we do know is that by Sunday, the FBI had identified the man who had taken the hostages in the synagogue and held them for 11 terror-filled hours before eventually the FBI intervened saving the hostages and eventually the hostage taker was killed.
Here's where things get really interesting in terms of his identity. On Sunday, the FBI identified the hostage taker as Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British citizen. Now, one of the things we have to recognize here is that Britain, like so many European nations during the period between the end of the second World War and say today, has seen an increasing number of people moving in as immigrants. And this means not only as refugees, but as legal immigrants from much of North Africa and the Arabian peninsula, much of the near east, moving into cities, such as London. But massive immigrant Islamic communities now live in cities, such as Paris, Brussels.
As you look at so many of these cities, you recognize that what has not happened is what Americans would call assimilation. The assimilationist goal of many Europeans simply hasn't happened. The immigrants, largely refugees, but also immigrants of other forms of legal status have moved from much of the near east and the middle east and North Africa into these European cities and whether or not they ever intended to assimilate, the fact is they have not.
Instead, they have created parallel cultures within so many of the designated neighborhoods in which you have these very Islamic, very Middle Eastern, very North African communities. And they are largely set off from the larger population of London or Brussels or Paris. They have also, and we know this now, they have also become, at least in some cases, hot beds for the development of Islamic extremism.
Now, you have a story in which a hostage taking event took place in an American Jewish synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. That's a community about 15 miles North of Fort Worth, Texas. It turns out that the man who took the hostages and was killed in the law enforcement intervention was a British citizen, Malik Faisal Akram. Again, 44 years old. But the interesting thing here is, is that he didn't just come here from Britain. He was a British citizen.
We're going to be learning a lot and even after 9/11, but even before 9/11 with other acts of Islamic terrorism, one of the things we come to understand is that many of the people who've been involved directly in these terrorist events and also had been involved indirectly have been radicalized in what amounts to the incubator of Islamic terrorism in so many of these Islamic and immigrant neighborhood in cities like Paris.
We're going to be learning a great deal, more about Malik Faisal Akram. But what is even more interesting right now is not the name of the hostage taker, but the name of the person he invoked. A name, he mentioned over and over again, a woman in prison in the United States on terrorism charges. A woman he demanded must be released. This turns out right now to be the bigger story.
That name is Aafia Siddiqui. Peter Bergen, national security analyst for CNN reminds us that Aafia Siddiqui is a Pakistani woman who is currently serving an 86-year prison sentence in Fort Worth. She was arrested by US forces in Afghanistan almost 15 years ago. But as Bergen says, "Her arrest continues to reverberate today." Just thinking about the identity of Aafia Siddiqui tells us a great deal about many of the challenges we face in this increasingly dangerous age.
She was a woman who came to the United States as a student and she is clearly brilliant. She came and attended American universities eventually receiving a Ph.D in neuroscience from Brandeis University, but she became radicalized. This is pretty well documented now. She became radicalized in Islamic terrorism and Islamic thought in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
She went back to Pakistan and was eventually apprehended in Afghanistan, where officials there said that she was directly involved in the manufacturer of so-called dirty bombs. Those are radiological weapons. She also had been caught with documentation about planned attacks using such weapons in New York City and again, such landmarks as the Empire State building and the Brooklyn Bridge.
As Peter Bergen reports, "Siddiqui, a slight Pakistani in her mid-30s was arrested in Eastern Afghanistan in July, 2008." And just remember, she had come to the United States. Like so many people coming from other nations, she came as a student. She did her undergraduate work at MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of technology. And then she did that Ph.D in neuroscience at Brandi university. She is clearly an incredibly intelligent woman, but it's also clear that she had intended to use her scientific knowledge and expertise in order to carry out terror attacks in the United States.
She became known at one point as Lady Qaeda or Lady Al-Qaeda and her ties with that terrorist organization have been pretty well understood, even though they've not been proved in court. But here's what's really interesting, when she was apprehended in Afghanistan and when she was being interrogated by US forces, she being un-handcuffed grabbed a weapon and began firing at American forces, intending to kill them.
She was wounded in the attack, but she was eventually charged with attempted murder against American personnel. Again, she is serving a prison's sentence of about 84 to 86 years at present. According to a team of reporters for the Washington Post, she is currently scheduled to be released from prison in the year 2082. She's not only a mother and wife, she is as Boaz Ganor, executive director of the International Institute for Counter-terrorism said, "What we know is that this is a very intelligent terrorist."
Summarizing the new story over the weekend. This team of reporters for the post, put it this way, "Saturday's events at the Texas synagogue have reignited interest in the story of the woman widely known as Lady Al-Qaeda. At its center is an enigmatic and extreme educated mother who apparently cast off a comfortable, successful professional life in pursuit of terrorism and would be called at one time, the most wanted woman in the world."
The man who took the hostages in that synagogue in Colleyville, Texas was demanding Siddiqui's release. That is not likely to happen to say the very least. It's also interesting to note that she has identified not only in terms of her associations, but in terms of her marriage with those who are known to be involved in international terrorism.
At one point, law enforcement officials throughout the world were trying to apprehend her along with her ex-husband, Amjad Khan. But then the Post tells us, "In 2003, according to US law enforcement, Siddiqui married Ammar al-Baluchi, the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the Guantanamo detainee who has professed to being a mastermind of the 9/11 attacks."
So the story just gets more interesting and more alarming. The web just gets thicker. The mystery also continues to deepen. It is increasingly clear beyond this, that anti-terrorism officials and national security officials throughout the world have picked up an increased amount of activity on terrorist networks having to do with the event that took place in Texas and again, centering in on the name, Aafia Siddiqui.
Now, it's interesting to know that there have been scholars, there have been terrorism experts, there have been foreign policy advisors who have been very, very interested in her case for a very long time. One of the reasons is that she has become a symbolic cause for many of the Islamic terrorism groups around the world. But it's very telling that a group known as CAIR often presented by American journalists as a mainstream organization, C-A-I-R, the Council for American Islamic Relations has taken on Siddiqui's cause as their own in claims that she was arrested and imprisoned unjustly.
And there you see the fact that even as there are many groups who say they're opposed to terrorism, they appear not opposed to the cause of many terrorists. The mainstream media are, if belatedly, awakening to the story. The New York Times ran a major article yesterday with a headline, "Officials investigating synagogue attackers linked to 2010 terror case summarized the fact that Aafia Siddiqui has now spent 12 years in a US federal prison "after being convicted of trying to kill American soldiers and plotting to blow up the Statue of Liberty."
We should also note that there are those who continue to demand that Siddiqui be released. And again, that includes groups such as CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations. It also includes at least some with influence and authority within the Pakistani government. Her cause has become to some degree, a populous cause on the Arab street. Perhaps most importantly, on the Pakistani street. It's interesting to note that a group like the Atlantic council, a very respected foreign policy agency in the United States ran an article by a Supreme court qualified attorney in Pakistan by the name of Dawood Ghaznavi arguing that Dr. Siddiqui should be returned to Pakistan.
He wrote, "The 86-year sentence for attempted murder without premeditation as well as suspicion of any affiliation or links with terrorist organizations is considered inhumane by many human rights violation activists, especially after being declared mentally unwell."
He went on to argue, "Her status shows she still experiences posttraumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia. The repatriation of Dr. Siddiqui to Pakistan will be much awaited compensation for the work Pakistan has done and the sacrifices the locals have made throughout the war on terror." But there are so many issues Christians need to think about here in terms of worldview significance.
For thing, it certainly was not an accident that the man who undertook this attack and what else could you call a hostage taking event in that synagogue in Texas specifically chose to take the hostages in a synagogue. That tells us a very great deal. It tells us that the deadly venom of antisemitism is never very far from many of these movements and many of these events.
Terrorism, the Depth of Human Depravity, and the Complex and Difficult Endeavor of Pursuing Justice in a Fallen World
We're also looking at the fact that we understand the reality of good and the reality of evil. We are looking at stark evil here. We're looking at the evil of terrorism. We're looking at the deep and concentrated evil of terrorist networks. We're looking at the evil of devised plans to bring about terrorist attacks. We are looking at the evil of taking hostages in Texas.
We're looking at the necessity of making moral judgements. This is not just a matter of some kind of social maladjustment. We are talking about unvarnished evil. And Christians are the last on earth who have a framework of truth that explains the reality of evil. So many others around the world are simply confused about whether evil actually exists or it's just something that we call events, persons, happenings that we don't like. But it also tells us just how impossible in human terms it is to untie every knot, even knowing exactly what we're dealing with.
We also have to recognize something that's fundamental right now. And that is that government authorities and national security agencies know things we don't know. They indeed know things we can't know. If we're honest, they know things we don't want to know. That means that we cannot even adequately understand much less interrogate the actions of these agencies. That certainly doesn't mean they're always right, but it does mean that we live in a world in which they are necessary and there are necessary truths or at least even necessary theories that they have to hold that can't really be revealed to us.
Their sources can't be revealed to us. Their documentation can't be revealed to us. That raises the whole issue of prosecuting terror and terrorists because at least a part of the problem is it is impossible for even the prosecutorial agencies and authorities to release everything they know or even to tell us how much they know out endangering others and making the nation and not just the United States, but others more vulnerable.
This is one of those situations in which evil is so powerful that it is difficult to see how even the best intended can extricate ourselves from this kind of problem. We can't even read this woman's heart. All we can are her actions. All we can read are her words. All we can read is the pattern of putting all this together. You do end up with some really difficult moral quandaries. And you also have to ask the question, "Just how long can you keep someone locked up?" And the answer is, in practical terms, that governments around the world face sometimes situations in which they really can never envision letting some people out of prison or out of some kind of custody.
But one final thought on all of this before we turn to some other issues, we need to watch carefully how others are trying to interpret and explain the nexus of issues having to do with this hostage taking in Texas and its larger context in the struggle against terrorism.
Some very interesting things are being said and will be said that will demand some attention.
The ‘Latinx’ Controversy: The Worldview Implications of an Ideological Term Embraced by Media and Academic Elites, But Hated by Others
But next we shift to a very different issue. It also comes with big worldview implications. My guess is that you have seen the word L-A-T-I-N-X.
You may have wondered how to pronounce it. Basically it's Latinx, it's the word Latino, L-A-T-I-N-O with the O changed to an X. And there's a big issue behind that. It has to do not only with ethnic identity and identity politics, but also with sexual ideology and with the sexual revolutionaries, LGBTQ. X in this case is supposed to be a refutation of white supremacist, patriarchy and heteronormativity.
In other words, this is a word that comes right out of a theory that comes right out of the liberal, very radical American academy. But behind this are some really big issues. When we think about America in the year 2022, we recognize that there are many big questions of ethnic identity and of our national project that remain to be answered. We also understand that there are many debates, not only among different ethnic groups and in the larger context of our American project, but there are disagreements within ethnic groups about how those groups are to be defined and even how they are to be named.
We saw this, of course, when it came to Black Americans and the nomenclature changed from the process of the 1960s to the present. Even now, you will hear terms such as Black and African American used interchangeably, but they're not exactly interchangeable terms. But let's just also understand that in this case, we're talking about those who come with a Spanish language cultural background.
That doesn't mean that they speak Spanish. It doesn't mean that they speak it predominantly. It doesn't mean that they speak it at all. It does mean as you're thinking about this family of terms, that there is an association with traditional Latin culture. But that then raises the fact that so much of the vocabulary we use is actually a lot more recent than you might think.
For instance, what about the word Hispanic? That was basically invented in the 1960s and the 1970s. The United States census first used the word, the term in the 1970s census. The word Hispanic was invented. It goes back to Hispaniola. It goes back to the Iberian peninsula. It goes back to Spain and Portugal, meaning persons who emerged, not just from those nations, but from that culture.
But at that time, the people who came from those cultures did not call themselves Hispanic. It was an invented word. But it's also been an imprecise and controversial word among those who are identified as Hispanics are those who don't consider themselves Hispanic. And there are those who do consider themselves Hispanic, but don't think that that's the right word. They reject the word. And then you have the fact that in most census studies and similar research projects, a vast number of those who are identified as Hispanic actually identify as white. Those are just the terms that are available. Those are the terms that they use.
Then you have the distinction of Latin and that gets back not just to the ancient language, it has to do with again, the language and culture of Spain and Portugal. But Spain predominantly in its influence in central and South America, there you have Latin American. And so you have some people who identify as Latin American. But that fits some persons who speak Spanish and come from predominantly Spanish cultures. But it doesn't describe all. There simply is no accurate term that explains everyone in such a way that there is authenticity and fairness for that matter, even ownership over the word. In general terms, all of the words used to describe those who belong to some kind of culture that is traced to Spain and Portugal, the fact is that this is defined as an ethnicity and not as a race.
That gets very confused in the American mind. And it's certainly confused when you have the arrival of identity politics and critical theory. That includes critical race theory, but it includes every form of critical theory. All of this becomes deeply ideological. And that's where this gets really interesting because when it comes to the term Latinx, it was claimed to be the word we all now need to use of everyone who comes from these particular cultures. But it turns out that the vast and by this, I mean the vast majority of the who are so defined don't like the word.
In fact, a very significant number of them hate the word. It is an attempt to try to come up with a gender neutral term, but Latino is already a gender neutral term according to those who use the word. And you really do have the fact that this is a word that is hated by the people, it is trying to describe or claims to describe. And it is basically liked by white ideological, progressives, radicals and liberals and theorists in the American liberal university.
They use the term, the people they are describing don't like the term. But they're still insisting on it. For instance, at Harvard and Yale and Berkeley, you have programs such as at Harvard University, a Latinx studies degree. Yale University uses multiple words. The university has a Latinx studies collection in its library, but it also features a Latino cultural center in Yale's undergraduate program.
Dartmouth College, again, an Ivy league liberal arts college describes its own population previously described as Hispanic as Latinx. It has a program of Latinx Student Advising. But get this, according to research and it's coming from multiple sources, but one was a source that comes from Bendixen & Amandi International, a major polling firm found that only 2% of Americans of Latin descent actually ever refer to themselves by using the term Latinx.
As Charlotte Allen reports in the Wall Street Journal, some 68% prefer Hispanic to Latino and Latina and 40% are actually offended by Latinx, which as Charlotte Allen observes would make it "a mistake for a politician to use the word at least around Latino constituents." But as she said, "Woke journalists love Latinx. It's everywhere." Even in Cooks Country Magazine, that's right, a magazine about cooking "which recently promised to feature more Latinx."
As you've undoubtedly guessed, the word originated in academia. During the mid 2000s professors were casting about for a gender neutral substitute for the clunky Latina/o and preposterous Latin and then the @. She then goes on to say, "Someone suggested Latinx and it caught on in journals with names like Feministas Unidas and Cultural Dynamics."
As she explains, "Soon, articles were appearing in the mainstream press." With titles like this one from the Washington Post, "A Latinx New Yorker feels at home in a Latinx community searching for its identity in London." I'll just stop here and say, you really can't make this stuff up. This stuff comes out of the liberal indeed radical American university culture. Trust me, the people on those campuses take it seriously. Even when the people they are claiming to describe, if they take issue seriously, seriously do not like it. Seriously, reject it.
But then along comes USA Today, always there to push the LGBTQ agenda with a headline story by Ana Goñi-Lessan and Katherine Kokal quote, "Some decry using the word Latinx, but certain LGBTQ people call it a lifeline." So now it's a lifeline, which means that the use of some other word is a denial of a lifeline.
The USA Today account tells us about Andres Acosta, identified as Community Relations Manager for Contigo Fund, "A nonprofit that provides funds to LGBTQ organizations in Central Florida." She explained, "The term was coined by people in the social justice movement who are at the intersection of Latin American and queer."
There you are, at the intersection of Latin American and queer that ends up being the term Latinx. And now, we might understand at an even deeper, in more urgent level, why the vast, vast majority of Hispanic and Latino people in the United States don't like the term, don't want it used to themselves. They don't want to use it about anyone else. What you have here is the absolute collision in something like a particle collider of intersectionality, critical theory, critical race theory, academic ideology and the LGBTQ movement. It comes down to just six letters, L-A-T-I-N-X, all of this just points to the basic moral and worldview insanity of believing you can actually reduce human beings or even adequately truthfully describe human beings in putting such an emphasis on race and ethnicity.
Even when it comes to the US census, do you recognize that the use of the word Hispanic doesn't refer to all of Hispania? At this point, the definition by the United States census bureau doesn't include Brazilians, Portuguese and Filipinos. When it comes to the term Latinx, you're looking at a situation that describes even fewer.
But here's where we need to note, that doesn't stop or even pause the ideologues because they claim, using Marxist categories like false conscious that the people they have described with the terms they have invented would actually like the terms and embrace them if they only understood but according to the critical theory, intersectionality, identity politics and ideology.
Let's just take a breather and recognize that is not only wrong, it's a huge and arrogant what if. But we need to turn that for our own Christian worldview, What if? What if all persons and even all Christians understood that the most basic identity of being a human being is being commonly made in God's image, commonly descending from one mother and one father, Adam and Eve, and commonly belonging to sinful humanity in need of a savior, and by the atonement accomplished by the Lord, Jesus Christ, those who come to him by faith are commonly adopted as brothers and sisters and joint heirs with Christ?
There are differences including ethnic and racial differences that actually according to scripture are to the glory of God. But the idolatry and ideology of that difference undermines the very God-ward project of human civilization. That civilization can be built up with words or it can be undermined with words. The invention of the ideological word Latinx, trust me, is a word that undermines human in civilization.
We need to understand it for exactly what it is.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.