Brian Sopp, a senior at the University of North Carolina who is working as an Intercollegiate Students Institute intern for me this summer, contributes the following post on terrorism at the university.
Following the arrest of 17 suspected terrorists in Canada, the mainstream media has made every effort to avoid calling these suspects what they are: Muslim. On this blog, Michael Barone has described an interesting phenomenon. It seems that the media wants to avoid at all costs connecting terrorism and Islam, forgetting that the terrorists themselves have already done a pretty good job tying the two concepts together. Why is this? Could an obsession with political correctness actually hinder good reporting? Maybe the media's reasons for trying to hide the fact that 17 terror suspects are all Muslim is the same reason a university administration could not bring itself to call a terrorist attack by its proper name.
On March 3, 23-year-old Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, an Iranian-born citizen and a recent graduate of UNCChapel Hill, drove a rented Jeep Grand Cherokee through the Pit, a place where students congregate. Six of the nine people that were hit were treated at UNC Hospitals and released. No one was seriously injured.
Shortly after driving away from the scene of the crime, Taheri-azar called 911 and informed police where he could be arrested. During the phone call, he claimed he acted to "punish the government of the United States for its actions around the world." In his first court appearance, Taheri-azar stated that his goal was to "spread the will of Allah."
When Chancellor James Moeser failed to label the event an act of terrorism, a group of students held a rally in the Pit calling for the administration to call the act terrorism.
"The fact is, this is not the university's call," Moeser told reporters in response to the rally. "I agree, this could feel like terrorism, especially if you're standing in front of a Jeep that's heading toward you trying to kill you, Moeser said. "As we have investigated this, we've come more and more to the conclusion that this was one individual acting alone in a criminal act.
Moeser's insistence that the attack was "a criminal act" rather than a terrorist attack seems rather ridiculous. Rick Martinez writes in The News&Observer: "The hallmark of academia is to make the patently obvious excruciatingly complex." Taheri-azar's admission reveals the fact that his failed attempt to murder was motivated by his fundamentalist belief in Islam. A religiously motivated attempt to kill an indefinite number of innocent civilians = terrorism. Moeser shouldn't have made this issue so complex.
However, the press release issued by the UNC Muslim Student Association after the attack may explain some of Moeser's behavior. The MSA informed students that "although the driver appears to have been Muslim, he is not nor has he ever been a member of our organization. Our relationship with him was limited to the few appearances he made in a prayer room, which is a room on campus reserved by MSA open to anyone who desires a quiet place in which to pray."
Chancellor Moeser and MSA tried to perform PR damage control following the attack. They both feared that people might connect the attack with Islam. Unfortunately for them, Taheri-azar did just that with his comments in court. Moeser and MSA's efforts to gloss over the real issue by calling the attack "a criminal act" and a "hit-and-run incident," respectively, simply inflamed the issue. Kris Wampler, a student activist at UNC and one of the organizers of the aforementioned rally, and Amanda Zalaquett, a fellow activist, sent a letter to the UNC board of governors, the UNC board of trustees, and the North Carolina General Assembly bringing this issue to their attention.
"The attack on our campus was a wake-up call," they wrote. "It demonstrated the University's alarming lack of concern for the safety of its students who came under attack because of radical Islam. It also demonstrated the ridiculous extent to which University leaders have maintained a politically correct face throughout this ordeal."
It appears that some members of the elite in this country and in other countries will do what they can to twist the truth and hide the fact that fundamentalist Islam breeds terrorism. Whatever good they think they are accomplishing, members of the media and the academy who refuse to call things what they are are doing great harm. In the words of Wampler and Zalaquett, they are showing an "alarming lack of concern for the safety" of innocent people and demonstrating the extent to which some people "have maintained a politically correct face throughout this" continuing war on terrorism.