What We Talk About When We Talk About Terrorism | General News & Politics | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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What We Talk About When We Talk About Terrorism 

Last Updated: 08/13/2013 4:09 pm

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What is Matin Siraj’s story?
Siraj was a young Pakistani-American who was befriended by an NYPD informant—Osama Eldawoody—an unemployed Egyptian immigrant who claimed to be an out-of-work nuclear scientist suffering from cancer. Eldawoody was befriended/recruited by the NYPD, but not forcibly. The NYPD had stopped by his apartment to investigate some boxes that had been reported by neighbors, and he opened them to show that they were some cheap clothes that he had ordered online with the intention of reselling them. He didn’t seem offended that they would suspect a Muslim man, and he said, “I want to help you.” Here is a man looking at small deals selling clothes, so he gets a job in this way with the NYPD. They promise him a good income if he’ll be an informant.

So Eldawoody becomes a mentor to Siraj?
Yes. Eldawoody became a mentor/father figure to those who didn’t have fathers, and would preach to them about Islam and its teachings. Eldawoody preached to them that it was okay to kill the killers, and Americans were seen as killers.
Eldawoody showed Siraj a picture of a 13-year-old Iraqi girl who has been raped by a dog held by an American soldier, and this enraged him. These pictures you can find on the Net. They are used to stoke the passions of those who don’t seem purposeful in wanting to commit random destruction in this country. Frankly, I’m not sure of the veracity of the picture.
But Eldawoody, in this way, gives Siraj a reason, and then plants in his mind the idea of bombing a bridge. But Siraj resisted. He said, “Jihad? But planning is also jihad.” This is all laid out very clearly in the court transcript. Siraj was not interested in spilling any blood.
The informant pushes a bit more, and then Siraj says, “I’ll have to ask my mother.” Eldawoody nevertheless suggests they go check out the subway station. [Eldawoody and Siraj had also spoken of bombing the Herald Square subway station.] Eldawoody asks, “Can you do a drawing?” After Siraj draws a map of the subway station, showing where the garbage cans and benches are, they go back to the car and Siraj is arrested. And you know, 30-odd years in prison.

So the prosecution for both cases goes on fairly similar tracks?
Indeed, and so does their defense. The prosecution charges that you cannot wait for an act to be committed before you arrest the criminal. You have to act to preempt any such act and that these people, because of the things they said, were pretty clearly anti-American.

Lakhani and Siraj both admitted to, or were caught on tape, saying things like, “We’re going to fuck them.”
Yes, similar sentiments are espoused by each of them. I understand that you cannot wait till the bomb has been exploded to arrest the person. On the other hand, you also have the defense argument. This person might be willing to commit that crime, but was he able to commit that crime? Being such stunning failures, would Lakhani or Siraj have been able to actually organize and execute an attack? Would Lakhani, who had failed at everything he had tried in his life, and was extravagantly unsuccessful at each of his endeavors—would he have been able to acquire a missile and sell it to a terrorist? Would in fact a real terrorist have gone to a person like Lakhani to purchase something like this? I think the answer is quite persuasively no.
In the case of Siraj, a similar argument was used by the defense, and even his lawyer states, “This is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.” Would he have been able to, without this consistent prodding, this consistent pointing out, would he have been able to go and bomb a crowded train station? It’s very unlikely.

An NYPD detective you spoke to about Siraj’s alleged entrapment said, “If they had stopped the 9/11 hijackers, their lawyers would no doubt have made the same case.”
Yes, a wonderful point. I would like to accept it, and not something like a desperate defense lawyer who does not want to admit the very reasonable proposition that had one of the hijackers not died, someone might have just said that there was entrapment.
That is the quandary. That we must act and yet we must be aware that none of this might be well-founded. That reasonable assumption that there would be people who would have defended the hijackers, shouldn’t allow us to dismiss all legitimate questions of civil liberties. Yet again, I want to ask, as a writer: Are there complicating factors that we simply need to pay attention to, like, what does it mean to be human? Should we actually admit in the Other in any vestige of humanity? Are we all agreed, as a nation, that all Islamic people are bloody assassins? That they are here to wipe our civilization off the map?

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