Not sudden jihad — unless proven otherwise

News is coming that Cho Seung-Hui, the Virginia Tech killer, had written ISMAIL-AX on his arm, which may have been a reference to the story of Abraham’s son Ishmael who, in Muslim Arab mythology, is believed to be the progenitor of all Arabs.  While that may well be true, it will take a whole heck of a lot more to convince me that this was a sudden jihad syndrome killing. 

What’s much more likely, based on the news trickling in about how profoundly disturbed this young man was, is that his insanity reflects the angst of our time.  In the medieval era, delusional people thought they were possessed by the Devil; in the mid-20th Century, aliens possession took over as the delusion of choice.  It wouldn’t be surprising that, in this day and age, a delusional man with no connection to Islam nevertheless incorporates that cultural awareness into his insanity, and Islamic possession becomes his manifestation of a broken mind. 

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  • Bill Faith

    As I noted in my Virginia Tech: The Day After post, I think the spelling "Ismail," as opposed to "Ismael" or "Ishmael" is significant. I smell jihad.

  • Zhombre

    No, nothing I’ve read suggests that. I believe this young man was sociopathic and simply copied the spelling, a form of free association. I agree with Book. He might just as easily aped some word or phrase from Satanic ritual or the zodiac or Norse mythology. Gotterdammerung is even harder to spell. Mind you this kid was an English major and actually left behind one act plays written for class. A jihad fixation would have manifested itself. It did not.

  • Deana

    Zhombre –

    I like your humor!

    Obviously, we don’t know all the facts yet but from what has been reported so far, it seems like this young man was simply very disturbed and mentally ill. The “Ismail” reference is interesting but I strongly suspect that he was simply attracted to the Islamic radical image. I was even wondering if perhaps he had read a story or historical reference about Ismail that resonated with him. Who knows? But his method of attack, his writings, and his interactions (or lack thereof) with other students and professors all seem to point to a horrific mental illness that had been apparent for some time.


  • Mike

    Book. If you get some time(?) head over to: They have a good read called:Despairing of ‘Despair’ And The Shame Of Shame.
    If you can head off to Dr. Sanity:
    What has become very apparent is this person was really over the edge.What has yet to be and probably wont be found is how much his drugs played into his paranoia.

  • Paul

    When I read the name, I thought: “obviously the name of a mail server or something he had to log on to. Information Services Mail, or some such.”

    How sad am I 😉

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  • Earl

    Over at American Thinker, there’s another suggestion:

    Still, I wonder — was Cho taught to hate? Whatever he learned in his classes — did it enable him to rage at his host country, to hate the students he envied so murderously? Was he subtly encouraged to aggrandize himself by destroying others? Was his pathology enabled by the PC university? Or to ask the question differently — was Cho ever taught to respect others, to admire the good things about his host country, and to discipline himself to build a positive life?

    And that answer is readily available on the websites of Cho’s English Department at Virginia Tech. This is a wonder world of PC weirdness. English studies at VT are a post-modern Disney World in which nihilism, moral and sexual boundary breaking, and fantasies of Marxist revolutionary violence are celebrated. They show up in a lot of faculty writing. Not by all the faculty, but probably by more than half.