Why did Cho Seung-Hui, the lone gunman responsible for claiming 32 lives at Virginia Tech University Monday, scrawl ‘Ismail Ax’ in red ink on his arm?

Eric Benderoff touches on some of the theories in today’s Chicago Tribune. He explains the most popular speculation sweeping the Internet refers to a story in the Quran, the holy book of Islam, about prophet Ibrahim and his son, Ismail. Upset that people in his hometown still worshiped idols and not Allah, Ismail smashes most of the statues with a sword to honor his father and his faith.

A similar story is told in the Bible, but instead of Ismail, it is Abraham’s son Isaac. It is treated as a coming of age story about a young man claiming and defending his faith. Some in the Jewish tradition even consider it the biblical inspiration for bar mitzvahs.

But as Benderoff points out, Ismail is a literary name employed by James Fenimore Cooper and Herman Melville. And Seung-Hui was an English major. Not to mention Seung-Hui adopted Ismail Ax as his screen name on a video-gaming site.

It seems that every time an act of terrorism takes place, the Muslim community must step forward and apologize even though they have no connection.

Ahmed Rehab, the executive director of Chicago’s Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he’s too busy “gawking” at the outrageous theories.

“I’ll be the first to admit Muslims have a problem with self-victimhood,” he said. “But there seems to be one standard for people of Muslim faith and another for everybody else.”

He notes even the most rampant anti-Muslim Web sites have suggested amid their accusations that the theory is a bit far-fetched.

But Rehab wonders if Seung-Hui were Muslim, would anything change? Would the evidence of mental problems and disturbing social interactions go out the window and the blame placed on his Muslim identity? Would it be fair to expect an explanation? Is it fair now to jump to such conclusions?


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