What if Jared Lee Loughner Were a Muslim Arab Immigrant?

Jared Lee Loughner born September 10, 1988, is an American who is charged in the January 8, 2011 Tucson, Arizona shooting that killed six people, including Chief U.S. District Court Judge John Roll, and left 14 others injured, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Loughner was indicted by a federal grand jury in Tucson on January 19, 2011.

The repercussions of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson last week, in which six others were murdered and 19 wounded, continue to resonate. Discussion - and discussions about the discussion continue. Discussions rise and fall about how to achieve the real changes that will make a repeat of this tragedy impossible. Will we stand up to the National Rifle Association (NRA) and work to enact real, stronger gun-control laws? Will we do anything to make mental health care truly accessible for those who so desperately need it? Will anything change in the nature of the governmental and media discourse that still allows not just hostile but eliminationist rhetoric featuring cross-hairs, "second amendment remedies," and offers to "shoot a fully automatic M-16" as a campaign souvenir?

We don't know yet. There's way too much work ahead to even predict if there will be any change at all. President Obama's funeral oration at the Tucson memorial hit all the right notes - urging all who listened to live our lives and make our country into the people and nation that nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green was just beginning to claim as her own. It was a powerful moment.

He didn't say a word about the alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner, or about the vitriol and the violence that has infected the political debate possibly having consequences. Maybe that was a good call for President Obama at that moment. Certainly Loughner is mentally disturbed, and while there's no question his delusional rants reflect some of the right-wing tirades all too common on the Internet, it's certainly possible those ideas didn't have anything to do with his targeting of a politically moderate congresswoman.

And yet. What if? What if things were just a little bit different? What if the alleged gunman wasn't named Jared Loughner but instead was named Ali Mohammed? What if he wasn't a mentally ill white, Christian-Jewish native-born U.S. citizen but rather a mentally ill Muslim Arab immigrant? What if his delusional rants seemed to channel not those found-on-the-Internet right-wing American rants about the gold standard and government invasion, but rather those found-on-the-Internet calls for violent jihad? Would we still be so careful not to place any blame on those who spew hateful, violent rhetoric? Would we still be so certain that there's no link between violent rhetoric and the response of an unstable mind to that rhetoric?

Did anyone even bother to find out if the would-be underwear bomber is actually mentally ill or unstable? How about the army psychiatrist accused of shooting 13 people at Fort Hood? Do we care? Or do we simply assume that anyone who carries out an act of violence inspired by some warped version of Islam is "sane," but that someone who may have been inspired or influenced by "don't retreat, reload" rhetoric when they carried out their shooting spree, but who looks and talks a little more "like us" must be inherently "crazy"?

What if? What if things were just a little bit different? What would be our response to the Tucson shootings then? 


Phyllis Bennis is director, New Internationalism Project - Institute for Policy Studies. The author of "Ending the US War in Afghanistan: A Primer" as well as the latest updated edition of her best-selling "Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer" www.interlinkbooks.com

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Older Comments:
KAM FROM - said:
What a waste of time to attach a label on this Jared fellow. Don't you read papers or watch TV?
This man is known to be mentally ill. Stop bringing this business of religion.

We should call spade a spade,whoever terrorises people should and must be called a terrorist whatever religion he/she professes be he Musim,Christian Jew,Hindu,Sikh,Atheist whatever. Unfortunately due to what I may call intellectual dishonesty we try to avoid disheartning others especially the majority intellectuals around us even my friend Romesh was so dumbfounded as he could not explain clearly in his usual rhetoric of finding faults with the usual culprits as we always see. Mankind was made diffferent Nations and tribes so they may know one another the most honourable among them is he who fears Allah most as God is Knowleagble and Aware.

Jared Lee Loughner is simply a Christian American terrorist. Nothing more. If a m muslim did something dispeakable, he's a terrorist but non muslim who commits greater atrocities is just a confused and mentally disturbed American?. Give me a freaking break. No muslim American has flew aircraft into building but a JudeoChristian America did last yr killing IRS employee. Would be Time Square bomber didnt murder a pin but hes called a terrorist yet Jared Lee Loughner seiged more than 20 people and killed 6. He's just a mentally disturbed American?. In another word, terrorism is something that must be carried out by a muslim whether he kills or not?. And what's btw a muslim who kills one person and judeo/American who murders 6 people?


This is the most violent gun toting country on the planet. It is also the most hypocritical also...

Terrorism and murder, be it Islamic or not, has only one solution, the embrace and spread of Biblical Christianity.

Note to Paagle:

I could not have said better. Same as my ideas.


The author neglects a number inconvenient facts. Loughner did not listen to the right wing hate-mongers. He did not come out of nowhere - his fellow students and former friends all thought he was strange and dangerous. Many of his ideas were stereotypically leftist and most of them were untraceable. Hence the talk of crazy rather than inspired. He clearly worked alone.

Muslim terrorists have tended to have coherent ideas that make sense within a particular Islamic belief system. That the particular Islamic beliefs in question may be theologically sound is what has non-Muslims east and west suspicious of Islam. Most Muslim terrorists have in fact consulted with rational, learned, seemingly mild-mannered Islamic scholars. That they may be diabolical as well is apparently open for debate in the Muslim world.

Imagine if Loughner had been inspired by right wingers. At least I can engage with their ideas - the standards are entirely empirical. When Muslims commit acts of terrorism the justification are significantly theological. I'd have to study Islam to even begin to influence other Muslims towards peaceful coexistence. Since I have no intention of doing so I have to take Muslims' word about Islam and their fellow Muslims. I used to believe the "moderate" Muslims that Islam and its followers are peaceful and tolerant. But far more than any Muslim terrorist, the reaction to the murder of Salman Taseer, a clearly intelligent, brave and decent man, has begun to change my mind.

Islamicity has posted two articles not quite supporting his murder, and mitigating its evil with a whole mess of whataboutery. I appreciate that you are open about your antipathy towards justice for non-Muslims.