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January 21, 2005


You know, a post entitled "Sharia Vigiliantism in New Jersey" which extensively quotes one theory of the case (the other, according to articles, that robbery was a possible motive), with the excerpt concluding "Then the 'converted' Muslims did their grisly work" is hardly rendered fair by the embedded two-word disclaimer "if true."

Perhaps we should take a cue from a priest at the victims' church:

Father David Bebawy, a priest at St. George & St. Shenouda Coptic Orthodox Church here, in which the Armanious family was active, urged restraint. "We are waiting to see what the result of the investigation is," he said. "It's too early to blame anyone." Bebawy, who had regularly visited local imams, said he was troubled by the heated rhetoric that followed the slayings, and hoped hard-won progress in improving relations with the Muslim community would not be set back.

but I do agree that this act is an "indication that all Muslims in the nation do not, as we are supposed to believe, unanimously accept the parameters of American pluralism.

Nor do all Christians. And yes, some of them are willing to kill to drive the point home.

That at least some are willing to enforce Sharia penalties right here, right now." Like with any sales pitch, the best response to proselytizing is a polite "no, I'm not interested", no matter how obnoxious the salesperson is.

The police are still investigating this. Murders meant to "look" like a religious killing are not unheard of. Should it turn out to be a religious killing, however, I would expect the Muslim leaders in New Jersey to condemn it in no uncertain terms.

Given that Robert Spencer has a well-known ideology, is relying on second-hand (at best) impressions from another with an apparent ideological bent, and he's apparently not at all close to the investigation, let's treat this with a heaping grain of salt. The actual investigators (i.e., the police) with knowledge of teh evidence are calling it a robbery; if they have evidence to change that designation, they'll do it in due course.

"a heaping grain of salt."

Erm, a "heaping of salt." My full edit didn't take, apparently.

This link has the following

In response to widespread speculation that the crime stemmed from religious fanaticism, the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office noted that the killers left behind no hate messages, nor did they desecrate Coptic Christian artifacts that belonged to the family.

In fact, authorities disclosed that the Coptic Cross tattoos which all four family members had on their inside right wrists "were not defaced."

Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio also said that the family's furniture drawers had been rifled through and there was no money left in the house. The killers did not take jewelry that may be worth thousands of dollars, but sometimes robbers leave jewelry behind because it is easy to trace and difficult to hock, the prosecutor said.

and this

"It's not doing anyone any good for us or the media to make these judgments without any evidence," said Emad Attaalla, a deacon at St. George and St. Shenouda Coptic Orthodox Church, where the family had been members.

but I guess blogs don't count...

Even if the speculation did turn out to be true, what follows? This is one case, and unless there's a huge upsurge of them it no more represents the average Muslim than anti-abortion bombers represent the average American conservative Christian who is opposed to abortion. It would be something for people to watch out for, but the same is true of far-right Christians with terrorist leanings.

"all Muslims in the nation do not, as we are supposed to believe, unanimously accept the parameters of American pluralism."

Who, exactly, is supposed to believe that? I would be surprised if all the members of any religion, with the possible exception of tiny religions with only three adherents, accept the parameters of American pluralism. So I am happy to deny that I believe what I am, apparently, supposed to believe.

At this point, the speculative nature of this does not merit the decisive tone of the headline or 98 percent of the post. If there were real evidence certainly there are issues to discuss, but this post is EXTREMELY irresponsible. And it's not just about philosophical arguments of whether Muslims can be more tarred by the actions of a few than other religions or whether, in that light, your conclusions were more obfuscating than profound. It's about basic ethics, and I implore your better nature -- the Charles in the bird dog -- to remove or heavily edit this post to support presumption of innocence, especially in the face of scanty third-hand circumstantial evidence.


Both the deacon and uncle poured cold water on the theory that the family were the victims of a robbery gone wrong.

"This is not a robbery, Ayed said. "We found all of the jewelry in the house. They didn't take anything."

Same deacon? source.

Given that this is the kind of thing Bird has a history of writing, and given Edward and Von invited him to join the collective knowing his history, I assume this is exactly the kind of thing Edward and Von felt we ought to be reading more of.

Two posts of this kind of thing in one day, however, does seem like an over-helping. However, once you decide to sup with the devil, you can't complain about the menu.

My not-cutting-slack comment looks almost prescient now. At least to me, but I'm easily amused, so there you have it.

"all Muslims in the nation do not, as we are supposed to believe, unanimously accept"

Holy cripes, don't pass whatever he's smoking.
For better or worse, the content that you quote and link to does reflect on your reputation, CB. Read even those you agree with critically, sir.

I have had this conversation with you before, but please, please, please evaluate the credibility & bias of your source before you link to it. If you decide the story is too potentially important not to link to, please include some kind of caveat about the source that goes beyond "if true".

This applies to liberal sources too obviously. If I see something on capitolhillblue.com, or a Lyndon LaRouche pamphlet, that almost makes it LESS likely to be true. If I see something in a Kitty Kelly book, or the English tabloid the Mirror--I would not post on it, not without independent confirmation from somewhere more credible. Folks at The Guardian are real journalists who break real stories, but they're not as reliable as they should be. Everyone at The Nation is as left-wing as you get, but the magazine does have fact checkers--still, some of their writers are basically reliable (I.F. Stone back in the day, Marc Cooper, David Corn) and some are not at all (Alexander Cockburn). Ramesh Ponnuru is much more likely to get his facts right than John Derbyshire. Seymour Hersh would never, ever fabricate a story & the New Yorker rigorously facts checks him and evaluates his sources, but he might get led astray by an anonymous source in his eagerness to get a story--it's happened before.

Those are just illustrations off the top of my head--it's quite possible for reasonable people to disagree with my conclusions. But it is essential to do some critical evaluation of your sources' credibility. It may be inevitably influenced by ones own political beliefs, but you should be able to separate the two.

Do me a favor, and run the following google searches: site:www.jihadwatch.org taqiyya
site:www.jihadwatch.org taqqiya
site:www.jihadwatch.org taqiya

Look how many times the term is used. Look at how they talk about it as one of the most overlooked aspects of Muslim ideology. Look at how often they dismiss Muslim moderates as practicing deliberate or unwitting taqiyya.

Here, I'll give some specific quotes:

Readers of Jihadwatch ought to google the word "taqiyya" -- and then the word "kitman." Many people lie; only in Islam is lying, for the good of the faith,and of the Believers, religiously-sanctioned deception. "War is deception" Muhammad once said (now part of the Hadith). Taqiyya, which is officially identified as coming from Shi'a Islam, is simply a version of "kitman" (the word, incidentally, was used -- spelled as "ketman" as the title of one of the chapters in Czeslaw Milosz's book of essays The Captive Mind. Not surprisingly, Milosz appropriated the word taken from Islam (see the Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd) for a practice also symptomatic, as he noted, of the Communists of his day.

The innocence or wilful ingenuousness of non-Muslims -- such as a lady noted in the Boston Globe the other day, now a stout supporter of a Muslim school project in Medford, who admitted she had "known little about Islam" but HAD LEARNED ABOUT IT BY TALKING WITH MUSLIMS and realized she had nothing to worry about -- is fantastic.

The complete failure of those who ought to be studying, and reporting, on the tenets of Islam -- such as NPR, where mere mention of Islam is almost verboten, and certainly never pursued, or the BBC, or the New York Times -- all of which are engaged in a conspiracy of wilful ignorance. Why? Why is it impossible to study the role of taqiyya or kitman? And if Islam is a religion of "peace" and "tolerance" as we are endlessly told, then what is the problem in learning the precise doctrines of Qur'an and Hadith, and the activities of that role-model Muhammad, with his conquests, his savage killings of prisoners, the assassinations of perceived enemies, his child-bride Aisha, and so on.

When the words "taqiyya" and "kitman"
enter the language -- along with the word "dhimmi" and "dhimmitude" (it will be fascinating to see how the English dictionaries will define "Jihad") then one will know that progress has been made in the widespread understanding of Islam.

Meanwhile, perhaps more attention ought to be paid to the defectors from Islam, beginning with Ibn Warraq, his collection of testimonies, Leaving Islam, and his own analyses at www.secularislam.org.

The Western or rather non-Muslim public, alas, will have to educate itself. Neither the government, nor the hyper-circumspect media, will be of much help. But at least this Australian article dares to note the bifurcated tongue of one imam, Hilaly, and his apologist, Trad. They are simply specific cases of a general problem. The refusal of soi-disant "moderate" Muslims to tell the truth aboutr Muslim doctrine entitles us to strip them of the adjective "moderate" -- for objectively, by helping to mislead unwary Infidels, they weaken our resolve, and damage the effort at countermeasures against the still-imperfectly understood world-wide phenomenon of the Jihad (which consists, as always, of lots of local Jihads, all directed to the same end -- expanding the territory of the dar al-Islam at the expense of non-Muslims, and wherever Islam is already a presence, forcing non-Muslims to accept the Shari'a or other measures that will cause their own way of life to be constrained, changed, and endangered).

(to be ctd.)

"indication that all Muslims in the nation do not, as we are supposed to believe, unanimously accept the parameters of American pluralism. That at least some are willing to enforce Sharia penalties right here, right now."

I could say the same thing about Evangelical Christians in this country, using Eric Rudolph or some other anti-abortion terrorist as an example. Does that make the Islamic terrorists more dangerous than the Christian terrorists, or vis versa? Should I mistrust everyone, or just Muslims?

Should I mistrust everyone, or just Muslims?

great question BSR...

BSR: It's just one more bit of evidence in support of Hilzoy's Law of Large Groups: In any group of any significant size, there is at least one person with any trait or belief you'd care to name, unless the group is defined to exclude it. (Thus, the group of nice people does not include any people who are gratuitously cruel.

The first corollary of Hilzoy's Law is, of course, that producing an example of someone from group X who has trait Y proves nothing.

The second corollary is: anyone who tells us that we are 'supposed' to believe that, for instance, all Muslims, without a single exception, accept the parameters of American pluralism is being silly. As, of course, anyone who tells us to believe the same thing about all Christians, Jews, or animists.


I could say the same thing about Evangelical Christians in this country, using Eric Rudolph or some other anti-abortion terrorist as an example.

Probably would be a bit different if they received $, were trained from abroad, sought WMD and high body counts, etc.

Probably would be a bit different if they received $, were trained from abroad, sought WMD and high body counts, etc.

That's it! The killers were seeking WMDs!

Or red herrings, your pick.

Now, with that as background context, let's note some things about this story:

1) The source is not named. Now, journalists sometimes need to rely on anonymous sources when going on the record would threaten someone's safety, liberty, or employment. But it's always a lot less than ideal.

2) The source is not directly quoted, at all.

3) The police seem to be working under the theory that the case is a robbery.

It seems very unlikely that they would do this if a friend of the Armanious' had told him that he had witnessed all this--Armanious' converting people to Christianity, the same people pretending to be converted but really continuing to practice a form of Islam that would justify sharia vigilanteism, the same people knocking on the Armanious' door shortly before their brutal murders, the Armanious' welcoming them into their home--firsthand.

It also seems very unlikely that someone who witnessed all this would be unwilling to talk to the police, but willing to talk to JihadWatch.

So we are dealing with hearsay, at best. And I doubt we're even dealing with that, because I doubt anyone really saw the killers enter the Armanious' apartment & recognized who they were. That part sounds like pure speculation & rumor. I would guess that the stuff about taqiyya is also at least to some extent speculation and rumor--that at most, this is genuinely a close friend of the Armanious family who knows he was trying to convert someone to Christianity & may not have succeeded fully. It's entirely possible that this person doesn't even know the Armanious, and is reporting a rumor that he has heard.

Now. If someone came to me with this story, I would certainly follow up on it. But I would also want to ask some questions before I published--making clear of course that all of this information was off the record if they wanted it that way:

what's your name--I obviously won't publish it if you don't want, but I can't publish anything if I don't know who you are, and one of my editors will also need to know. How did you know the Armanious? For how long? Do you know what church they attended?(& similar questions revealing actual knowledge.) Do you know this first hand or is this just what people are saying? Do you know who specifically he was trying to convert? Why do you believe their conversion was insincere? Did you actually see someone knock on the door the day the died? Have you spoken to the police about this? If not, why not?

I would also have used some direct quotations if at all possible. It's reasonably common for a source to speak not only anonymously but "on background"--meaning that you can use the information as a basis for your reporting but not refer directly to the source or your conservation in any article. Offhand, I don't think I ever encountered a source who was willing to have a paraphrase of our conversation published but not actually be quoted.

Based on the context above, and the rumours that seem to be flying about this case--I'm not saying Spencer fabricated anything, not at all. I would guess someone actually contacted him, claiming to be a friend of the Armanious family & telling a story that resembled what he posted. But how confident are you that Spencer conscientiously verified & accurately paraphrased his source?

Like von said, I'd take it with a heaping of salt, and link to it, if at all, with a bit more caution than "if true".


Did you even read the post I was responding to?

Probably would be a bit different if they received $, were trained from abroad, sought WMD and high body counts, etc.

So those are the criteria which you find acceptable to meet a determination that a group does not accept the parameters of American pluralism? I mean, these guys don't meet any of your critera, but I doubt anyone would mistake them for pluralists. Do you?

(And do you think the infamous "Abortion doctor hit list" counts as "seeking high body counts?" Or do you have to meet all the criteria?")

(Say, you're not just using that favorite tool of yours again, are you?"

I do agree that this act is an "indication that all Muslims in the nation do not, as we are supposed to believe, unanimously accept the parameters of American pluralism. That at least some are willing to enforce Sharia penalties right here, right now."

Wait. There's no proof yet, no determination that this was a hate crime. No proof that Muslims did the killing. Right? And who said we all believe that all Muslims accept the parameters of American pluralism? I don't believe that, any more than I believe that all of any group do.

Lots of assumptions, no facts.


Don't be like that, hun. You know that you are my favorite tool.

indication that all Muslims in the nation do not, as we are supposed to believe, unanimously accept the parameters of American pluralism

is this an appropriate time to pull out the quotes of Rush or Coulter (or any of the rest of the gang) where they tell us how better off the country would be if all the liberals were rounded up, removed and forgotten ?

or maybe... Randall Terry:

    "I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good.... Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a Biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism."

how about Gary Bauer?

    " We are engaged in a social, political, and cultural war. There's a lot of talk in America about pluralism. But the bottom line is somebody's values will prevail. And the winner gets the right to teach our children what to believe."

or Gary North:

    "The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church's public marks of the covenant--baptism and holy communion--must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel."

more? sure. here's Gary Potter:

    "When the Christian majority takes over this country, there will be no satanic churches, no more free distribution of pornography, no more talk of rights for homosexuals. After the Christian majority takes control, pluralism will be seen as immoral and evil and the state will not permit anybody the right to practice evil."

All this and more via moose & squirrel

" Probably would be a bit different if they received $, were trained from abroad, sought WMD and high body counts, etc."

First, What exactly does that have to do with anything?

Second, how does that differ from the bombers that took out the Oklahoma City office building, who also enjoyed local financial support, sought WMD and certainly wanted a high body count. I for one find the idea that American terrorists were seeking WMD's with local financial support to inflict high casualty counts on their fellow American's much more disturbing than the idea of a bunch of forieng Islamic terrorists doing the same.


can you vouche for that site?

I mean, those are not made up quotes, are they?

When the Christian majority takes over this country, there will be no satanic churches, no more free distribution of pornography, no more talk of rights for homosexuals.

No more talk of rights for homosexuals? WTF?

I think I've just found the new #1 on my s&*t list.

And lest anyone think I am making a blanket statement about Christians in this country yor mistaken. I am saying that The first corollary of Hilzoy's Law is correct, ei. you can always find the "bad apple" in any group, projecting the behavior of that "bad apple" onto the entire group is not only just wrong, it's racism IMO.


What's the deal with McVeigh-Padilla connection?

Nor am I calling Charles a racist, I do not think that is the case. I do think he tends to instantly believe things that fit his world view without properly thinking them through to their conclusions or considering the source, but we all do that to some degree.

Gary Potter must think it's the suck to have a name so similar to a witch.

"What's the deal with McVeigh-Padilla connection?"

Go ahead, share your conspiracy theories, I need a laugh. Just keep trying to change the subkect like you always do rather than answer a question or actually engage in debate.

can you vouche for that site?

i know i've read many of those quotes in other sources (Coulter, Ashcroft, Robertson, Phelps, Reagan, Buchanan), and many of the rest have attributions.

though i suppose it's possible the site owner has mixed in real quotes with phony quotes.

so, to answer your question: i can't vouch for the validity of everything on there, and i can only vouch for some of them because i know i've read them in reputable publications. but i wasn't present when any of them were actually spoken or written. and now i'm up against the question of how can i know anything i haven't experienced, so i'll stop.

that Potter quote in particular was the one I was interested in

I was hoping there was a context that made it less frightening.

I'll keep poking around..

thanks for the link...very damning stuff (pun intended)


Change the subject? I? Are you on drugs? Who brought up OKC?????

"Are you on drugs?"

Wouldn't it be nice...?

that Potter quote in particular was the one I was interested in

found a person here who says he/she used that quote in an article written in 1984. so, that one might be a bit hard to find on the web.

Refuting other media reports, investigators said yesterday that religious extremism may not have been the cause of last week's grisly slaying of a family of four in the Jersey City Heights.

The possibility remains that the slayings came during a robbery, Hudson County First Assistant Prosecutor Guy Gregory said yesterday.

He said reports that jewelry was not taken from the home were incorrect; in fact, there was no cash or jewelry found in the Oakland Avenue home, he said.

In addition, autopsies have revealed that the victims - Hossam Armanious, 47; his wife, Amal Garas, 37; and their two children, 15-year-old Sylvia Armanious, and 9-year-old Monica Armanious - bled to death from puncture wounds to their heads, necks and bodies, not from slit throats, as was previously reported.


Ayman Garas, the brother of Amal Garas, lashed out at the press for quoting him as saying that the killings were religiously motivated.

"All I said is, it was weird the way they got killed," Garas said yesterday, speaking at the St. George Church annex on Bergen Avenue. "All I have to say is wait for the police to say."

Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the slayings were the result of a robbery, officials said. The only cash found at the crime scene was "just one penny," Gregory said, and Hossam Armanious' wallet and pockets were empty when police found the bodies early Friday morning. The family reported a robbery last year in which jewelry was stolen, officials said.

"I'm not going to go into details about the scene, but it's clear from an investigation at the scene that his pockets were run and his wallet was empty," Gregory said. "No cash was found in the apartment. There was literally just one penny found in the apartment.

You know, I can understand that you want to create discussion, Charles, but at least have the decency to retitle the post or at least write an update.

I have written an update. I also wrote this in the main post, which most readers seem to have overlooked or ignored: "A very troubling story if true, and I'm sure there's more than meets the eye." Authorities are considering robbery as well as other motivations and they not publicly ruled out anything.

CB - way not to mispell "publicly", which I always do. I at least took "more than meets the eye" to be a claim that it wasn't a simple robbery.

"there is a reasonable amount of circumstantial information to suggest that the Armanious family was murdered for being evangelistic Coptic Christians."

Far as I see "reasonable" rests on one's credence in that site you linked, so a lot of us are going to disagree with you. And for that matter, even if this family was murdered for their beliefs, to convince us (in particular those of us currently worked up about this) the incident is of interest you'd probably need a) to rule out the insane perp hypothesis b) to show this isn't a unique sad event or somehow different from Hindu/Sikh violence here or Religion A/Religion B etc.

Also note that you lead with, "He paid for those beliefs in full, not only with his life but his family's." As far as I know you're not actually asserting that.

What rilkefan said about ruling out not just the possibility that it was a robbery or some sort of non-religiously-motivated crime, but also that it was what I suppose one might call a "normal" religiously motivated crime. I am not an expert on Coptic Christians, but I have encountered them in Egypt, and they are (largely, of course with exceptions) a privileged minority, barred from rising to the top in Egypt by the fact that they are not Muslim, but often quite powerful nonetheless. I spent some time with one Coptic family, and thought: this is what the aristocracy must have been like under Louis XVI: I had the sense of centuries and centuries of privilege all distilled into the people I saw before me, who were cultivated as rare orchids or prizewinning cats, beyond anything I think one could possibly encounter in this country -- the sheer absence of any questioning of their status would be hard to replicate here -- but also capable of being utterly oblivious to how their conduct looked to others. I recall driving with them in Cairo, which is an incredibly crowded city -- sort of like Fifth Avenue right before Christmas, only all the time and city-wide -- and having one of them ask me whether I would like some mango juice, and I said yes (it was hot), whereupon he directed the chauffeur to swerve (without warning) onto the sidewalk, which was crowded with people, and drive right up to a sidewalk mango stand and get some. How we managed not to kill anyone I will never know. And no one seemed to think there was anything the least odd about this. One incident among many.

The point of all this is just to say: the relations between the Copts and other Egyptians is very, very complicated, and there's a large step between saying that X was killed because he was a Copt and saying that X was killed because "the ideology we are fighting abroad is being practiced right here." (If "the ideology we are fighting abroad" is meant to be specific, and not just something general like 'intolerance'.)

None of this is meant to suggest, for a moment, that killing the family would somehow be less reprehensible if done because of non-Islamist religious motives. The point is just that they are different.

About the photo rilkefan references: Gen. LC Christian has found, in my view, the caption to end all captions, especially in view of the other news of that day.

He also has some nifty bumper stickers; if I didn't already have 'Republicans for Voldemort' on my car, I'd consider this one.


But that "priveleged minority" (dhimmi?) probably knows better then to engage into public debates with Muslims in regards to religion (As the murdered Copt from NJ did. Let's not forget the death threat).

Hmmm, LP...longplaying? ;^)

But thank you for the title change and the update. As rilkefan notes, it is probably not as much as a lot of us would like, (Spencer's speculation that it was Muslim 'converts' is especially vile, given that it is not supported by anything but his assumption that Muslims would only convert in order to trick people (Once a muslim, always a muslim?) and Katherine has already pointed out the problems with his citation of taqiyya,) but I appreciate the effort.

I'd also echo hilzoy's post, as the conflicts within immigrant communities are often hidden to members of the majority culture, and these can break out quite violently. See this pdf for a number of rather remarkable incidents in Australia.

More on that "pluralism" [in Britain]:

BRITISH Muslims are to boycott this week’s commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz because they claim it is not racially inclusive and does not commemorate the victims of the Palestinian conflict.

Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, has written to Charles Clarke, the home secretary, saying the body will not attend the event unless it includes the “holocaust” of the Palestinian intifada.

None of this is meant to suggest, for a moment, that killing the family would somehow be less reprehensible if done because of non-Islamist religious motives. The point is just that they are different.

So, what you are saying is that you don't feel the need for hate crime legislation, because all crime is equaly reprehensible?

Stan -- no; in both cases it would still be done out of prejudice against a particular religion (or: denominaion.) I just wanted to say: if it's done for religious reasons, it doesn't follow that those reasons are Islamist, and then to add: not that this makes it better or anything.

BD, just saw the edit. Thanks.

Charles Bird wrote
If the murders are proven not to have been religiously motivated, I will retract and apologize.

New Jersey police announced

Investigators suspect that the pot, found hidden with a handgun in the home of one of two men charged with the slayings, may have been purchased with the intention of being resold to pay off debts.

"It could be explained by their dire need for money. This is an area of the investigation which will be pursued further," said Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio, referring to Edward McDonald and Hamilton Sanchez - the convicted drug dealers who were charged last week with murdering the four members of the Armanious family.

Charles posted his apology in a more recent thread.

Powers-that-be, this is a good candidate for closure, perhaps with a link to the new thread.

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