News and Commentary

MILLER: Toronto Shooter: Mentally Ill Or Jihadist?

Most mentally ill people are harmless. If the mentally ill were a violent threat to public safety, you wouldn’t be able to walk down Market Street in San Francisco without fearing for your life.

The Toronto mass murderer has been portrayed by his family as a tormented young man struggling with mental illness and depression and incapable of being helped by treatments.

We keep hearing the same explanation about Muslim murderers across Western society, begging the question rather than answering it: Why do mentally ill Muslims kill infidels and not other Muslims who are more likely to be in their social space? Why do so many acts of Muslim violence in the West target Jews, gays, and women?

The explanations for these crimes are almost uniformly at the psychological level, as if socialization no longer plays a role in our understanding of human behavior.

The mental-illness explanation is becoming as worn as it is meaningless and is an insult to those people facing the challenges of mental illness.

As a society, we in the West are loath to publicly admit that within Islam there is a strain of fundamentalist violence that is highly contagious and against which many in the Muslim community fail to take precautions.

Even moderate Islamic congregations will invite speakers whose sermons contain incitements to violence. Rather than acknowledge this, there is a circling of the wagons and the worn excuse that the remarks were lifted out of context or they don’t mean what non-Muslims think they mean.

The rise of a virulent, violent anti-Semitism in Europe is a product of that hatred, as is the acceleration of theological and cultural rationales for the bashing of gays and the raping of “infidel” women. Europe has finally admitted what has been obvious to ordinary citizens for years: no-go areas do exist, where infidels fear to go and sharia is the moral norm.

To ignore the sociological conditions that Islam promotes and to focus solely on a psychological theory that mental illness explains acts of violence perpetrated by Muslims on select targets strains our sense of credulity. While the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not violent and while there are many strains of Islam, across continents Islam produces a disproportionate amount of violence, and migration from Muslim countries increases the incidence of violent behavior in countries where Muslims settle.

Of course, some of this is explained by other sociological factors such as cultural conflict and poverty; but for elites and the media to routinely dismiss Islam as not even a contributing or a catalytic factor is to manipulate reality to fit a socio-political agenda. Worse, it undermines the public’s faith in social and political institutions, for the elites are unwilling to tell us what is painfully obvious to everyone.

As Hannah Arendt so brilliantly noted in The Origins of Totalitarianism, one of the greatest devices of propaganda is to convince the masses that there is a truth that is being hidden from them. In contemporary Western society, there is no need for propagandists to invent that. It occurs with each act of Islamist-related violence and the rush to excuse it.

Was the Toronto shooter even mentally ill? We have the family’s word for that, but people who knew him seemed unaware of his illness. So far, no one has produced a record of a confinement for mental illness or even treatment. The Canadian media repeated the family’s statements, and the repetition of those statements by different but not independent sources created an illusion of credibility.

Then, there are the shootings. The handgun was a .40 caliber. It has a recoil like a mule’s kick. It takes a lot of practice to comfortably shoot a handgun like that, handle the recoil, and hit something. The Toronto shooter appeared to be a very good shot, even able to hit his targets while on the move. No one who has never shot a high-caliber handgun could possibly appreciate the skill that takes. In addition, he was able to reload while moving – something that police and military learn to do but ordinary gun owners do not. How did he acquire those skills and where did he practice them?

If the Canadian government and a sycophantic media are yet again covering up an act of terrorism as mental illness, then the deception will cause far more harm than letting the truth emerge.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow: @salomoncenter