May 4, 2015
Former U.S. State Department counterterrorism chief Daniel Benjamin, now director of Dartmouth’s Dickey Center for International Understanding, is available to comment on the implications of the attack at a Texas anti-Islam event.
One of the two gunmen killed by police after they opened fire at a contest for Prophet Mohammed cartoons has been identified as a jihadist terrorism suspect who had previously been charged by federal authorities.
“The attack in Texas is another demonstration of how extremists have become especially motivated to take action to counter what they perceive as blasphemy or defamation of the Prophet. We saw this in the Charlie Hebdo attacks, in Copenhagen and in other attacks in Pakistan and Bangladesh. The feeling that there is an imperative to do so, combined with the sense that the jihadist movement is at a high-water mark ― that ISIS is on a roll ― is prompting militants to carry out these ‘individual acts of jihad’ and show that they are part of the larger movement,” Benjamin says. “You have to ask whether this attack in Texas is a worthy exercise of free speech or simply a provocation. Just because we have a constitutionally guaranteed right doesn’t mean it is wise or admirable to offend others or endanger lives. This looks like a stunt in the same vein as Terry Jones’s burning of the Koran.”
Benjamin is available to comment at Daniel.Benjamin@dartmouth.edu