Skip to comments.How Normal Is Norman?
Posted on 01/11/2006 7:27:58 PM PST by concretebob
Norman, Oklahoma (population 100,923), is as American heartland as it gets. So on October 1, 2005, when Joel Hinrichs III, a 21-year-old Colorado Springs, Colorado engineering student at the University of Oklahoma strapped explosives to his body and blew himself up outside the college stadium where 84,000 fans were watching a Saturday-night football game, thus earning the town the distinction as home to America's first suicide bomber, I was, well, curious. Within 24 hours of the event, three players in the unfolding story issued statements aimed at quashing rumors that the bombing was terrorist related.
University President David Boren, in letters to students, faculty and staff, focused on allaying security fears and not drawing inferences from the rumors: Just because Hinrichs blew himself up with TATP (an ingredient that is the hallmark of Middle Eastern terrorists' bombs), and just because Hinrichs' roommate, Fazal Cheema, was a foreign student from Pakistan, no inferences to Islamic terrorism should be made. "We should not judge others or jump to conclusions on the basis of color, race, gender, economic status or freely exercised religious beliefs," Boren wrote.
The FBI confirmed that a second cache of TATP explosives was found inside the apartment Hinrichs and Cheema shared. The bomb squad removed the lethal ingredients and exploded them off campus; according to a witness I interviewed, the explosion was heard five miles away. As to the suggestion of a larger terror plot, the Feds were firm: "At this time, there is no known link between Hinrichs and any terrorist or extremist organization(s) or activities."
Because of Hinrichs' Pakistani roommate, newspaper reporters questioned whether there was a Muslim connection. Mohammad Elyazgi, a spokesman for the Masjid An-Nur Islamic mosque in Norman, addressed journalists who asked if Hinrichs, whose photo in newspapers showed him sporting a beard, had recently converted to Islam. "We had never seen him until we saw his picture in the media," Elyazgi told reporters.
Elyazgi shared stories with the press about the racism that he, his family and other Muslims in Norman felt after 9/11 -- how he kept his "children at home for several days" for fear of retaliation. Elyazgi talked about the "chills" he felt when Hinrichs' bomb went off, how a "silent prayer" went through him, and how he hoped no one would "associate the incident with the Norman mosque." Elyazgi underscored Islam's commitment to pacifism: "Islam forbids suicide, and Muslims condemn all acts of violence."
Sometimes a Cigar Is Just a Cigar As I began investigating the suicide bombing in Norman, I was reminded by my editors of the Freudian adage: sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a death-by-suicide bombing is just that. But this Freud/cigar idea got me thinking: Maybe sometimes a credential is just a credential. How do we know to believe the messengers? University President Boren is well credentialed (a former Governor of Oklahoma, a former U.S. Senator and former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence), and the FBI has its own unique credentials. But who is Mohammad Elyazgi? What achievements, personal qualities and background activities lend him credence?
In investigating Elyazgi's credentials, I was referred to and spoke with Mitchell Gray, a Norman resident and immigration attorney. Gray -- a former Operation Desert Storm JAG officer and Arabic speaker -- has been working on a book about extreme Muslims in America who disguise themselves as moderates. I asked Gray about Elyazgi, and Gray said, "Mr. Elyazgi and his family have made themselves public figures. They wear the cloak of officialdom. It's time Mr. Elyazgi officially explains his close ties to terrorists." Gray provided me with some interesting public-record documents in which Elyazgi's name has appeared.
To give Mr. Elyazgi an opportunity to respond to the documents, I called him at his office in the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. I asked him if he stood personally by the statement he made on behalf of the mosque: "Islam forbids suicide, and Muslims condemn all acts of violence."
"Of course," he said.
I asked him to explain his relationship to a man named Mufid Abdulqader. I had reviewed 1995 court documents that list Elyazgi and Abdulqader as co-owners of Sinbad Greek & International Food in Oklahoma and as co-defendants on fraud and failure to pay charges (Case No.: CJ95 2176-66).
"You mean Mufid?" he asked.
"Yes, Mufid Abdulqader," I repeated.
"We're just friends."
"So you don't have a business relationship with Mufid Abdulqader?" I asked.
"No, no business relationship," he stated emphatically.
I told him about the documents I had in front of me.
Elyazgi changed his tune. He also seemed to lose his grip on the English language. "Me and him were together in business. In small shop."
I asked Elyazgi to comment on his former business partner's indictment on terrorism charges.
"He's a normal person," Elyazgi said. "He's an activist."
Abdulqader, who formerly worked for the Department of Transportation in Oklahoma and later in Texas, was recently indicted on terrorism charges for being a fundraiser for HAMAS (a Palestinian Islamist movement), one of the most violent jihadist terrorist organizations in the world.
Why Isn't Norman Newsworthy? Throughout 2005, suicide bombings were daily news. In the same month that Hinrichs exploded himself, 19 suicide bombers around the world killed 180 people and injured another 420 -- in supermarkets and restaurants and houses of worship, according to statistics offered by a website called www.thereligionofpeace.com. Those suicide bombers became news -- headline news. And yet the suicide bombing in Norman caused hardly a ripple in the media.
Norman, Oklahoma, is mentioned in the intelligence report prepared by the House and the Senate on the 9/11 terrorist attacks; this report, which Congress has declassified, references known terrorists' activities in Norman, Oklahoma, no less than 17 times. In examining this and other U.S. government documents, a disturbing portrait emerges: Norman, Oklahoma, has been associated with terrorist activity ever since Osama Bin Laden's personal pilot, Mohamed Ihab Ali, went to Norman to take flying lessons back in 1993.
It's true, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. But sometimes, when you peel away the layers, you find something else.
Annie Jacobsen, author of Terror in the Skies: Why 9/11 Could Happen Again, writes about business, finance and terrorism for a variety of national and international magazines and webzines. A graduate of Princeton University, she lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and two sons.
If you would like to send Annie Jacobsen an email, please click HERE.
Someone was asking about this recently
Thanks for the ping.
Also, Norman Oklahoma is not that far from another terrorist bombing that had middle eastern connections--the OKC bombing. I didn't realize just how close Norman is to OKC until I checked the map.
The presence of terrorists in the area goes back earlier than 1993.
Damn! I hadn't even HEARD about this.
Ms. Jacobson might want to contact Ms. Davis and compare notes.
Just for S&Gs, and possibly tips on basic survival techniques.
It is. It's just not PC. The American people better wake up now - before it's too late.
How do these people get cushy government jobs so easily? Who are their sponsors? What were their qualifications? Exactly why were they hired? Sure seems strange to me that they both worked in State department of transportation offices in Oklahoma and Texas. I have to wonder just what the ramifications are of a confirmed terrorist (Abdulqader) working in these offices.
Ummm...we cannot discriminate in this country, remember? The Islamists said "We will use their democracy to destroy their democracy." And that is precisely what they are attempting to do. They are infiltrating every institution in this country.
I'm just an ignorant peasant, who am I to question my government?
"The presence of terrorists in the area goes back earlier than 1993."
After the fall of Iran, many iranians moved to Norman. At the time, it seemed like a lot. But maybe that is the way it was elsewhere too. Huge racial tension during the hostage crisis. Many iranians couldn't understand the racism because they were escaping from the Shiite muslims also because they thrived under the Shah. Maybe there never was a full integration of cultures and thus causing it to be a breeding ground of discontent. Who knows. I do know that one family did extremely well and their company is like the second largest homebuilder in the state and they are headquartered in Norman.
Read the book "Infiltration"......scary!
You mean the lone, suicide bomber that the Norman PD had to take the contents of his car and apartment to the bomb disposal area in about 18 trips because if they had done it all at once it would have taken out a city block if it exploded? Then it rattled windows all over Norman with a loud blast including mine which is about five miles away. I was in that stadium that night when the bomb went off and you could see the puff of smoke rising from the "lone" suicide bomber that didn't want to hurt anyone. (sarcasm)
There is much more to this story but when you cannot get two sources on record, the story dies.
There was also said to be a large contingent of Saddam's Republican Guard that went to Oklahoma after the first Gulf War.
You have contributed a great deal to these threads. At least some of us know some of what went on. And have suspicions as to the rest.
Many former military men in the Shah's Iran moved to areas in the USA near military bases, particularly Air Force Bases. Some former officers had jobs with the military. This is true of Lubbuck, (Reese AFB) Texas and other N. Texas and Oklahoma bases. Norman has a US NAVAL AIR STATION