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Paris: Mounting Evidence Points to Al Qaeda Link, West Debates Islam and 'Extremism'

In addition to their persistent assertions that radical Islamist terrorism bears no connection to broader Islam, another narrative to which much of the left-leaning media clings is the suggestion that the
Charlie Hebdo massacre was the work of a "lone wolf" -- or wolves, in this case.  That phrase, along with "home grown," has peppered the airwaves since Wednesday morning (via Grabien):

The impulse here is understandable.  So-called "lone wolves" are easier to separate from thorny religious questions, and (sometimes justifiably) lump into the mental illness category; plus, a number of lethal attacks carried out by jihadists have more or less fit this bill in recent memory. Think, for instance, of various Western beheadings, Fort Hood, Sydney, and even Boston.  But in the case of the Paris bloodbath, additional evidence points to an orchestrated jihadist plot.  Katie mentioned earlier that one of the suspects has a terrorism-related conviction on his rap sheet, and a former deputy director of the CIA tells CBS News there's a "good possibility" that the deadly operation was directed by Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP):

CBS News has learned that the two brothers suspected in the massacre at a French satirical newspaper this week have connections to Yemen, and previous links to al Qaeda in Iraq...a senior intelligence source told CBS News on Thursday that both men are known long-term jihadists, and were known to French officials. One of the men was convicted in 2008 of recruiting fighters in France to go and fight in Iraq. He was jailed for 18 months. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the branch of the terror network considered to represent the most immediate threat to the U.S. and other Western nations, is based in Yemen. A witness to the attack on Wednesday said one of the men claimed to be acting on behalf of "al Qaeda in Yemen" during the shooting. CBS News contributor and former deputy CIA director Mike Morrell said Thursday on "CBS This Morning" that, given the apparent link to Yemen, "there's a good possibility we're looking at an al Qaeda in Yemen-directed attack."

Terrorism experts say the calm, calculated execution of the attack suggests the terrorists were well trained and well equipped.  Said one, "[the attackers] were people who did not look like they were wild, on some kind of spree, but who were accomplishing a military operation.”  Some on the Left are uncritically swallowing reports that at least one of the terrorists was supposedly radicalized by the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, which took place a decade ago and resulted in punishment for the abusers.  This accusation presents a chance to blame "Bush's war" for the evil acts of demented killers, a temptation too strong for some to resist.  These people get to make their apologies for radical Islamist violence while placing the moral onus on politicians they despise.  If they want to pit the West against itself, every murderous jihadist should attribute his actions to controversial policies -- from Gitmo, to waterboarding, to fill-in-the-blank.  Some Westerners will be all too eager to gobble up the self-justification.  Former federal prosecutor and terrorism authority Andy McCarthy also beats back the "homegrown" moniker, arguing that it's misleading:

There is no “homegrown” Islamic terrorism in the West. Being born in a Western country, or being resident in one at the time of “radicalization,” does not mean one’s terrorism is “homegrown.” What grows a terrorist in Paris – or New York, London, Madrid, Hamburg, etc. – is not his environs; it is Islamic supremacist ideology. That ideology is not Western; indeed, it is virulently hostile to the West. That it has been injected here does not make it of here.

Which returns us once again to Islam's central role in this poisonous ideology, and the adjudication of how tiny a minority the "extremists" actually represent.  An Islamist activist essentially justified the attacks in the pages of USA Today, explicitly arguing that true Islam does not believe in freedom of speech and expression.  The publication of this piece was controversial in itself, but on balance, it was probably a useful development.  It serves as an object lesson to those who'd prefer to spout platitudes and bury their heads in the sand.  These are the things that millions upon millions of Muslims really believe.  Bill Maher -- who's been a consistent voice on this issue -- took his message to Twitter and to Jimmy Kimmel's ABC show last night:

"It's not my fault that that part of the world that is most against liberal principles is the Muslim part of the world...I know most Muslim people would not have carried out an attack like this, but here's the important point: Hundreds of millions of them support an attack like this."

Kimmel finds that statement tough to swallow, but Maher says there are "studies" and "facts" that back it up. Allahpundit 
points out that there may not be direct polling on that specific question, but plenty of breadcrumbs exist. We've underscored over the last few days: Many, many Muslims hold profoundly illiberal views on issues from the imposition of oppressive Sharia legal regimes, to the proper punishment for leaving Islam, to the moral justification of suicide bombings. Regarding Mohammad cartoons specifically, a super majority of British Muslims said in 2006 that publishing them should be a criminal offense (follow that link, and read the last few paragraphs), and most Muslims worldwide say the ugly repercussions of this form of free speech is the fault of the West's "disrespect."  Do people who believe in the jailing or killing of satirists and journalists who offend their sensibilities qualify as "moderate"? And if not, given their large numbers, can we continue to characterize them as a tiny fraction of Muslims who don't even deserve to be associated with broader Islam?  These are the questions many Westerners do not wish to confront.  Maher says Americans' refusal to grapple honestly with this issue is proof of our growing status as a "p*ssy nation."  A quick look around our mainstream media's reaction to Charlie Hebdo suggests that he's depressingly correct.  I'll leave you with this quote:


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