It has now been definitively established that Esteban Santiago, who opened fire in the baggage claim area of the Fort Lauderdale Airport on January 6, murdering five people, was a convert to Islam who took the name Aashiq Hammad, downloaded jihadist material and recorded himself singing the Islamic confession of faith. The universal mainstream media indifference to these facts is yet another indication of how the prevailing denial and willful ignorance about the jihad threat is hamstringing our opposition to it.
The new revelations came after it was discovered that Santiago/Hammad had told the FBI, in a bizarre incident, that he was being forced to fight for the Islamic State (ISIS). He was also photographed making the one-finger sign that signifies one’s adherence to Islamic monotheism, and which has come to be associated with allegiance to ISIS.
Santiago’s aunt, Maria Ruiz Rivera, claimed that it was all about his mental problems: after he served in the U.S. army in Iraq, she said, “He lost his mind.” But this only raises a larger question: why was he able to join the army in the first place, since Santiago’s enlistment came after his Muslim alter ego, Aashiq Hammad, had downloaded jihad propaganda?
The obvious answer is that to bar him from the army on those grounds would have been “Islamophobic.” Recall that the Fort Hood jihad mass murderer, army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, had been in repeated contact with jihad mastermind Anwar al-Awlaki. But when the FBI agent who was monitoring Hasan’s communications reported these contacts to his superiors, they told him again and again that they had no interest.
Terror researcher Patrick Poole, who for years has tracked what he has dubbed the “known wolf” phenomenon – that is, jihad attacks perpetrated by people who were known to authorities who had turned a blind eye to the threat they posed – details one incident that is as disquieting as it is emblematic:
When the problem of terror recruitment amongst the U.S. Somali community by al-Shabaab became an issue in 2008 and 2009, there were reports in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, which has the second largest Somali population in the country, that al-Shabaab operative Dahir Gurey was fundraising and recruiting for the terrorist group in the area. He later showed up in Minneapolis.
When we told the FBI about it, the response was that our information couldn’t be accurate, because if it were true they would have heard about it from their local Muslim outreach partners.
Esteban Santiago/Aashiq Hammad could have been stopped before he killed anyone. But that would have required an entirely different culture within law enforcement and the media. If such a sea change is not forthcoming, there will be many more Aashiq Hammads.