In Nairobi, well-armed gunmen stormed a shopping mall intending to kill as many people as possible. They asked victims about their religion, sparing the lives of Muslim shoppers.
At least 67 people were killed in the attack. The world rightly sees this as an act of terrorism.
Six years earlier, a well-armed gunman stormed a shopping mall in Salt Lake City, intending to kill as many people as possible. Witnesses say he shouted "Allahu Akbar!" — or "Allah is greatest!" as he opened fire, killing five people before being shot by an off-duty police officer.
Described as a religious Muslim, the gunman reportedly bragged of a jihadist grandfather and attended a mosque suspected of radicalizing him.
Sulejmen Talovic's February 2007 attack is not classified as a terrorist attack, but rather cast as "the act of a madman." In a New York Post column Sunday, writer Paul Sperry wonders why. And he points out that fears of a terrorist attack on an American mall, based on the Kenya attack by the Islamist terrorist group al-Shabaab, ignore the fact that such attacks already have happened here.
The FBI's Salt Lake City special agent in charge said the presence of religious beliefs alone is not enough to designate the shooting a terrorist act. That may be true, Sperry writes, but "it strains credulity that Talovic wasn't animated by his faith. There was an abundance of clues he was motivated at least in part by jihadist impulses."
It is much more than a semantic issue.
Minimizing or outright ignoring the role radical Islam plays in attacks like the Salt Lake City mall raises serious concerns whether "law enforcement can effectively glean and analyze intelligence from the Muslim and immigrant communities to disrupt copycat attacks on malls and other domestic soft targets," Sperry writes.
Read his full column here.