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October 3, 2014 1

Oklahoma Beheading & The Secondary Effect of Terrorist Propaganda

The evo­lu­tion of online ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda has been marked by tar­geted efforts to rad­i­cal­ize and recruit west­ern­ers, often encour­ag­ing them to stage attacks in the U.S. or join ter­ror­ist groups abroad. The influ­ence of this vio­lent pro­pa­ganda, how­ever, goes beyond its intended audience.alton-nolan-via-fb

Alton Nolan, who allegedly beheaded one for­mer coworker and stabbed a sec­ond last week in Okla­homa, did not have any appar­ent ties to ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions or appear to be respond­ing to a spe­cific call for attacks on behalf of any orga­ni­za­tion. But his actions can be viewed as a sec­ondary effect of ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda, which any­one can access with ease.

Nolan’s online activ­ity sug­gests that his inter­est in extrem­ist vio­lence may well have informed his deci­sion to under­take a behead­ing, rather than another form of vio­lence. Some of his Face­book posts, for exam­ple, indi­cate an affin­ity to vio­lent images com­monly prop­a­gated by Islamic extrem­ists. One post from March 2014 fea­tures an image of a behead­ing with text that jus­ti­fies that form of mur­der in Islam, an image of a woman receiv­ing lashes, and an image of a man hold­ing a poster that states “Islam will dom­i­nate the world.” Nolan included a cap­tion that stated “Sharia law will takeover (sic)…Cut the hands off the thieves…Islam is the true religion.”

In June 2014 he posted a screed against Father’s Day together with an image of a mil­i­tant from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He also wrote mul­ti­ple screeds against the U.S. and specif­i­cally the Statue of Lib­erty for allow­ing women to show their hair, sell­ing pork in gro­cery stores, and allow­ing same-sex marriage.

In May 2014, Nolan posted two images of what appear to be fright­ened women along­side quotes from the Qu’ran about pun­ish­ing “unbe­liev­ers” and the sen­tence “These piks aren’t qiute how their gnna be but jst sum piks. (sic)”

Such posts were inter­spersed with posts about UFOs, posts explain­ing why some peo­ple have blond hair, and posts about Black Moores enslav­ing “white Euro­peans” and keep­ing “white harems,” among oth­ers. Those posts are also signed “****InfoFromAMuslim****.”

In late 2013, prior to these posts, Nolan also had a series of posts sug­gest­ing that Blacks are the “true Jews” and dis­cussing Hitler, Neo-Nazis, and the KKK.

An analy­sis of all these posts indi­cates that Nolan was appar­ently fas­ci­nated by the vio­lence por­trayed by Islamic extrem­ism. He attempts to pro­mote him­self by preach­ing it. But he does not appear to have con­nec­tions to rad­i­cal extrem­ism, and the core of his vio­lent ten­den­cies appear per­son­ally motivated.

These sec­ondary effects of ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda were sim­i­larly demon­strated in the case of a mur­der that took place in New Jer­sey in August. The accused per­pe­tra­tor in that case, Ali Muhammed Brown, had a pre­vi­ous crim­i­nal record and is also accused of killing three indi­vid­u­als in Cal­i­for­nia in June. In August, he was allegedly engaged in a rob­bery when he shot a man in a car. When appre­hended, Brown claimed that the mur­der was revenge for U.S. actions in the Mid­dle East.

This was not the first crim­i­nal charge against Alton Nolan, a 30-year-old for­mer employee at a food pro­cess­ing plant in Okla­homa. He had pre­vi­ously been con­victed on drug, resist­ing arrest and escape charges.

Nolan appar­ently con­verted to a rad­i­cal ver­sion of Islam in or around the time he went to prison. In Jan­u­ary 2014, he began sign­ing his Face­book posts and com­ments with the phrase “****InfoFromAMuslim****.”

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October 3, 2014 2

California Takes Lead In Ending School-To-Prison Pipeline

Cal­i­for­nia has once again shown itself to be a leader in pro­mot­ing civil rights and equal­ity for all by ban­ning school sus­pen­sions for K-3rd grade stu­dents and expul­sions for all stu­dents under the sub­jec­tive and often-abused “will­ful defi­ance” stan­dard in the Edu­ca­tion Code.  As part of our mis­sion to fight big­otry of all kinds, ADL has had a long his­tory of sup­port­ing equal access to qual­ity edu­ca­tion for all students—the goal promised in the land­mark Brown v. Board of Edu­ca­tion Supreme Court rul­ing in 1954.  This momen­tous change in Cal­i­for­nia law, which ADL proudly sup­ported, will bring us a sig­nif­i­cant step closer to that ideal.school-to-prison-pipeline

The new law spec­i­fies that a pub­lic school stu­dent in grades 6–12 may be sus­pended for will­ful defiance—which can be as minor as a dress code vio­la­tion or fail­ure to hand in homework—only after the third offense in a school year, and pro­vided that other means of resolv­ing the behav­ioral prob­lems were first attempted.  The law also pro­hibits a school from rec­om­mend­ing that stu­dent for expul­sion solely for will­ful defi­ance.  The law now encour­ages schools to invest in chil­dren rather than resort­ing to harsh out-of-school dis­ci­pline for rel­a­tively minor offenses.  Its pas­sage will ensure that stu­dents remain where they need to be—in class—and not on the streets or in the crim­i­nal jus­tice system.

Although there are many fac­tors that con­tribute to a student’s inabil­ity to thrive in school, the cycle of sus­pen­sions and expul­sions is among the best indi­ca­tors of which stu­dents will drop out.  Stu­dents who drop out of school have more dif­fi­culty find­ing gain­ful employ­ment, have much lower earn­ing power when they are employed, and ulti­mately are more likely to wind up in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.  This trou­bling phenomenon—which dis­pro­por­tion­ately impacts stu­dents of color, stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties, and stu­dents who iden­tify as les­bian, gay, bisex­ual or trans­gen­der—has become known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”  Work­ing to dis­man­tle the pipeline has become a key focus of ADL’s civil rights and edu­ca­tion agendas.

Both the Los Ange­les Uni­fied School Dis­trict and the San Fran­cisco Uni­fied School Dis­trict have already com­pletely banned sus­pen­sions and expul­sions for will­ful defi­ance, tak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant step towards dis­man­tling the school-to-prison pipeline.  California’s new statewide law will sun­set in three and a half years.  Dur­ing this time, ADL will be work­ing with coali­tion part­ners on new bills and ini­tia­tives to strengthen pro­tec­tions for stu­dents and develop addi­tional alter­na­tive meth­ods for chang­ing neg­a­tive stu­dent behav­iors with pos­i­tive interventions.

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October 3, 2014 0

Sectarian Legislative Prayer – Walking In The Religious Minority’s Shoes

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent leg­isla­tive prayer deci­sion (Greece v. Gal­loway) gen­er­ally sanc­tions sec­tar­ian prayers before meet­ings of local leg­isla­tive bod­ies except for the most egre­gious cir­cum­stances.  In oppos­ing the Court’s deci­sion, Jus­tice Elana Kagan astutely con­cluded that “[w]hen the cit­i­zens of this coun­try approach their gov­ern­ment, they do so only as Amer­i­cans, not as mem­bers of one faith or another.  And that means that even in a partly leg­isla­tive body, they should not con­front government-sponsored wor­ship that divides them along reli­gious lines.”  At a recent county com­mis­sion meet­ing, a local com­mis­sioner may have expe­ri­enced the les­son of Jus­tice Kagan’s admonition.seal-of-escambia-county

The Escam­bia County, FL Com­mis­sion allows sec­tar­ian invo­ca­tions at its pub­lic meet­ings by a com­mu­nity mem­ber of any faith or reli­gion.  At the Sep­tem­ber 25th Com­mis­sion meet­ing, David Suhor, who is Pagan, recited a pagan prayer song “call­ing of the direc­tions north, east, south and west.”  Regard­ing his prayer, Mr. Suhor later stated “[i]n a way I would like for other peo­ple to expe­ri­ence what it’s like when I go to a meet­ing and am asked to pray against my conscience.”

Mr. Suhor’s prayer appar­ently offended at least one per­son in the room. Accord­ing to a news report, County Com­mis­sioner Wil­son Robert­son, “left the room because of his Chris­t­ian beliefs,” and he stated “[p]eople may not real­ize it, but when we invite some­one a min­is­ter to pray they are pray­ing for the county com­mis­sion­ers for us to make wise deci­sions and I’m just not going to have a pagan or satanic min­is­ter pray for me.”

ADL opposes sec­tar­ian leg­isla­tive prayer prac­tices because of the reli­gious exclu­sion and divi­sion result­ing from them – par­tic­u­larly for reli­gious minori­ties.  If the com­mis­sioner does not want a com­mu­nity mem­ber to pray for him in a faith that offends his con­science, per­haps he and other com­mis­sion mem­bers should adopt a moment of silence pol­icy or at least a non-sectarian invo­ca­tion policy.

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