Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nigerian Editors Killing Macebuh Twice with Bad Grammar

By Farooq A. Kperogi
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

I’m still inconsolably crestfallen over the distressing death of the late Dr. Stanley Macebuh. He was my boss when I worked at the Presidential Villa in Abuja in 2003. But this piece is not a dirge for Macebuh; it’s a lamentation of the brutal murder of elementary grammar by Nigerian editors on account of his death.

The Macebuh I worked with was a compulsive, uncompromising stickler for grammatical correctness and completeness who would most certainly be utterly mortified, petrified even, were he to read the statement the Nigerian Guild Editors issued on May 7 to mourn his heartrending departure from us.
Dr. Stanley Macebuh
A statement signed by Gbenga Adefaye, president of the Nigeria Guild of Editors and editor of the Vanguard, contains the following sentences: “Years after he had left the business of journalism for think tank job for government, his imprint on quality press remained [sic] indelible. His cult-like following for journalism [sic] essence continue [sic] to influence professional thoughts and processes in Nigeria.”

I had to double-check with many other Nigerian newspapers to be sure that Adefaye’s statement, which I first read in the Vanguard (the paper he edits), was not mangled by the proverbial printer’s devil. And, sure enough, it turns out that the quotation above is faithful to the original.

“Think tank job for government”? What the blooming heck is that? Isn’t a “think tank” (also called a “think factory” or a “policy institute”) a company that does research and advocacy for hire? Is the statement implying that Macebuh had worked for some policy institute that was funded by government instead of working directly for the government? Or is that just an incompetent way to say that he was part of the intellectual nucleus of many governments, which he indeed was?

And what in the Sam Hill is “imprint on quality press”? Coming from a journalist—and an editor at that—this is particularly inexcusable. First, although the word “imprint” can be used metaphorically to connote distinctive influence, it is also a publishing and journalistic jargon that means an identification of a publisher's address or of a newspaper’s top editorial team, often printed in a prominent location in a book, a newspaper, or a newsmagazine.

And, as a journalist, Adefaye should know that “quality press” is a fixed phrase used to denote a particular size of newspaper—and the brand of journalism that has come to be associated with that size, especially in the UK press tradition. It usually encapsulates a category of newspapers that is hallmarked by a national circulation and that appeals to the tastes of the intellectual and political elite. “Quality press” used to be called “broadsheets” until several UK “broadsheet” newspapers adopted the tabloid-size format.

The opposite of “quality press” is “tabloid press,” which is supposedly sensational, obsessed with celebrities, and gossip-filled.

Most Nigerian newspapers are tabloid-size but most of them have the editorial temperaments of “broadsheets” or “quality press.” The only Nigerian newspaper that is, to a large extent, “tabloid” both in size and in content is Uzor Kalu’s the Sun.

So the phrase “imprint on quality press” just comes across as ill-digested journalistic gobbledygook and pontifical hooey inexpertly grafted onto popular speech. What’s wrong with saying “his influence on quality Nigerian journalism HAS remained [not “remained” since his influence is supposed to still abide with us even after his death] indelible?” Note that “quality journalism” conveys a difference sense from “quality press,” especially in British English.

And then this: “His cult-like following for journalism [sic] essence continue [sic] to influence professional thoughts and processes in Nigeria.” I almost threw up when I read that. So Dr. Macebuh somehow magically replicated himself into scores of zealous Macebuhs? Or how else could he alone constitute a “cult-like following?” The phrase “cult-like following” is often used to either literally describe fanatical followers or enthusiasts of a creed or to figuratively refer to a group of people who have an unquestioned obeisance to an inspirational figure, as in “The professor has a cult-like following among students.”

Perhaps, Adefaye intended to convey the sense that Macebuh had an exceptional commitment to the virtues of high-quality journalism. If that is the case, why not just state it in such simple, unambiguous terms? Why strain hard to employ expressions that the writer clearly has no understanding of and never bothered to cross-check? Besides, “journalism essence” (whatever in the world that means) is a singular subject and so the verb in the sentence, that is, “continue” should take an “s.” That is the basic rule of “subject-verb agreement” we all learned in high school.

If these embarrassing errors had been committed by any other person, he might be forgiven. But a statement by the umbrella organization of Nigerian editors signed by the editor of one of the nation’s leading newspapers—and about a man who was so central to the development of modern Nigerian journalism? That’s just so unpardonable.

As if these solecisms are not egregious enough, I saw this also: “Macebuh, a man of style and panache was remarkable not just for his pioneering roles in the establishment of a good newspaper like the Guardian and others like the defunct Post Express which first hit the Internet in Nigeria and the Sentinel in Kaduna, he was noted for talent head hunt for quality journalism in Nigeria.” Good gracious! Where does one begin?

OK, so the Guardian and the Post Express first hit the Internet in Nigeria and then went ahead thereafter and hit the Sentinel in Kaduna? Guardian and Post Express must love hitting a lot! I didn’t know that there was something called “the Internet in Nigeria” that newspapers can “hit.” And what in heaven’s name is “talent head hunt”?

But, seriously, Adefaye probably wanted to write something like: “Macebuh, a man of style and panache, [notice the comma] was remarkable not just for his pioneering role in the establishment of a good newspaper like the Guardian but also for the role he played in establishing the defunct Post Express, the first Nigerian newspaper to have a Web presence, and for setting up the defunct Sentinel in Kaduna. He was also noted for talent hunt for quality journalism in Nigeria.”

Macebuh must be turning in his grave. That’s cruelly unfair. He should be allowed to rest in peace.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Blue-Eyed, Blond-Haired, White American Women Terrorists!

By Farooq A. Kperogi

The American news media has been obsessing over the arrest of two blue-eyed, blond-haired, pale-skinned, suburban white American women identified as 46-year-old Colleen LaRose and 31-year-old Jamie Paulin-Ramirez for alleged involvement in a terrorist plot.

LaRose, also known as Fatima or Jihad Jane, is allegedly a recent Muslim convert who had reputedly admitted to being "desperate to do something" about the humiliation of Muslims worldwide by the Western hegemonic power structure. According to U.S. federal indictment charges against her, she said she is particularly desirous of aiding other militants to murder Swedish artist Lars Vilks who recently drew blasphemous pictures of the prophet of Islam.

In furtherance of her determination to assassinate the irreverent Swedish cartoonist she, in cahoots with her co-conspirators, traveled to Europe. "I will make this [killing the artist] my goal till I achieve it or die trying," she was quoted to have said in March last year.

An Associated Press report said in online conversations with her machinators and handlers in February last year, which were intercepted by U.S. counter-terrorism agents, LaRose boasted that her blue eyes, blond hair and pale skin—treasured phenotypic “Caucasian” lineaments that insulate people from the prospect of being criminalized in the Western popular imagination—would arm her with the decoy to “blend in with many people” in Europe, which “may be a way to achieve what is in my heart.”

LaRose, who hails from the northern U.S. state of Pennsylvania, also offered to recruit other blond-haired, blue-eyed, pale-skinned white women conspirators whose culturally prized physiognomy would help them escape the radar of security agencies.

And she succeeded in enlisting a number of women who fit that description, including one Paulin-Ramirez, a recent Muslim convert from the west-central U.S. state of Colorado. She was also arrested in Ireland while plotting to murder Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, along with a Libyan and an Algerian.
Jamie Paulin-Ramirez

Paulin-Ramirez’s stepfather, identified as George Mott, has actually been a Muslim for more than 40 years, but his stepdaughter converted to Islam only after relating with an Algerian man online whom she has married. Her mother, Christina Mott, who is a Christian, told the press that when her daughter discussed the subject of Jihad with her Muslim stepfather, George Mott, she told him “she'd strap a bomb for the cause [of Islam].”

In LaRose and Paulin-Ramirez—and perhaps many others that have not yet come to light— the worst fears of the American intelligence and counter-terrorism community—that Al-Qaida could infiltrate the American society and recruit murderers from the most unlikely demographic categories and thereby throw asunder the settled certainties about the profile of potential terrorists— have uncannily materialized.

Similarly, the overweening cocksureness among conservative Americans about the propriety of racially and ethnically profiling only non-white Muslim males in the fight against terrorism has been exploded beyond repair. Just this past January, for instance, Sen. James Inhofe, a conservative Republican Senator representing the south-central U.S. State of Oklahoma, proposed that only nonwhite Muslim males between the ages of 20 and 53 should be profiled, and “not my wife.”

The phrase “not my wife” is, of course, a rhetorical stand-in for white American women—who have over the years enjoyed the privilege, in American culture, of being approvingly stereotyped as guiltless, harmless, virtuous angels.

Now that this narrative has been ruptured, one is left to wonder if all people who share the same demographic characteristics as these blue-eyed, blond-haired ladies will henceforth be subjected to invidiously intrusive scrutiny at airports and elsewhere.

That’s precisely what the U.S. government has been subjecting Nigerians to in the wake of the attempted December 25, 2009 terrorist attack on a Northwest airline allegedly by a Nigerian. All Nigerians—irrespective of their religious affiliations, ethnic identities, personal beliefs, etc—have now been tarred with the same brush on account of the lone act of attempted terror by one individual.

And this has been the fate of Middle Easterners who have had the misfortune to share the same race, nationality, and religion as people who commit heinous acts of terrorism.

Interestingly, in the same month that Senator Inhofe made the inflammatory remark about the necessity to profile all nonwhite Muslim males between the ages of 20 and 35, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned about the possible emergence of “blond-haired, blue-eyed” terrorists and correctly concluded that racial profiling “draws an investigator's attention toward too many innocent people, and away from too many dangerous ones.”

Obviously, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee members were already aware of the activities of these “blue-eyed, blond-haired” women terrorists when they issued their well-stated caution. LaRose had been arrested since October 2009, that is, more than two months before the Abdul-Mutallab incident. But she was only formally charged last week.

The truth is that terrorists, homicidal thugs, murderous fanatics—or other scum of the earth who make life miserable for innocents—are often an unrepresentative minority of any group of people. No nation, race, religion, or demographic category has the exclusive preserve of bad people. We are all one big human family. The superficial physical and geographic characteristics that differentiate us don't define our humanity; they are incidental to it.

I hope these women’s arrest drives home that abiding, elemental truth.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Conspiracy Theories, Women’s Rights and Nigerian Child Geniuses

By Farooq A. Kperogi

What a weird title for this week’s column! What have conspiracy theories got to do with women’s rights and Nigerian child geniuses? Well, this schizophrenic headline actually encapsulates the dilemma I faced when I sat down to write this week’s column.

A whole host of competing ideas kept jostling for prominence in my mind. Should I respond to the letter I published here last week where a reader made several claims on and mischaracterizations of both my take on the conspiracy theories on Umar Farouk Abdul-Mutallab and the meaning of the notion of conspiracy theory?

Or should I suspend that till another time and instead do a comparative analysis of women’s rights in America and Nigeria in the spirit of the International Women’s Day? Or should I write about the record-shattering accomplishments of two Nigerian infant prodigies in Britain who passed A-level mathematics exams at the age of 7?

Well, I decided that since these are all time-sensitive issues, I will write a few lines on all three of them, hence the awkward title.

Conspiracy theories
Most of what Al-Amin Abba wrote in response to my article isn’t worthy of a response. But his claim that “conspiracy theories” are “potent analytical tools” and that quoting “American sources” to support a conspiracy theory about America makes such a “theory” hold water would have been laughable if it wasn’t outrageously na├»ve.

“Conspiracy theory” is, by definition, a pejorative label used to describe fringe, unscientific, uncorroborated explanations that attribute historical or contemporary events to grand, scheming, almost superhuman and perpetually conniving, conspiracists. To describe this as a “potent analytical tool” is beyond ignorant.

There are conspiracy theories about everything in the world. There are, for instance, conspiracy theories about Islam that are too blasphemous to repeat here. And they quote Muslim sources to support their claims. Would Mr. Abba regard them as credible and as being “potent analytical tools” on account of deriving the basis for their claims from Muslim sources?

There are, for that matter, conspiracy theories about conspiracy theory itself! People who compulsively churn out or believe in conspiracy theories, for instance, have been psychologized as suffering from such mental disorders as paranoia, denial, schizophrenia, and what’s called “mean world syndrome.”

I, of course, strongly disagree with this. As a communication scholar, I know enough to know that conspiracy theories flourish in an atmosphere of insufficient or non-existent official information or of widespread, often well-founded, incredulity over the authenticity of official versions of events.

But whatever it is, conspiracy theory is NOT an “analytical tool.” And my article was not a response to any single individual, as the writer suggested. I was merely wondering aloud why the theories don’t factor in a major component of the events leading up to Mutallab’s alleged act. A few weeks ago, however, I read an American conspiracy theorist who claimed that the senior Mutallab is, in fact, a CIA agent who willfully sacrificed his son in the service of a grand “illuminati” agenda for world domination! How bizarre!!

Nigerian vs. American women workers
I have always wanted to compare the rights and privileges of the Nigerian woman worker to those of her counterpart in America. This desire derives from my discovery that, in spite of appearances to the contrary, the Nigerian woman worker appears to have a better deal than her American counterpart in at least one respect: the privilege of maternity leave with full pay.

I have taught a final-year class on media management for the past two years, and one of the things that have always struck me when we discuss the subject of “women in the media” is the profound surprise my students show when I tell them that Nigerian women workers (including journalists) enjoy a three-month maternity with full pay each time they are pregnant.

American women don’t enjoy that “luxury.” When they get pregnant, they are often forced to choose between family and career. The most generous offer they can get from their workplace is a one-month maternity leave without pay. Leaving their jobs for three consecutive months in the name of maternity leave will get them fired.

Yet, women here are so politically powerful that I have often been tempted to describe America as a social matriarchy. Women have won the rights and the power to send their husbands to prison for “spousal rape,” for instance. In the event of a divorce, they win and take all—child custody, alimony, child and spousal support, you name it. They are literally the heads of families here; they make household spending decisions, give names to children, and so on.

In spite of these powers, which would make women elsewhere green with envy, American women have not been able to get their society to grant them something as elemental as a three-month maternity leave to take care of their newborns. I wonder if Nigerian women workers would change places with their American counterparts.

Nigerian child geniuses in Britain
Two Nigerian twins, Paula and Peter Imafidon, called “Wonder Twins” by the British press, made news two years ago when they broke a record by passing Advanced-level mathematics at the tender of 7. They are back in the news again: They are going to high school at the age of 9, the youngest age ever for anybody to enroll in high school in the history of British education.

Unfortunately, the British press is denying Nigeria the luxury to vicariously share in the glory of these young geniuses. The media almost always never mention the kids’ Nigerian heritage. They merely describe them as “inner city” kids (a euphemism for poor black kids) and attribute their prodigy to the excellence of inner city schools.

A friend of mine who is incensed by this wrote: “Contrast this with the Mutallab story where his Nigerian roots were loudly pronounced in every single paragraph. He too got all the help his rich father could buy from Mother Britain and see what he turned into. This is the international media for you.”
What more can I add to that?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Top 10 Irritating Errors in American English

By Farooq A. Kperogi

Last Thursday (March 4) was the National Grammar Day in America. Started in 2004 and celebrated every March 4, the day is set aside to “bring awareness to good, clean English.” It is promoted by the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG) and has been growing in popularity and acceptance.

In the spirit of the day, which is for now only celebrated by grammar nerds in America, I have decided to dedicate this and next weeks’ columns to discussing common grammatical errors in American English.

You see, even native speakers of the English language make mistakes, too. They grapple with as much anxiety and insecurity about the grammatical correctness of, especially their written, English as those of us for whom English is a second language. As linguists know only too well, there is no such thing as a native writer of any language; there are only native speakers of languages. Below are the top 10 solecisms in American English that irritate the hell out of the self-appointed grammar police outside America.

1. Americans are awful with prepositions. They, for instance, can’t differentiate “wait on” from “wait for.” It is typical to hear many Americans—educated and uneducated alike— say, "I am waiting on you" when they actually mean "I am waiting for you." To wait on somebody is to work for, or be a servant to, that person. At first I thought Americans in their usual linguistic "rebellion" had chosen to subvert British English prepositions (in the fashion of "different than," instead of “different from,” since “than” only co-occurs with comparative forms like “better,” “wiser,” “less,” “more,” etc and words like “rather,” and “other”; "in behalf of," instead of “on behalf of,” etc). But I found out that it is actually a usage error even by the indulgent standards of American English.

One day, in 2005, an American journalism professor friend mine in Louisiana told me he was "waiting on" the chair of our department. (I was on very friendly terms with him and we often joked about grammar, especially about the occasional humorous differences between American and British English). So I said to him: “I didn't know you were now a servant to the chair of our department." He knew I was up to some mischief, but he couldn't immediately figure out what it was. When I explained to him why I called him a “servant,” I thought he would say I was wrong by the standards of American English. But he didn't. He instead said, "Good catch, Farooq. You got me there!"

Similarly, Americans don’t visit people; they “visit with” them. And they don’t say they are being interviewed for a job; they say they are “interviewing with” a prospective employer for a job. But by the standards of American English, these are not errors.

2. Their use of the verb “to be” is no less awful. When they use the adverb “there,” it is almost always followed either by “is” or “was” even if the subject in the sentence is a plural noun. Examples: “there is so many people out there,” “there is a lot of problems with that political party,” “there is 10 people in the class,” “there was a lot of people at the party.” This (mis)usage appears to be creeping over to informal British English lately.

And such grammatically awkward expressions as “I could have went [‘gone’] there,” “I had saw [‘seen’] him,” “I should have gave [‘given’] him,” etc are very common even among educated Americans. The irregular past participle is perilously endangered here. But it also appears that Americans are spreading this error across the Atlantic. I spotted it on a British Internet forum a few weeks ago. Funnily, the person who made the mistake was correcting someone else’s grammar! Of course, she became the butt of jokes.

3. Many Americans can’t differentiate the adverb “then” from the preposition/conjunction “than.” I used to think this error was typographical, but letters “a” and “e” are not contiguous on the keyboard. So the error probably derives from the fact that Americans pronounce these words alike. A similar error, which has now been normalized, is the use of the phrase “most everybody” for “almost everybody.”

4. I also find that a good many Americans can’t distinguish the possessive pronoun “your” from “you’re” (the short form of “you are”). It’s usual to read phrases like “your awesome” instead of “you’re awesome.” And they tend to use “you” where “your” is the appropriate pronoun to use. For instance, they write, “I appreciate you taking the time to read this article” instead of “I appreciate your taking the time to read this article.” What you’re appreciating is not the person (which would have justified the use of the pronoun “you”) but the action of the person (which is properly signified with the possessive pronoun “your”). No one says, for instance, “I appreciate you action”; we say “I appreciate your action.”

I had a big fight with a student in Louisiana who thought I was wrong to take off points from her paper for this type of misusage. She appealed against the grade and, fortunately for me, the professor who reviewed it knew enough grammar to overrule her. But I see this error so often that I have now become desensitized to it.

Many Americans also can’t differentiate “they’re” (short form of “they are”), “their” (the possessive form of “they”), and “there” (an adverb of place).

And they struggle with knowing— and respecting— the difference between “its” (a possessive pronoun) and “it’s” (the short form of “it is”), and between “loose” (meaning “not tight”) and “lose” (meaning “fail to win”). To be fair, this solecism isn’t exclusive to Americans; it’s almost universal.

5. Americans have a habit of writing the way they speak. For instance, “should have” often becomes “should of.” Many also can’t differentiate between “ensure” (to make certain in the future) and “insure” (to protect by insurance) because they pronounce these words alike. Just like “all of a sudden” has suddenly become “all the sudden.”

For now, these errors are frowned upon by careful writers and grammarians in America. But if the fate of similar errors is any guide, they may soon be mainstreamed. For instance, “first off,” which is a corruption of “first of all” is now standard. “Out the window,” which was a colloquial and humorous short form for “out of the window” is now respectable.

6. “Both the two of them.” I have heard even professors use this expression here. This seems to me really indefensibly outrageous. Since “both” refers to, and emphasizes, “two-ness” it is redundant to talk of “both the two” of anything.

7. I have discovered that what grammarians call the errors of double comparative and double superlative are widely diffused among American college students, although my sense is that it’s not as prevalent among the more educated segment of the nation. I am talking of such errors as “more better,” “more saner,” “most sanest,” “most cleanest,” “most worst,” etc which combine two comparative and superlative forms in a superfluous bid for intensification. “More” is sufficiently indicative of comparison and often dispenses with the need to add the “er” form to an adjective, just like “most” is sufficiently superlative without the need to add the “est” form.

The first time I saw these errors in my students’ essays, I had to look out of the window repeatedly to assure myself that I was actually in America. Of course, double comparatives and double superlatives were acceptable in earlier times (recall Shakespeare’s “the most unkindest cut of all”?), but they are now taboo in modern English.

Then there are the more pardonable errors of adding “most” to words that are already, by their nature, superlative—such as “unique,” “outstanding,” “exceptional,” “excellent,” etc. Actually, I too had used the phrase “most outstanding” in the past before realizing that it’s redundant since “outstanding” denotes the highest possible degree attainable and is not susceptible to gradation. In my grammar quizzes for the news writing classes I teach here, only two students have been able to identify “most unique” as a grammatical error.

8. Americans, especially young Americans, have invented the really irritatingly redundant prepositional phrase “off of” to stand for “from” or to merely intensify the preposition “off.” And it is catching on very fast among even the educated elite. It’s usual to hear people say something like, “He got it off of the Internet,” or “She made a lot of profit off of that business,” or “She jumped off of the train” (why not simply “she jumped off the train”?), etc. It makes me want to slap someone on the mouth! That sort of murderous violence against the English language should be punishable by flogging.

9. “I’m good.” This is a standard response to a greeting here. It’s rare to find people answer “how are you” with “I’m fine.” It’s always “I’m good.” But to be “good” says nothing about your health or your wellbeing; it merely indicates that you’re of good behavior. And I don’t care if you’re well-behaved; I only wanted to know how you were doing!

10. One last weird expression that gets the juices of British speakers of the English language boiling is the way Americans use “already” as an all-purpose, terminal intensifier to express exasperation or impatience, as in “Get away from here already!” “Resign your appointment already!” According to, this colloquial use of “already” dates back to 1903, and is derived from a mimicry of Yiddish (a language based on the mixture of German and Hebrew and spoken as a vernacular by the European Jewry) where the Yiddish word “shoyn,” is used in same sense.

And, although “already” and “all ready” are often impossible to tell apart in speech, the written forms have discrete meanings and uses, which many American writers miss. The phrase “all ready” means “entirely ready” or “prepared” (he was all ready to fight). “Already” means “previously” (The man had already graduated from the school when we met him) or “so soon” (Is it chowtime already?).

The truth, after all is said and done, is that because of the power of American pop culture and the dominance of their variety of the English language, many of the misusages I have identified may become so standard that someone reading this piece in, say 50, years from now would wonder if I have my nuts loose. Many usages that were originally regarded as “horrible Americanisms,” and resisted for that reason by especially the British, are now fully integrated into International and British Standard English.

For instance, these words and phrases were once regarded as “horrible Americanisms” and stoutly resisted by the British: radio, immigrant, squatter, teenager, lengthy, to advocate, to locate, to belittle, live wire, hot air, third degree, cold war, mass meetings, peace process. Today, they are so integral to our everyday expressions that many of us can’t even imagine why the Brits had any problems with them.

On the other hand, many Briticisms never cross the Atlantic, a recent notable exception being the sudden popularity in American English of the informal British English word “gobsmacked” after “Britain’s Got a Talent” internet sensation Susan Boyle used it to describe her unexpected success at the talent show. The word means “to be so surprised that you don’t know what to say.”

After she told CNN she was “gobsmacked, absolutely gobsmacked” by her success, the word topped internet search terms in America for weeks on end. Now, I see that many Americans have integrated it into their active idiolect.

However, some American expressions are still resisted by British writers and speakers. Expressions such as “OK, I guess,” “to check up on,” “to lose”; the sentence adverb “hopefully”; spellings such as “color,” “theater”; forms such as “gotten (British “got”), proven (British “proved”), “dove” (dived), “snuck” (sneaked); and grammatical features such as the use of “he” to refer back to “one” (One must support his team; British “one’s” team) or informal “real” (That was real good; British “really good”) have not made successful inroads into British English.

So are numerous words and phrases, some of which I pointed out last week—“sidewalk” for pavement, “gas” for petrol, “first floor” for ground floor (with corresponding changes for other floors), “faucet” for tap, “name for” for the British “name after” (as in, Washington DC was named for (British: named after) former American President George Washington), “wash up” for wash face and hands, etc.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Blue-Eyed, Blond-Haired, Pale-Skinned White American Woman Terrorist!

The Associated Press just published a truly intriguing story today: Someone from an "unlikely" demographic category-- a blue-eyed, blond-haired, pale-skinned, suburban white American woman identified as Colleen LaRose--has been implicated in a terrorist plot.

In 46-year-old LaRose, the worst fears of the American intelligence and counter-terrorism have materialized. Right-wing cocksureness about the propriety of profiling only non-white Muslim males has also been exploded.

One is left to wonder if all people who share the same demographic characteristics as this lady will be now subject to increased scrutiny at airports and elsewhere?

That's precisely what the U.S. government did to Nigerians in the wake of the attempted terrorist attack on a Northwest airline by Umar Farouk Abdul-Mutallab, who happens to be a Nigerian. All Nigerians--irrespective of their religious affiliations, ethnic identities, personal beliefs--have now been tarred with the same brush on account of the lone act of attempted terror by one crazed, misguided individual.

And that has been the fate of Middle Easterners who have had the misfortune to share the same race, nationality, and religion as people who commit heinous acts of terrorism.

But the truth is that terrorists--or other scum of the earth who make life miserable for innocents--are often an unrepresentative minority of any group of people. And no nation, race, religion, or demographic category has the exclusive preserve of bad people. We are all one big human family. The superficial physical and geographic characteristics that differentiate us don't define us; they are incidental to our humanity.

I hope this woman's arrest drives home that time-honored, elemental truth.
Colleen "JihadJane" LaRose

But the story says the woman was arrested in October 2009, that is, more than two months before the Abdul-Mutallab incident. Why is it just now being brought to public attention? What am I missing here?

Well, below is the original AP story:

Pa. woman accused of recruiting jihadists online

By MARYCLAIRE DALE, Associated Press Writer – Tue Mar 9, 9:30 pm ET

PHILADELPHIA – A suburban woman "desperate to do something" to help suffering Muslims has been accused of using the Internet to recruit jihadist fighters and help terrorists overseas, even agreeing to move to Europe to try to kill a Swedish artist, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Authorities said the case shows how terror groups are looking to recruit Americans to carry out their goals.

A federal indictment charges that Colleen R. LaRose, who called herself JihadJane and Fatima LaRose online, agreed to kill the Swede on orders from the unnamed terrorists and traveled to Europe to carry out the killing. It doesn't say whether the Swede was killed, but LaRose was not charged with murder.

A U.S. Department of Justice spokesman wouldn't confirm the case is related to a group of people arrested in Ireland earlier Tuesday on suspicion of plotting against Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who depicted the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog.
But a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said LaRose had targeted the Swedish cartoonist and had online discussions about her plans with at least one of the suspects apprehended in Ireland. The official wasn't authorized to discuss details of the investigation.

LaRose, who has blond hair and blue eyes, indicated in her online conversations that she thought her appearance would help her move freely in Sweden to carry out the attack, the indictment said.

In a February 2009 online message to a co-conspirator in south Asia, she said her physical appearance would allow her to "blend in with many people," which "may be a way to achieve what is in my heart," the indictment said.

LaRose is a convert to Islam who actively recruited others, including at least one unidentified American, and her online messages expressed her willingness to become a martyr and her impatience to take action, according to the indictment and the U.S. official.

"I will make this (killing the artist) my goal till I achieve it or die trying," she wrote another south Asian suspect in March 2009, according to the indictment.
U.S. Attorney Michael Levy said the indictment doesn't link LaRose to any organized terror groups. He would not comment on whether other arrests were expected.

LaRose, 46, lived in Pennsburg, Montgomery County, Pa., before moving to Europe in August 2009, authorities said.

She called herself JihadJane in a YouTube video in which she said she was "desperate to do something somehow to help" ease the suffering of Muslims, the indictment said. According to the 11-page document, she agreed to obtain residency in a European country and marry one of the terrorists to enable him to live there.

She traveled abroad with a U.S. passport stolen from a male friend and intended to give it to one of her "brothers," the indictment said. She hoped to "live and train with jihadists and to find and kill" the targeted artist, it said.

"Today's indictment, which alleges that a woman from suburban America agreed to carry out murder overseas and to provide material support to terrorists, underscores the evolving nature of the threat we face," said David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security.

LaRose also agreed to provide financial help to her co-conspirators in Asia and Europe, the indictment charged.

LaRose has been in federal custody since her Oct. 15 arrest in Philadelphia, authorities said. She had an initial court appearance the next day but didn't enter a plea.

Her federal public defender Mark T. Wilson declined to comment Tuesday.

Department of Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said the case represents "one of only a few such cases nationwide in which females have been charged with terrorism violations." He declined to comment further on it.

In recent years, the only other women charged in the U.S. with terror violations were lawyer Lynne Stewart, convicted of helping imprisoned blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman communicate with his followers, and Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist found guilty of shooting at U.S. personnel in Afghanistan while yelling, "Death to Americans!"

But neither of those cases involved the kind of plotting attributed to LaRose — a woman charged with trying to foment a terror conspiracy to kill someone overseas.
Stewart has insisted she is "not a traitor," while Siddiqui has accused U.S. authorities of lying about her.

Associated Press Writer Devlin Barrett contributed to this report from Washington.

Apparently, JihadJane is not alone. She also recruited another blue-eyed white woman in her plot. Below is the latest story from the Associated Press:

US mom: Daughter held in Ireland 'lost her mind'

By IVAN MORENO, Associated Press Writer – March 13, 2010

LEADVILLE, Colo. – Before her daughter disappeared last fall, Christina Mott recalls that the 31-year-old who had been held in connection with an alleged assassination plot announced she had converted to Islam and told them they'd go to hell if they didn't follow in her steps.

Jamie Paulin-Ramirez also began talking about Jihad with her Muslim stepfather and spent most of her time online as she withdrew from her family, Mott said.

"We were enemies," Christine Mott, 59, said. "We couldn't even speak to each other."
Paulin-Ramirez left Leadville, Colo., an old mining town west of Denver, on Sept. 11, and took her 6-year-old son with her, her mother said. A U.S. official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Saturday that Paulin-Ramirez had been detained in Ireland in connection with an alleged plot to kill cartoonist Lars Vilks, whose 2007 sketch depicted the head of the Prophet Muhammad on a dog's body, offending many Muslims and provoking terror front Al-Qaida in Iraq to offer a $100,000 bounty for his slaying.
Jamie Paulin-Ramirez
Irish police said later Saturday that they had released an American woman and three others arrested in Ireland over an alleged plot to assassinate Swedish artist Lars Vilks had been freed without charge. Three others remained in custody and were being questioned. Irish police refused to confirm whether Paulin-Ramirez is the woman in custody, and have declined to release the identities of any of those arrested.

Smoking as she sat on her living room couch in Leadville, Christine Mott said she hadn't eaten in days. She described her daughter as troubled single mother who had the "mentality of an abused woman" and who, in trying to escape her loneliness, may have spiraled into the depths of Islam extremism. Her reported arrest came hours before U.S. authorities unveiled a terror indictment against another American woman, Colleen LaRose, of Pennsylvania.

U.S. authorities on Tuesday unsealed terror charges against the 46-year-old LaRose, who allegedly went by the name "Jihad Jane" to recruit others online to kill the cartoonist.

Mott told The Associated Press that she learned of her daughter's arrest in the case from the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies.

Denver FBI officials said Saturday they couldn't confirm that the FBI had contacted Mott about the case.

Mott said that Paulin-Ramirez told her family after she left in September that she went to Ireland with her 6-year-old son and married an Algerian whom she met online. Before abruptly leaving Colorado, Paulin-Ramirez had been a straight-A nursing student and worked at a clinic in Edwards, about 40 miles west of Leadville, her mother said. She moved to Leadville from Denver six years ago. Phone calls to the clinic in Edwards went unanswered Saturday.

Mott tells the AP that her daughter told her family during Easter last year that she converted to Islam, and renamed her son. Mott said her daughter was teaching him to hate Christians as she grew more distant from her family.

When she discussed Jihad with her stepfather, George Mott, who has been a Muslim for more than 40 years, she told him "she'd strap a bomb for the cause," Christine Mott said.

"To go blow somebody up?," said Paulin-Ramirez's mother, who is not Muslim. "That's never been Islam."

Mott said her Paulin-Ramirez spent much of her time on the computer but she didn't always know what her daughter was doing. "I'd yell at her, 'Get off the damn computer, do something with your son," Christine Mott said.

She said her Paulin-Ramirez liked going on fishing and camping trips but grew distant before her departure.

She said her daughter was married three times before she left for Ireland, and that her first husband used to beat her. Her second husband, the 6-year-old's father, was an illegal immigrant from Mexico and was deported years ago, Christine Mott said.

She said she believes her daughter was lonely and she "got sucked in" and brainwashed by other people. Growing up, her mother said Paulin-Ramirez was "the kid in the class everyone picked on and made fun of."

George Mott said the family had not been in touch with Paulin-Ramirez since news of her release and did not know where she might be or if her son was with her.

"That baby is my heart, he is my reason to breathe," Christine Mott said crying, later recalling her weekly phone conversations with him. Her last phone call with him was Monday.

"When we talk," she recalled, "We give each other hugs and kisses on the phone," she said, putting her arms across her chest.

During a recent phone call, Christine Mott said, her grandson told her that "all Christians will burn in hellfire."

But during another phone call, her grandson was excited to hear about a new kitten at the Motts' home in Leadville.

"When I told him about that he said name the kitten my name, Christian," Christine Mott said. "He knows who he is. I don't care how many times they call him this Muslim name, he knows his name is Christian."

Among the people Paulin-Ramirez had also communicated with online was a man from Pakistan who told her he wanted to come to the U.S. to learn how to fly, the Motts said.

"She lost her mind," Christine Mott said. "I told her, 'That should be a red flag right there.'"

Christine Mott said Ramirez began calling her 6-year-old son "Walid," or "Wahid."
Paulin-Ramirez grew up in Blue Springs, Mo., and few people in Leadville appear to know her. The mayor of Leadville, Bud Elliott, said Saturday that he knew the Motts casually but wasn't well acquainted with Pailin-Ramirez.

"She's a lady that appears to have had a very sad and troubled life," Elliott said.
An early silver mining camp, Leadville was once Colorado's second-largest city.

George Mott said the FBI seized a desktop computer in late September but did not tell the family what they found.

Associated Press Writer Peter Banda and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.