Thursday, January 7, 2010

"He had been in and out of mental institutions."

Because he is an Arab and presumably a Muslim and he screamed out "kill all the Jews" on an airplane flying to Detroit, just weeks after the underwear bomber dominated the headlines on a flight to Detroit, the normal immediate reaction to Mansor Mohammed Asad is to think he is an Islamic fanatic who might be a terrorist threat.

However, there is an important part of the story -- really, the whole story -- missing from that equation. Here is the Miami Herald's account:
An Ohio man who became loud and disruptive aboard a Wednesday night flight from Miami to Detroit -- at one point telling those around him he ``wanted to kill all the Jews'' -- was removed from the airplane before takeoff and arrested.

The man was identified as Mansor Mohammad Asad, 43, who authorities say posed no potential security threat.

Miami-Dade police say he caused enough of a ``disturbance'' that the pilot had to return to the jet-bridge. When Asad was taken off the plane to be interviewed by police, he threatened officers, made racial comments and charged an officer, authorities said. He was Tasered twice.

The reaction of authorities seems to me appropriate and justified.

The ADL, however, was hyperbolic and too quick in its response:
The Anti-Defamation League, in a statement Thursday, said it was ``deeply disturbed by the alleged anti-Semitic rant by Mansor Mohammad Asad.''

``Such comments point out the fact that anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews is still very much a part of society,'' Andrew Rosenkranz, the Florida regional director, said in a statement.

While I am glad the ADL speaks out against anti-Semites, I think they would have done better to have waited a couple of days to find out exactly what was going on in Mr. Asad's mind before they reached their conclusions about him.

Here is what the ADL did not know: Asad is seriously mentally ill and in all likelihood is not being treated properly for his disease. Chances are, Asad belongs in a mental hospital under the care of psychiatrists.
Asad's son, Mickey Asad, who was not traveling with his father, told The Miami Herald that his father has bipolar disorder. He told the Associated Press the elder Asad had been in and out of mental institutions when he was younger.

``It's not what it's made out to be,'' Mickey Asad told The Herald. ``I don't know, someone had to have pushed his buttons. I don't know, I couldn't explain honestly. Of course he's not a terrorist.''

We want to make this into a story about terrorism because in so many ways it fits all the preconceived notions about what the terrorists think. Islamic fanatics, after all, do want to kill all the Jews. It's possible that Mr. Asad is both a mentally ill man and an Islamist. However, if his goal was to harm other passengers on that flight or to kill Jews, he would not have stood up and made that scene. He did that because he has a very serious disease which caused him to do what he did and say what he said.

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