October 28, 2014 by Dawn Perlmutter
Dawn Perlmutter is the Director of the Symbol Intelligence Group and one of the leading subject matter experts (SME) in symbols, symbolic methodologies, unfamiliar customs and ritualistic crimes. She designed and developed Jihad-ID, a symbolic database of the signs, symbols and identifiers of global jihad.
On Thursday October 23, Zale Thompson, 32, attacked four New York Police Department officers with an 18 inch hatchet slashing one officer in the head and another in the arm before he was fatally shot by another officer.
Although New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton declared that the hatchet attack was a terrorist act by a self-radicalized Muslim convert it was widely reported that authorities were also trying to determine if Thompson had any history of mental illness. The axe attack was one month after Muslim convert Alton Nolen beheaded a co-worker and nearly beaded another woman in Moore, Oklahoma. Early reports in that incident suggested that Nolen may have suffered from mental illness.
One of the primary reasons law enforcement, the media and the public almost always interpret these inexplicable acts as a form of mental illness is that violence in American culture is understood in the context of a Western rational worldview that can only fathom bizarre aberrant acts as the result of a psychologically disturbed individual. Even after overwhelming evidence demonstrates that violent incidents are committed in the goal of jihad, the offender is still widely considered to be an emotionally disturbed person whose mental illness made him vulnerable to jihadist messaging.