Tarot cards, calls to priests, and Muhammed — what's the sniper suspect's religion, anyway?
It's a terribly predictable headline: "Muslims Fear Sniper Backlash." "The arrest of a Muslim man on charges connected to the deadly Washington-area sniper shootings has the Islamic community bracing for another round of threats and attacks like those that followed the Sept. 11 terrorism," reports the Associated Press.

"It's like a ball in your stomach: 'Oh God here we go again,'" Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the AP. "Every time we seem to make some advancements, it's like we take one step forward and two steps back." (Other papers have similar reports of backlash fears.)

But though the suspect changed his name from John Allen Williams to John Allen Muhammad and worked as a security officer for Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March, calling him a Muslim seems like a stretch.

After all, this is the guy who allegedly left a tarot card inscribed with "I am God" at a crime scene. A lot of Muslim nations will kill you for something like that.

But Mark Oppenheimer writes in The Wall Street Journal that the sniper wasn't a good neopagan, either. "When serial killers Charles Manson and David Berkowitz made crypto-religious references, Americans complied with the killers' childish hopes to be taken as interesting, complex, somehow spiritual. This time around, we suspect the sniper of being derivative—not of being another Manson or Berkowitz but of having read books about them," he writes. "The occult is now domesticated, and we can treat it with the levity it deserves, fun for children or questing adults. If Tarot divination gives meaning to some people looking for answers ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.