According to an ancient ad, ten thousand New Yorkers can’t be wrong about kosher pickles. They can, however, demonstrate pretty clouded judgment about other matters when the spirit moves them.
“Ten thousand” is the overly optimistic estimate of the turnout at yesterday’s “Today I Am a Muslim, Too” rally in Times Square. The figure was tweeted by hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, one of the organizers of the event. The purpose of the rally was to show solidarity with Muslims who might be affected by Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban, the revised version of which will continue to name the same seven Muslim-majority countries that was a flash point in the original. Accordingly, yesterday’s crowd was comprised as much by anti-Trump forces, who held up signs depicting the president as Hitler, as it was pro-Muslim.
— Russell Simmons (@UncleRUSH) February 19, 2017
There was a certain irony in the choice of venue for the demonstration. This was more evident in who failed to turn out than who did. For example, one individual not in attendance was Faisal Shahzad, formerly of Bridgeport, Ct. Shahzad couldn’t make it because he is currently serving a life sentence at the supermax correctional facility near Florence, Colo. Shahzad, who was born in Pakistan, achieved notoriety in 2010 when he set a car bomb to explode in one of New York’s most crowded locations. That location was Times Square, where yesterday’s rally was held.
Shahzad’s pressure cooker bomb failed to detonate. A device planted two years earlier at a military recruitment station in Times Square did go off, but again, fortunately, no one was hurt — this time because the explosion occurred in the small hours of the morning. It wasn’t until 2015 that the FBI released its report on the explosive device, which “was built using an ammunition can commonly found on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was filled halfway with black powder and detonated using a time fuse.”
ISIS has since urged other “soldiers of Allah” to target the popular tourist mecca in New York City, even providing a message on one of its web forums in 2014 titled “To the Lone Wolves in America: How to Make a Bomb in Your Kitchen, to Create Scenes of Horror in Tourist Spots and Other Targets.”
Fortunately for Simmons and his fellow sympathizers, no lone wolf chose Times Square as a target yesterday, though if one had, the message would certainly have been received.