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Something is wrong with this picture.. beyond the obvious. Why would a mass murderer planning to go out with a bang file the serial numbers off his weapons? Why decorate himself with the phrase 'Ismael Ax' (Arabic spelling)? Any of you scholarly types have a guess as to what he meant with the 'Ismael Ax' label?


In some translations of the Quran -- I think I've got this right -- Ismail is to be sacrificed with an ax (it's a variation on the Abraham-Isaac story)


Captain Ed writes:
It appears to be a reference to Abraham/Ibrahim, in which Ismail and Abraham take an axe to the idols of a temple as part of his conversion to monotheism.

We'd need someone with a lot more knowledge of the document than me to sort the references out.


A comment at HotAir stated:

Update: A shot in the dark here from reader Ray F., but worth posting since Cho was, after all, an English major and this would be a golden we-told-you-so moment if it pans out:

You probably already know this, but in James Fennimore Cooper’s story “The Prairie,” the settler Ishmael Bush, who is attempting to escape from civilization, sets out across the prairie with two key tools, a gun and an axe. Each has a symbolic meaning. The axe — which can either kill or provide shelter — stands for both creation and destruction. Given that the VT killer was an English major, might this be the likely meaning of the words on his arm? Just my two cents.


I'd be very surprised if any English major reads Cooper. It's not on very many syllabi.


I left a comment at HotAir, I'll reprint it here:

About that Cooper story that may be the source of the “Ismail Ax” reference: Here’s (pdf) a description of English courses from the VT website. English 2525: Survey of American Literature I mentions Cooper by name.


I just think that's stretching it. The story is an obscure one. If people are going to be forced to read Cooper, they're likely to read Deerslayer or Last of the Mohicans, and the non-Cooper spelling doesn't make sense. Why would even a maniac go off killing people over an obscure reference to a thoroughly insipid nineteenth century writer (who is mainly known as the object of Mark Twain's stylistic satire)?


Maybe 'Ismael Ax' simply means the killer saw himself as a tool (under someone else's control) being used to exact a sacrifice for Allah...(.. as Abraham prepared to use a knife or ax to sacrifice his son) The Islamic tradition is that Ibrihim/Abraham's firstborn, Ismael, not Isaac, was the intended sacrifice demanded by God.. The spelling he uses is the phonetic Arabic version of the Ishmael..

Curiouser and curiouser... Muslim connections in the least likely of places..


Thank you for telling us about Liviu Librescu. He has a seat of honor at God's table.

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