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Call Oklahoma beheading what it is: Terrorism

By Mel Robbins
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mel Robbins: Woman beheaded in Oklahoma is victim of terrorist attack
  • She says FBI calls it workplace violence, but there's evidence of Alton Nolen's focus on ISIS
  • She says denying this avoids new realities in war on terror: It's online, can affect us at home
  • We risk tarnishing Muslim-Americans, overwhelmingly peace-loving, she says

Editor's note: Mel Robbins, a CNN commentator and legal analyst, is the founder of Inspire52.com, a news and entertainment site for women, and author of "Stop Saying You're Fine," about managing change. She speaks on leadership around the world and in 2014 was named outstanding news talk radio host by the Gracie Awards. Follow her on Twitter @melrobbins. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Colleen Hufford, 54, was beheaded by Alton Nolen during a surprise attack at a Vaughan Foods plant in Oklahoma last week, according to police. Thankfully, before the terrorist -- yes, terrorist -- could behead another victim, Traci Johnson, he was shot by the company's CEO, Mark Vaughan, who is also a deputy sheriff.

The terrorist survived. Hufford, a wife, mother, and grandmother, did not. Her husband of 25 years was outside Vaughan Foods that afternoon, waiting to pick her up as he did every day, when he learned she was the victim of a terrorist attack.

Mel Robbins
Mel Robbins

It was a terrorist attack, and everyone knows it. Why won't the government say so? The Washington Post reports that the FBI found "no indication that Alton Alexander Nolen was copying the beheadings of journalists in Syria by the Islamic State ... adding that they are treating this as an incident of workplace violence."

Workplace violence? You can't be serious! Oh wait -- the FBI must mean "workplace violence" as in the case of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the terrorist convicted in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting that killed 13 people and left many more wounded. Oh yeah, I remember that extremist attack carried out by a "soldier of Allah" -- but that's just workplace violence. It doesn't mean anything that Hasan is writing letters from death row to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, begging to become a citizen of the self-procaimed Islamic State. Just a guy who got angry at work.

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How dumb do you think we are? Fort Hood was an act of terrorism, the beheading of Hufford was an act of terrorism, and it's time the FBI, the President, and all of us started calling it that.

There are three reasons. First, it's important to give this barbaric crime the label it begs for -- not just because of the charges it should carry and the punishment that should be handed down, but because it's important, at every turn, to draw a very clear distinction between ISIS extremists and the silent majority of Muslims who are just as horrified as non-Muslim Americans

More than 100 Muslim clerics and scholars just condemned ISIS, outlining in 17 pages why ISIS' actions are an "offense to Islam, Muslims and to the entire world." They, too, are unfairly tarnished with every barbaric, terrorist act performed in the name of their religion.

Second, it's essential if we want to win the war on terror that we understand how technology has changed that war since 9/11.

President Obama admitted that the United States "underestimated" ISIS. And in his speech before the United Nations, he described ISIS as a "network of death" that must be defeated. I agree. And this "network of death" has managed to reach beyond the confines of Syria and the Middle East.

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Thanks to the barbaric beheading videos, ISIS is in our living rooms and our news feeds and on our minds. And that's exactly how ISIS wants it.

It makes those snuff videos precisely so we'll watch and talk about it, and so terrorists like Nolen will be inspired to perform acts of terrorism on U.S. soil. You can try to downplay the connection to ISIS by calling Nolen a lone wolf, a copy cat or a nut case, but there is evidence of a very real connection these lone wolves feel to terrorists, and we'd better stop ignoring it and passing it off as "workplace violence."

After ISIS beheaded Americans James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines, Algerian terrorists kidnapped and beheaded French hiker Herve Gourdel. Just last month Australian authorities uncovered and stopped an alleged terrorist plot to kidnap a random person who would be beheaded in a "demonstration killing."

Nolen may not have been part of an active ISIS cell waiting around to make a coordinated strike, but he is a terrorist who sympathized with and was inspired by Islamic fundamentalist militants.

Just last week, an ISIS leader, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, released a 42-minute recorded speech directed toward "lone wolf" operations encouraging terrorists like Nolen. "Do not ask for anyone's advice and do not seek anyone's verdict, kill the infidel whether he is civilian or military."

I don't know if he watched this ISIS recruitment video, but apparently Nolen did watch beheading videos online. According to an article by Michael Daly in The Daily Beast, in March Nolen posted one to his Facebook page, under the pseudonym Jah'Keem Yisrael, with the caption:

"This do we find the clear precedent that explains the particular penchant of Islamic terrorists to behead their victims, it is merely another precedent bestowed by their Prophet." He also added a citation from the Quran: "I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers; smite ye about their necks." "Smite" means a heavy blow or stroke with a weapon. The terrorist who killed Colleen Hufford "smote" her neck when he cut it, reportedly with the same knife he used to slice produce when he worked at Vaughan Foods.

According to Daly, Nolen posted photos of Osama bin Laden, other jihadis, and the Twin Towers burning. The Christian Science Monitor reported he wrote: "She (the Statue of Liberty) is going into flames. She and anybody who's with her." He posted photos of a woman being flogged, Daly wrote, with the words "Islam will dominate the world. Freedom can go to hell."

There's nothing but evidence that Nolen was copying the ISIS beheadings in Syria. So let's drop the political correctness for once and call the Oklahoma beheading what it is -- terrorism.

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