James Holmes, the alleged Aurora theater shooter, reportedly converted to Islam while in jail. Holmes’ rumored religious conversion has been scrutinized by Salon, citing the lack of credible evidence.
Daily Mail first picked up the story that Holmes, allegedly, converted to Islam in jail and is now a dedicated Muslim who ‘prays five times a day.’ Daily Mail got the news from a prison source who noted Holmes’ beard, in his most recent court appearance, as evidence of his conversion to Islam.
Daily Mail also reports the prison source had talked to the National Enquirer as well saying, “He has brainwashed himself into believing he was on his own personal jihad and that his victims were infidels,” although that story has not appeared online. Holmes, reportedly, follows a Muslim diet and spends hours studying the Qur’an.
The prison source told the newspaper that other Muslim inmates are unhappy about Holmes’ conversion because “They don't want their religion to be connected to that awful shooting.”
Questions about Holmes’ conversion to Islam started circulating once the Washington Times published the story but did not add new information than what already appeared in Daily Mail’s article. Other bloggers picked up the story and the conservative newspaper’s original article has received over 200 comments about Holmes’ reported conversion.
Salon followed up on the Washington Times’ article after it got picked up by several conservative bloggers. Alex Seitz-Wald discusses the questionable sourcing, noting the unnamed prison source as a problem as well as the Daily Mail’s history of presenting false information.
Seitz-Wald’s main concern was how quick some bloggers were to publish the story without much scrutiny while saying, “it’s entirely possible that Holmes has converted to Islam, and even that he brainwashed himself into ex-post-facto justifying his killing with Islam or anything else as Holmes is severely disturbed, by all accounts, and could delude himself into thinking anything.”
Instead of the focus being on Holmes’ alleged conversion to Islam, the focus should be on the alleged shooter’s mental state. Seitz-Wald said, “If Holmes suddenly became a devout Pentecostal or Hindu in prison, would these bloggers be connecting the religion to the shooting in the way they are doing now?”
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