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Ismail Ax: Five Theories Floated (Update: Mystery Partially Solved)

John on April 17, 2007 at 8:51 pm

Wed. 10:30PM: The mystery has been partially solved. The package sent to NBC was sent from “A. Ishmael.” So he was using it as a name. Allah at HotAir thinks the new spelling discounts the Islamic connection. I’m not convinced it does. Check this post for more.

Update Wed. 2:00PM: New theories are floating…

Don’t miss the comments where several more explanations have been offered including a reference to machine code, an Islamic name, his World of Warcraft alias…?

Update11:20PM: Allah at HotAir notes this Washington Post story which changes the playing field by reporting that the mysterious words on Cho’s arm were spelled differently. It’s “Ismale Ax” not “Ismail Ax.”

Also, the story says the words were tattooed on his arm, not written with a pen as earlier reports suggested.

Some enterprising reporter needs to find out which tattoo parlor did the work.

[End update]

Ever since word came out that Cho Seung-Hui had the words “Ismail Ax” written on the inside of his arm in red marker, the web has been working to decipher the meaning of the cryptic phrase. Quite a few people have offered theories at this point. I thought I’d pull the top five together in one place.

  • One – Ismail is an Islamic spelling of Ishmael and Ax refers to either the sacrifice of Ismail (in the Islamic tradition) or to a specific act of iconoclasm.
    • Source: This one was floated by The Islamic Threat and picked up by a number of people. The iconoclasm story was posted here and picked up by Boing Boing.
    • Pros: The spelling of Ismail seems to be almost exclusively Islamic. The iconoclasm story seems to be a major part of the tale. Also, some of Cho’s behavior could be described as moralistic.
    • Cons: How did a suburban South Korean kid from Centerville get exposed to Islam? Why didn’t he tell anyone about his views? Also, it’s really Ibrahim’s ax in the iconoclasm story, not Ismail’s.
  • Two – Ismail Ax is a reference to Ismail YK a popular Turkish pop singer.
    • Source: Paul at Wizbang offered this one.
    • Pros: This singer does appear to be famous in other parts of the world. Cho reportedly spent a lot of time downloading music.
    • Cons: Why did he mispell the name and what does this have to do with shooting people?
  • Three – Ismail may have been a literary reference to James Fennimore Cooper’s story “The Prairie,” in which Ishmael Bush sets out across the prairie with a gun and an axe.
    • Source: Suggested by a Hot Air reader.
    • Pros: Cho was an English major and may have know the book.
    • Cons: Mispelled again. A bit highbrow for a guy contemplating murder.
  • Four – Ax refers to Alpha Chi Omega sorority.
    • Source: unknown, I found it on Boing Boing.
    • Pros: Cho had serious girl trouble and may even have had an imaginary girlfriend. Sorority obsession seems possible.
    • Cons: What about Ismail?
  • Five – A reference to this book?
    • Source: Unknown, but I’ve seen it mentioned a couple places.
    • Pros: The title.
    • Cons: Obscure squared.

That’s it for now. If you know of another theory floating around, post a link in the comments. Personally, I don’t find any of the theories very convincing but I do think the first has the most going for it. Perhaps when the note is released something will make sense.

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Category: Crime & the Law |

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