Within hours of the breaking news, I received e-mails from VDARE.COM readers wanting to know if I was surprised that Lodi—an agricultural community of 62,000 residents—might be a hot bed of terrorist activity.
My answer in a word: NO!
By now, the details of the on-going investigation are well known. The principal suspect in the case, 24-year-old U.S. born Hamid Hayat, is said to have received training on "how to kill Americans" in an Al Qaeda camp and then lied about it to federal officials.
And Hamid's father Umer allegedly financed his son's travels to Pakistan with the proceeds from his business selling ice cream from a cart.
Additionally, two imams and one of their sons—all citizens of Pakistan and affiliated with Lodi Muslim Mosque—are being questioned regarding the status of their visas.
Why wasn't I surprised?
Pakistanis have been coming to Lodi for decades. Despite cultural differences that include arranged marriages, second class status for Pakistani women, and the resistance of many adults to learn English or to enroll their children in K-12 schools, the Lodi city fathers have unquestioningly embraced them.
An August 18th 2003 News-Sentinel story, "Hundreds Celebrate Pakistani Independence Day in Lodi" ran on the front page above the fold and was accompanied by five color photos.
The News-Sentinel also publishes a weekly opinion column written by prominent Muslim leader Taj Khan. The subject of Khan's columns is frequently Muslim concerns and views.
But Khan's take on the recent events in town is curious...and telling.
USA Today, in its June 9th story titled "California Man Tied To Terrorist Camp," quoted Khan that
"We will work with the FBI to roust out any rascals."
To Khan, individuals who train in Al Queda camps for six months to learn how to blow up U.S. supermarkets and hospitals are merely "rascals".
What the politically correct Lodi environment means is that for those so inclined—as the Hayats may have been—would-be terrorists can go about their business with little concern that their actions may draw attention.
Why bother planning jihad in well policed locations like New York, San Francisco or Washington D.C. when small towns like Lodi afford you so much more freedom?
Through my job as an instructor at the Lodi Adult School, I interact daily with Pakistanis. My concerns have remained the same for nearly twenty years.
In fact, American traditions are ignored or rejected.
I recall one ESL student I had who invariably signed the daily roll with a single word:
But while it is important to acknowledge, as Lodians do, that most of the Pakistanis in our town are law-abiding residents, it is more urgent to recognize that one mistake in character evaluation can lead to the deaths of thousands of innocent people.
Let's keep our focus where it belongs—not on whether some unenlightened Lodian might utter a vulgarity but whether some Muslim residents have ties to Al Queda.
The main reason we need to be ever vigilant is because of the intense hatred Pakistanis, and the other Middle Easterners, harbor for Americans.
A deadly incident last week in Karachi proves my point. Shiites, blaming Americans for a suicide bomb that destroyed their mosque, retaliated by setting fire to a KFC franchise. Six employees were killed.
Munawer Abbas, an Urdu literature teacher, referring to the U.S. as "the great Satan" told New York Times reporter Somini Sengupta that even though a Pakistani owned the KFC:
"It is not important who owns it. This is just because of American policies. People hate America."
And nearby hung a banner that said:
"We want to warn America: Martyrdom is our heritage. We will protect Islam until the last drop of blood."
(New York Times, June 8, 2005, "Colonel Sanders Finds Himself Under Fiery Siege in Pakistan")
Two months after 9/11, I wrote a column for the News-Sentinel that asked an important fundamental question.
The column, also posted on VDARE.COM, generated the predictable mail charging me with racism. But no one answered my question.
In light of this week's events in Lodi, Americans have to face ugly facts that may be hard for many to accept.
But according to retired FBI agent Nick Boone, Lodi and the surrounding area have had links to terrorism for years.
Said the Los Angeles-based Boone, who spent over 30 years fighting terrorism:
"I found numerous, numerous connections to that area. That entire region, all of the area around there, became a very big area of Arab settlement." [Arrests in Lodi may not be over, By Dan Thompson, Associated Press]
And the sooner the U.S. formulates an immigration policy that reflects the undeniable, the safer we will all be.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.