Wannabe jihadist wants David Letterman's head for al-Qaida joke
Funnyman David Letterman is on a list that’s warranting serious attention: A commenter on a jihadist website is calling for the assassination of the “Late Show” host, a threat that prompted law enforcement to get involved Wednesday.
An analyst with the SITE Intelligence Group, a private company that monitors extremist websites, told EW.com that a poster named Umar al-Basrawi urged “righteous Muslims in America” to “cut the tongue of this lowly Jew and shut it forever.”
Al-Basrawi, reportedly from Iraq, described Letterman as “a sick Jew with defined features.” The late-night comedian was raised Presbyterian.
The website’s message board is “a clearing house for al-Qaida material. It gets the most al-Qaida supporters,” SITE analyst Adam Raisman told Entertainment Weekly.
Al-Basrawi reportedly took offense at Letterman’s June 8th monologue, in which he mocked the death of Ilyas Kashmiri, a senior al-Qaida leader and possible successor to Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a drone attack in Pakistan days earlier.
“It wasn’t going to work anyway. They got off to a rocky start with this guy,” Letterman said referring to al-Qaida’s relationship with Kashmiri. “He botched up the story of Paul Revere.”
The zinger was meant to reference former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s blundering of the Paul Revere account.
Al-Basrawi, however, didn’t find it funny, saying Letterman “showed his evil nature and deep hatred for Islam and Muslims.”
A spokesman for Letterman declined to comment yesterday. The 64-year-old CBS host has been on hiatus. He’s slated to return to the Ed Sullivan Theater in midtown next week.
The NYPD and FBI said they’re investigating the threat.
Charles Strozier, director of the Center on Terrorism at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said Letterman should take any warnings seriously.
“It could be a total hoax, and it probably is, but in this world of mass communication, something that seems frivolous can intensify if it gets picked up by the wrong people,” Strozier said.
Shamsi Ali, associate imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, called the posting against Letterman “ignorant.”
“They don’t understand that he’s a comedian, and it’s not a serious matter,” Ali said. “When you [post] stupid statements, it contributes to a misunderstanding of our religion.”
Salman Rushdie: Death threats were issued against the 64-year-old author following the release of his 1988 novel, “The Satanic Verses,” which some Muslims decried as blasphemous. Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 to kill Rushdie, who lived under police protection in England for a decade.
Theo van Gogh: The Dutch filmmaker was assassinated by an alleged terrorist in 2004 after directing the movie, “Submission,” which delved into the treatment of Muslim women.
Kurt Westergaard: The Danish cartoonist was embroiled in controversy when he drew a picture of the Muslim prophet Mohammad with a bomb in his turban in 2006, sparking riots across the Middle East and calls for his death. He was nearly murdered in his home by an intruder in 2010.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone: Following the flap over the Danish cartoon, the creators of “South Park” repeatedly satirized the controversy. In one episode, they depicted Mohammad in a bear costume, which led to online death threats.