Remember this fact

Published 9:36 pm Thursday, January 22, 2015

Even as France mourns the deaths of cartoonists from a satirical newspaper most people in America had never heard of; even as villages are being wiped out and children abducted in Nigeria; even as American soldiers continue to serve in harm’s way in parts of the Middle East; it’s sometimes hard to imagine any real continuing threat from Islamic terrorists.

After all, Paris, where the offices of the “Charlie Hebdo” newspaper were shot up by Muslim attackers declaring they were avenging the prophet Mohammed, is an ocean away from us here on the East Coast of the U.S. We share Western sensibilities, history and many cultural influences, and Americans have demonstrated they will stand in support of France, but it’s hard for many Americans to recognize anything approaching a clear and present danger represented by the attack.

The disconnect is likely even more pronounced between the average American and the news coming out of Nigeria, home of Boko Haram, an Islamist offshoot whose followers recently have burned villages, murdered thousands of innocent people and hauled children away into slavery. The images are disturbing, the news reports almost unbelievable — but the place is so far away, so utterly unlike the kind of place for which we have a frame of reference, that most of us just shake our heads, utter a quiet prayer and move on with our lives.

But an incident in Isle of Wight County last week — Franklin and Southampton’s next-door neighbor to the north — reminds us that Islamic terrorists still have their eyes on America, even if Americans have stopped paying much attention to them.

Isle of Wight’s official county website was hijacked briefly last week by hackers claiming to be allied with the Islamist extremist group ISIS — the Islamist State of Iraq and Syria. For an hour or more, the website included information, photos, links and video advocating and directing people to ISIS.

The county was able to re-establish control of the site and remove the offending content, but the lesson should be clear: Terrorists are ready and willing to exploit vulnerabilities wherever in the West that they can find them, even in rural southeastern Virginia.

And while hacking a website surely doesn’t somehow match the wanton murder of innocent people, perhaps it can serve as a reminder that there are evil people around the world, hiding behind a religious façade, who wish to do us as much harm as possible, in whatever way they can. That’s the kind of fact it can be dangerous to forget.