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.
The 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. The newspaper received the news from a prison source, who noted Holmes’ beard, in his most recent court appearance, as evidence of his conversion to Islam.
The Daily Mail also reports the prison source had talked to the National Enquirer as well. “He has brainwashed himself into believing he was on his own personal jihad and that his victims were infidels,” the source said. Holmes, reportedly, follows a Muslim diet and spends hours studying the Quran.
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 didn't add new information from what already appeared in the Daily Mail’s article. Other bloggers picked up the story, and the Washington Times' original article has received more than 200 comments about Holmes’ reported conversion.
Salon followed up on the Washington Times’ article after it was 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. “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.”
The focus should shift from Holmes’ alleged conversion to Islam to 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?”