Monday, April 23, 2007

The Virginia Tech Conspiracy: Ismail Ax

“Ismail Ax” is the cryptic tattoo found on the body of Cho Sueng-Hui. Speculation across the internet is rife, each person describing their own theory and violently contesting those that disagree with their assessment.

But by far the most common, and most likely theory, is that the words are taken from a verse of the Islamic Koran (Qur’an). This verse involved Ismail, whose father used an “ax” to bring down false idols. The verses concerning Ismail are as follows:

“After making sure that nobody was left in town, Ibrahim went towards the temple armed with an axe. Statues of all shapes and sizes were sitting there adorned with decorations. Plates of food were offered to them, but the food was untouched. "Well, why do you not eat? The food is getting cold." He said to the statues, joking. Then, with his axe, Ibrahim destroyed all the statues except one, the biggest of them all. He hung the axe around its neck and left.”

--The Qur'an

She offered Hajar her servant as a wife to her husband, and prayed Allah to bless Hajar and Ibrahim with a child. And so came Ismail, a baby boy born to Hajar. How unselfish Sarah was!”

--The Qur'an

However there is controversy surrounding this interpretation. Some say that “axe” is misspelled and that this leads them to believe that it’s actually an anagram. In American society the accepted spelling is indeed “ax” but this is hardly to be considered an accurate representation of the Koran. “Axe” specifically refers to a hatchet or a cleaver, whereas “ax” is more of a machete or bladed weapon. If misspelled it cannot be considered accurate to the Koran. But as tattoos are considered sinful in Islamic tradition there is little doubt that Cho Seung-Hui was ignorant of the Koran.

There are also many other explanations.

For example in 2005 film producer/director Ismail Merchant died. He was a who was honored at the 2006 Ax Awards, an anime expo.

In James Fenimore Cooper's “The Prairie,” Ishmael Bush is a settler attempting to escape from civilization. He starts out out across the prairie with two key tools, a gun and an axe. Each has a symbolic meaning. The axe - which can either kill or provide shelter - stands for both creation and destruction.

William S. Burrough and Robert Anton Wilson wrote about the ancient Ismailis.

One of the 87 Precinct short stories by Ed McBain is named Ax.

In popular culture Ax is a WWE Professional tag team wrestler. Ax is also a classical musician. AX is a kickboxing site. Ismail YX is a popular Turkish hip hop artist.

Ax is the name of a special forces group in the TV series Trinity Blood.

F-Zero Ax is a video game. Ismail AX could be an online handle, a password.

Another question surrounding the tattoo is its origin. Did he, in his steely psychopathic resolution, carve the words into his own flesh or did he get the tattoo at an established tattoo parlor? If he did get it at a tattoo parlor then why is the word “axe” misspelled?

There are numerous possible explanations for this; however a likely explanation is that Cho Seung-Hui did not get the tattoo in America (where the tattooists would surely know how to spell “axe”). In fact in order to answer the question of the tattoo’s origin we must look back in Cho Seung-Hui’s history. All the way back into what is colloquially known as Asia.

Here it is not too difficult to imagine that an individual, thinking of themselves as somewhat romantic, would get a tattoo of a quotation from a foreign religion. The tattooists, knowing that the customer is no more fluent in the foreign language than they are, would simply approximate the accurate spelling without their patron being any the wiser. In fact this has happened numerous times to visitors of Asia.

Often foreign visitors of Japan will get a tattoo of Japanese Kanji (Kanji being an alphabet of descriptive symbols) thinking it will be accurately spelt. However these foolishly trusting individuals are often dismayed to later find that the symbol they requested has been misspelled or even (if the tattooist in question is more mischievous) a completely different symbol. For example anecdotal evidence shows that a man who had requested a “love” tattoo got the significantly less romantic tattoo “pencil”.

Is it possible that the misspelling is due to Cho Seung-Hui being similarly duped? It’s certainly possible. Many individuals who receive religiously orientated tattoos fail to realize that what they are doing is often against the religion they claim to admire/adhere to. For example the tattoo shown bellow contains the words “John 3:16”. If only the person who had received this tattoo had taken the time to look at Leviticus 19:28 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”

As it is likely that American tattooists would pick-up on the translation error it is very possible that Cho Seung-Hui received the tattoo in Asia. But the question then turns to when. Cho Seung-Hui moved to the United States in September 1992, along with his sister Sun Kyong-Cho. Surely a boy under the age of seven would not get a tattoo? It’s naturally very unlikely.

So when did he get the tattoo?


Anonymous said...

I wish not concur on it. I over precise post. Especially the title attracted me to study the intact story.

Anonymous said...

Genial brief and this enter helped me alot in my college assignement. Thank you on your information.