Was the New York City cop killer a "devout Muslim?"
In a long, top-of-Page 1 profile, today's New York Times uses that description in the lede:
His entire life, Ismaaiyl Brinsley tried on identities as if they were new clothes. He was a bad boy with a gun, a fashionable man in Gucci and Cartier, a T-shirt maker, a film director, a screenwriter, a devout Muslim, a rap producer.
He had a nickname for every mood — Moses, Interstate, Palace, Gazava, Scorpio King, Bleau Barracuda. Online, he seemed to be screaming at people to pay attention. “Welcome To Greatness,” proclaimed a photo album on his Facebook page.
In reality, Mr. Brinsley’s short life was a series of disappointments.
Keep reading, and the Times offers three brief glimpses of the supposed Islamic faith of the gunman who shot to death officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu as they sat in their patrol car.
He struggled with depression but had no history of hallucinations or other forms of psychosis, unlike his oldest brother, who battled schizophrenia. His version of Islam seemed more jumbled than jihadi. Instead, Mr. Brinsley seemed to be a grandstander at the end of his tether, homeless, jobless and hopeless.
Mr. Brinsley was born in Brooklyn, and he never let you forget it, calling people out for acting Brooklyn when he felt that they weren’t. But he was raised in Atlanta, where his parents moved when he was a boy. There, Mr. Brinsley was the youngest of four children brought up in the Senegalese Sufi branch of Islam embraced by his mother, Shakuwra Dabre.
And finally, this:
By 2011, he was on Twitter as the “Scorpio King.” His missives were aspirational (“Rise and grind! Another day, more dollars”); revealing (“I Almost Got Shot At Point Blank Range A Few Moments Ago”) and contradictory (“IN ALLAH I TRUST” followed by one mentioning “3 Condoms” and “I Love Myself!!!!”)
So, after the use up high of "devout Muslim," the Times provides two brief references to "Islam," one to "Allah," and the term "Muslim" doesn't appear again in the in-depth piece.
What to make of the religion angle in this story? Not much, really.
And that's not a criticism per se, although it would have been nice if the Times had shed more light on broad statements such as "his version of Islam seemed more jumbled than jihadi." And what is the significance of growing up in the "Senegalese Sufi branch of Islam" as opposed to a different branch? Please, Times, explain why that specificity is important.
But back to the original question: Reading the "devout Muslim" mention in context, it's clear that the Times isn't suggesting that he really was one — but rather that this was one of the many incongruous personas associated with this troubled soul.