In a recent profile of Shahid King Bolsen, the New York Times branded the Boulder native as "the unlikely apostle for a distinctive blend of anti-globalization sloganeering and Islamist politics that is fueling a new wave of violence against businesses across the country."
Since the piece's publication, Bolsen has repeatedly rejected such characterizations across the assorted social-media platforms on which he operates.
But information has surfaced that's called into question at least one of the claims attributed to him — that he was once a reporter at the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News.
The Times piece begins like so:
Writing from an online perch in Istanbul, he calls on Egyptians to start off-hour attacks against KFC restaurants, banks, mobile phone shops and other corporate outposts. He urges assaults on the military’s commercial interests instead of its security checkpoints.
Nonviolent protests are worse than “futile,” he says, just an opportunity “to get arrested or shot in an exercise in crowd control training for the police.”
The article, by David D. Kilpatrick, goes on to describe Bolsen as "college dropout who speaks only rudimentary Arabic and has barely set foot in Egypt" and "developed his ideas...in the solitude of a seven-year stint in prison for manslaughter in the United Arab Emirates, the result of a bizarre case involving allegations of sex for sale and an overdose of chloroform."
Nonetheless, the Times notes that Bolsen has become popular in Egypt — a development that one source sees as "a measure of the growing frustration among many young Islamists at their apparent powerlessness after the military takeover that removed President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood more than a year and a half ago."
Bolsen has dismissed the Times' conclusions on his Facebook page and Twitter account. Here's one example....
Take note of the fact that they want us to focus on individuals instead of ideas and issues; they want us to discuss people instead of policies. They distract, and distort, and defame, because they do not want us to understand.
...and this one:
It is entirely inaccurate to claim that I have advocated violence, unless loss of corporate profit is now regarded as the same thing as loss of human life. Or is it just that anything that is not complete surrender will be defined as violence?
Thus far, he hasn't refuted a claim shared by the Times that he moved to Dubai "after a few years working as a journalist for The Rocky Mountain News." However, 7News cites reports that he actually worked in the circulation department at the Denver Post.
Whatever the case, there's no doubt that the Times piece has raised the profile of the self-described "political analyst and Islamic thinker" nationally and internationally, for better or worse.
Here are two videos from Bolsen's YouTube channel. The first is in English; in the second, from a television appearance, his replies have been dubbed in Arabic.Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
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