Will Fort Hood’s Tragedy Trigger An Anti-Muslim Backlash?
Some very different narratives are quickly unfolding since Thursday’s tragedy that left 13 people dead and 23 wounded, with 3 in critical condition. The reality behind the distinct narratives will not be easy to sort out, and may not fully ever be revealed considering that Major Hasan is still in a coma. But the political & media spin is already at work.
First the facts: Major Hasan is a 12-year veteran in the US Army. He is a native-born American, he was born in Arlington Virginia. Hasan’s parents were Palestinian immigrants, but Hasan did not even speak Arabic. In 1997 he joined the Army where he got his medical training as a psychiatrist. Hasan was going to be deployed to Afghanistan. He had tried to get out off the Army for sometime, and was an outspoken opponent of both the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan. The Army refused numerous time to release him from duty, arguing that they paid for his medical training.
After the facts, let’s look at the conflicting narratives: Did he just snapped or was he plotting a terrorist attack? An AP story Friday had the following provocative title:“Fort Hood suspect reportedly shouted Allahu Akbar”. The sensationalism of the AP story title re-enforced the narrative painting Major Hasan as a radical Muslim terrorist. Yesterday, the allegations of Hasan shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is great in Arabic) before firing his two guns were put into question by FBI investigators. FBI agents investigating the case are not sure Hasan really said “Allahu Akbar” before he started shooting, but instead suggested that perhaps “Soldiers in the mayhem of the moment only imagined Hasan said Allahu Akbar“.
Needless to say, this story and the conflicting interpretations will keep grabbing the headlines for a few days. On Friday, I saw a comment on line saying bluntly that “Muslims should not be allowed to serve in the military”. Following my Thursday’s article on News Junkie Post a few comments on our Facebook page followed the same logic and narrative.
“As this unfold you will find that this was a terror attack…..What do you think the screaming of Allahu Akbar was about? Wonder why he was handing out Korans to his neighbors just before the incident? He had been outspoken on his objections to the war in the past…..He had been given signs of his support of radicalism that were ignored….he should have never been allowed in the Army,” wrote Rick Merkle on News Junkie Post’s Facebook page.
However, this narrative of Major Hasan as a Muslim radical doesn’t really make sense. Hasan’s Imam of ten years, Faisal Khan, never got the idea that Hasan had any radical inclination or was ashamed of his service in the Army.
“He would come to the mosque in his uniform many times. He would come in his uniform and pray,” said Imam Khan.
At 39, Hasan had never married, Imam Khan says Hasan had joined a Muslim dating service.
“His first choice was Arab, his second choice Indian and Pakistani, his third choice was Caucasian European Muslims, and his last choice was Spanish,” said Khan. The Imam said that Hasan did not like any of the women listed on the site.
This point confirms the psychological profile of Hasan as an unhappy loner, which is quite often the case for people snapping and becoming serial killers. Hasan was unhappy in his personal life, not very social and probably emotionally unbalanced. The prospect of his imminent deployment to Afghanistan was the trigger that took him over the edge, in something similar to “suicide by cops” if Hasan would have been a civilian.
It is unfortunately likely that we are going to see another wave of anti-Muslim hate crimes in America because of this tragedy. In September, a Pew Research survey showed that 58 percent of Americans believe Muslims to be subject to “A lot of discrimination”. Americans see Muslims as facing more discrimination inside the US than any other major religious groups.
In October, while making the case for the Federal hate crimes law, Attorney General Eric Holder addressed the issue.
“I want to reflect on a group whom race and religion are treated as defining characteristics, to the concern and detriment of us all. I am speaking of Muslim Americans. This can be a difficult time to be a Muslim in America. Crimes against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim have escalated dramatically since September 11 2001. Some hate mongers seem to have adopted the twisted logic that an attack on innocents can somehow be avenged by another attacks on innocents,” said AG Holder on October 18.
Let’s hope that voices of calm and reason can be heard despite the fueling of hate mongering by some media outlets. Let’s hope that the Obama administration can diffuse the situation, and that we don’t go back to the ” us versus them” that marked the twisted rational of the Bush-era.