The Fort Hood shooting suspect’s religion is not the point

Nidal Malik Hasan, the suspect in yesterday’s Fort Hood shootings that killed 13 and wounded 30, identifies as a Muslim.

Much has and will be made of his religion from people too ignorant to read a Qur’an, or too isolated to talk to a Muslim, or too stubborn to educate themselves. Even the Washington Post calls him a “devout Muslim.” But can a “devout Muslim” commit such acts? No more than a “devout Christian” can, no.

His professed religion, writes Mark Ames, at AlterNet, is beside the point. Writs Ames:

Hasan’s opposition to the war didn’t grow out of the bullying, but rather from the stories he heard while interning as a psychiatric counselor to veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Hasan even hired an attorney to try to come to a settlement with the US government and leave the service, but they wouldn’t settle for a deal and instead forced him to deploy. He apparently fought it up to the day before his deployment — and instead of going to the war, he brought the war to the US military.

Here is a statement condemning the act from Council on American-Islamic Relations, which says, in part:

No religious or political ideology could ever justify or excuse such wanton and indiscriminate violence. The attack was particularly heinous in that it targeted the all-volunteer army that protects our nation.

And here is a bit more on the suspect.

43 responses to “The Fort Hood shooting suspect’s religion is not the point

  1. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Only the man’s name and his stated theology are different, which is what is driving the media hoopla.
    Who’s at fault here? The mental health professional who begged to be relieved, or the cold heart of the government who put the guns in his hands and said, “Get back to work.”

    Do you remember Patton? Or the excellent film about his WWII career? Remember when he slapped the soldier suffering PTSD (“shell shock”)? The public outcry to that event ended Patton’s aspirations for a post-war career in politics, and almost ended his military career.
    But that same attitude displayed by Patton seems to be the military standard, even today, in dealing with active personnel with mental disorders.
    Amy Goodman touched on the subject last week.

    The AVF and the Reserves in support are strained to the breaking point. What are we not hearing about? What is the military covering up in country?

  2. You know, I was expecting to hear very quickly, via the media, from people saying that the good ol’ U.S. of A. should not be having Muslims in the military.

    But I haven’t and here it is, 12 hours later. Is it because I’m not watching TV?

    • Yes. And you’re not reading my email, either.

      • I’ve just read the comments you’ve allowed to be posted at your Courant blog — I’m not surprised, unfortunately, but it’s still a bit shocking.

        • The chattering class is out today. I had no idea I was both a “fraud,” a “flaming liberal” AND a “lesbian.” My husband will be shocked on that last count, in particular. I hope he’s equally shocked about the fraud accusation.

  3. I’m sure you’ll hear it soon enough from the more radical conservatives.

    I’m not sure that his religion didn’t play any part in the ordeal, but I will say we can’t blame it on Islam. We can’t blame the crusades on Christians, just warped religious people who wanted power. Whatever Hasan wanted (assuming it was out of the military and deployment) he’s getting it now. Just not how he had hoped.

    • I am, actually, hearing from a few conservatives, bless their heart. We’ve got the 24-hour All-Girl Prayer Circle going for them, too. It’s just too easy and too pat to point the finger at a religion when someone committs such a tragic act.

  4. He is a psychiatrist. He should have recognized signs of his own disorder, and sought help, plus a medical discharge.

    Something similar happens in the novel and movie, “Mister Roberts.”

  5. I feared that there would be an Arabic or Muslim name somewhere in this tragedy. NOT because I thought it inevitable but if it happened the wing nuts of this world, bless their hearts, would jump all over it. If he were a Roman Catholic would that be an issue?

    I’m in the process of putting together an all day Saturday program for next spring at my work here in Academia, on the Arab world. It is diverse, rich in history, art and science and most Americans lump all Islamic faiths into one pot and call them evil. Stay tuned, when I know more about the day I’ll invite you all.

    • I just might come to that. When I heard the name of the suspect, my heart sank for my Muslim friends. Jaysus, there are ignit people out there, willing to tar an entire faith because they’re too ignorant and lazy to change the channel on their hate-spewing television stations.

  6. Not to diminish or generalize but … I suspect that psychiatrists, as a group, are not much less prone to jump the track of “mental wellness” than the rest of us.

  7. On the day after 9-11 I came to school here and one of my fellow adult students, who was Iranian was weeping and telling people she was sorry. I could only hug her. I ached that someone would blame her, she was a refugee of the restrictions on women in her country.

  8. “If he were a Roman Catholic would that be an issue? ”

    No, nor mainline Protestant either. Just if he were an Other (atheist, agnostic, Muslim, anything we don’t know).

    • Good point. We can be so ignorant some times. (By “we,” I mean “they,” of course. “We” here are brilliant.)

    • Actually — I do not think it would have come up very much at all if he were an atheist or agnostic. It comes up and perhaps matters when the person in question somehow thinks they are doing their deeds for, or in the name, of their deity.

      • Mmm. Maybe I’m mixing up responses — I guess we atheists and agnostics aren’t automatically labeled killers, just immoral, by folks to whom this kind of thing is important.

      • I don’t know about that. I mean, you hear badly-behaving people being called “godless,” which — to my understanding — is not considered code word for “kind” and/or “loving.”

      • I think ‘Murricans are losing their fear of atheists and have been since the collapse of the Soviet Union. We had “godless commies” as the enemy for a long time, but now if you call someone that, it’s just funny.

        • True. I’m writing something about the humanist chaplain at Harvard Univ., who has a new book out, “Good Without God.” He deals with this kind of discussion quite capably but I think people who don’t affiliate with some religion somewhere are still looked at as…other…

          • By whom? You’re standing inside the tent …

            See this for some discussion about the shrinking tent.

            • No, you’re right. The Other Tent (from my tent, the other) is growing.

            • I’d bet that a lot who don’t attend services STILL identify with a particular religion, no? And still base their judgements from therein. I think acceptance of non-religious is like acceptance of same-sex-marriage. It’s growing, but it’s not the standard attitude yet.

              • That sounds right to me, yeah. It’s growing, but.

              • I don’t think acceptance of irreligious is anything like the acceptance of same-sex marriage, actually.

                About a quarter of the country is religious, a quarter is secular and half are “mildly interested,” according to the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University … that sounds about right to me.

                The irreligious may get discriminated against in some areas of the country, true. But most of the “mildly interested” are live-and-let-live sorts, I’d say.

                The devout are noisier.

                • We are. And do you know why? It’s because we have God on our side. Fear us. I do think the two groups share something in that people tend to look at individual members (not all people, maybe not even most people, but “people”) as something odd and different. That’s changing, but slowly.

                  • I understand, and you crack me up.

                    But you know … I think it has been a long time since I thought that my views on religion were not pretty ordinary. I think the universe is an impressive achievement and I’d love to know how it came about, and we find out more great stuff all the time.

                    I try to be sympathetic for people who claim they know, and not condescend, and I think I mostly succeed in that.

  9. “Not to diminish or generalize but … I suspect that psychiatrists, as a group, are not much less prone to jump the track of “mental wellness” than the rest of us.”

    True. There are tremendous pressures on professionals in the medical field, including psychiatry. A misdiagnosis, an unecessary death, a lawsuit.

    My wife dropped private practice as the insurance costs were eating away at her income.

    And it’s a truism that a significant number of professionals go into the MH field seeking solutions to their own problems.

    • When I heard the suspect’s name last night, I cringed. I knew — any one who’s been keeping up at all knew — what would follow. And sure enough, it has. You don’t see demonization of the field of psychiatry so much as demonization of Islam and its followers. It’s sad and infuriating.

  10. I wonder if we’ll ever find out what Hasan’s motivation was for doing this. We don’t know that yet, right?

    • We do not and early reports today say he’s in a coma. We may never know.

      • We may not. However, I’ve read this: “Soldiers reported that the gunman shouted “Allahu Akbar!” — an Arabic phrase for “God is great!” — before opening fire Thursday”.

        It is possible that he thought he was acting on behalf of Muslims and yet what he may have said or thought, has nothing to do with mainstream Muslims. Just like other religious extremists (abortion clinic bombers come to mind), we can’t listen to what they say and believe it represents the religion or the beliefs of all others. I think it’s hard for a lot of people to recognize that. Most Christians are unfamiliar with Islam and with all of the conflicting information out there on what the Qur’an does and does not say, it can be confusing for some. I understand that. However, ALL we have to do is remind ourselves that people interpret our own Christian Bible in wildly different ways, too. Are we to be held accountable for the guy that shot the abortion doctor because we share the same religion?

        It’s sad that this man did this and it’s sad that he was Muslim and did this. He isn’t the kind of Muslim I know.

        • Same here. And my heart goes out to the families of the injured and the dead, and to Muslims everywhere who must once again explain their faith and distance themselves from someone tragically flawed.

  11. A facebook friend posted something about this. Something like, “we let active muslims serve in the military? hmmmm”
    I couldn’t touch it. I hoped someone else would but nope.

    • You’re probably showing some maturity there. If you touch it, you’ll find it’s a two-headed snake and it might bite you. Depends on how much time/energy you have. I posted the same entry at my day job (a daily newspaper) and spent all day Friday playing Whack-a-Mole. There are a lot of moles out there. I didn’t even post 50 or so of the comments because they were just too ignit for air space.

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