Friday, November 6, 2009

Major Nidal Malik Hasan, "Allah Akbar," American History and Common Sense

Turns out Major Nidal Malik Hasan is a Muslim.

It's possible that Major Hasan's own version of Islam had something to do with his [allegedly] shooting so many people at Fort Hood. ("Allegedly?" Over-used as it may be, that term reflects the 'innocent until proven guilty' principle which makes the American judicial system stand out a bit.)

But it would be prudent to remember that there are over 1,100 Muslims in the United States Army (MailOnline) who did not open fire on their fellow-soldiers.

Excuse Me: I Feel a Need to Rant

It's been a long week - in a long year - for me, personally, and I'm going to indulge in some naval-gazing. At the end of this post.

Major Nidal Malik Hasan is a Muslim, From a Muslim Family

Members of Major Hasan's family had a few words to say about his recent behavior:
"...'the actions of their cousin are despicable and deplorable.'..."
It's anyone's guess, at this point, why all those people were shot at Fort Hood. Right now, although news services are using the traditional "allegedly," it seems fairly certain that Major Hasan fired the gun that killed 13 people. Yes: 13. One of the wounded apparently died since the last post.

What's uncertain - to put it mildly - is why Major Hasan went berserk.

I don't - putting it mildly - often agree with what President Barack Obama says. On these two points, though, I think he's right:
"...'We don't know all the answers yet. And I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts,' Obama said in a Rose Garden statement otherwise devoted to the economy...."

He Shouted, "Allah Akbar!" That Proves It!

"It" in this case can be anything from the "Islam is bad" assumption dear to the hearts of some 'real Americans,' to "it's a CIA plot," one of the contemporary equivalents of the familiar "it's a commie plot" of my younger days.

It seems that an eyewitness reported hearing Major Hasan say "Allah Akbar!" He may have done so. It means, I've read, something like "God is great." And, these days, is associated - fairly or not - with Islamic terrorists.

Even if he did, I've made the point before in this blog: Islam is not one huge, monolithic block of people with identical cultural values and religious beliefs.

On the other hand, it's starting to look like some flavor of Islam, not psychiatry, is behind these shootings.

Fort Hood Shootings, Internment Camps for Japanese-Americans, Civil Rights, and Common Sense

America isn't perfect.

The Rutherford B. Hayes administration tried to keep 'those Chinese' out, and Americans whose ancestors had come from Japan were herded into internment camps during World War II. (January 22, 2009)

The civil rights movement taught most Americans to view others as members of ethnic groups. Affirmative action and quotas were established, for what I trust were altruistic reasons. These policies were intended partly to keep people from some ethnic groups out of college, because they tended, on average, to do better academically; partly to put others into college, for the opposite reason. "Reverse discrimination" is starting to be recognized as a real phenomenon, so it looks like that lunacy is being corrected, too.

Today, a tiny but growing number of Americans are Muslims. And, thanks to groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as well as old-fashioned religious and racial intolerance, Islam - and Muslims - have a really bad reputation in some circles.

On the other hand, although I don't approve of discriminating against - or for - people based on their ancestry or religious beliefs (within reason), I think it's possible to have too much "tolerance."

Major Hasan and Troubling "Difficulties"

There's a disturbing detail in the news, about Major Hasan's psychiatric training. It seems that he had "difficulties" (AP), and required extra supervision.

Based on that (tiny) bit of information, it's possible to guess that Nidal Malik Hasan had personality issues and/or a psychiatric condition which should have prevented him from getting into the military - or being discharged from service, once the condition was discovered.

The American armed forces are supposed to be meritocracies. Theoretically, a person is promoted on the basis of merit: not on who his or her ancestors were, or what groups the person belongs to.

I said it before: America isn't perfect. Neither are the American armed forces. It took Executive Orders 9980 and 9981 to remove an enormous barrier to advancement by merit - and another six years before the last all-black outfit was abolished. That was 1948-1954. Since then, following orders from America's civilian commander-in-chiefs, the American military has attempted to conform to more contemporary intellectual fashions.

I do not know that the Fort Hood incident is a case of civil rights gone wrong. There isn't enough information publicly available - and the investigators may not have enough evidence at this point, to have an reasonable guess as to motive.

However, America's track record over the last 40 years makes it possible to think that misguided altruism allowed a dangerous man to stay in a situation which was not healthy for him - and whose presence resulted in the death of more than a dozen other people.

Related posts: In the news:
  • "Gunman shouted 'Allah Akbar' before opening fire, witness says. Will the rampage affect Obama's decision?"
    Los Angeles Times (November 6, 2009)
    • "A witness has told investigators that the Army major who allegedly opened fire on his fellow soldiers at Ft. Hood Army Base Thursday shouted 'Allahu Akbar' -- Arabic for "God is Great" and the rallying cry of suicide bombers around the world -- before unleashing his bloody assault that left 13 dead and 30 others wounded.
      "In a briefing with reporters this morning at the base, Col. John Rossi said, 'We do have a witness who reported that.'..."
  • "Family calls suspects actions deplorable"
    The Associated Press (November 6, 2009)
    • "The family of the suspected Fort Hood shooter says "the actions of their cousin are despicable and deplorable."..."
  • "Suspect Objected to Deployment, Cousin Says "
    The New York Times (November 6, 2009)
    • "Born and reared in Virginia, the son of immigrant parents from a small Palestinian town near Jerusalem, he joined the Army right out of high school, against his parents’ wishes. The Army, in turn, put him through college and then medical school, where he trained to be a psychiatrist...."
      "But Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the 39-year-old man accused of Thursday's mass shooting at Fort Hood, Tex., began having second thoughts about a military career a few years ago after other soldiers harassed him for being a Muslim, he told relatives in Virginia...."
  • "To Fort Hood neighbors, giving blood `the least we can do' "
    Miami Herald (November 6, 2009)
    • "At this sprawling medical complex about 30 minutes from Fort Hood, the line of people waiting to give blood started early Friday morning...."
  • "What Might Have Set Off Fort Hood Gunman?"
    CBS News (November 6, 2009)
    • "Mental health professionals are scrambling to explain what could have prompted a gunman to go on a rampage in Texas' Fort Hood Thursday, killing 13 people and wounding 30, before being shot by a female police officer who was among the first to arrive on the scene...."
  • "Fort Hood shootings: Muslims in the U.S. Army"
    MailOnline (UK) (November 6, 2009)
    • "There is a small Islamic population currently on active duty in the U.S. military.
      "Out of the 1.4 million service men and women, 3,572 are Muslim, according to U.S. Department of Defense figures.
      "And out of that number, just 1,164 are in the Army - which has over half a million soldiers.
      "Muslim recruits are treated just as any other soldier and are expected to deploy to American stations around the globe and fight for their country regardless of whether the enemy shares their faith...."
  • "Details emerge about Fort Hood suspect background"
    The Associated Press (November 6, 2009)
    • "His name appears on radical Internet postings. A fellow officer says he fought his deployment to Iraq and argued with soldiers who supported U.S. wars. He required counseling as a medical student because of problems with patients.
      "There are many unknowns about Nidal Malik Hasan, the man authorities say is responsible for the worst mass killing on a U.S. military base. Most of all, his motive.
      "For six years before reporting for duty at Fort Hood, Texas, in July, the 39-year-old Army major worked at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center pursuing his career in psychiatry, as an intern, a resident and, last year, a fellow in disaster and preventive psychiatry. He received his medical degree from the military's Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., in 2001.
      "While an intern at Walter Reed, Hasan had some 'difficulties' that required counseling and extra supervision, said Dr. Thomas Grieger, who was the training director at the time...."
Excuse Me: I Feel a Need to Rant (continued)

It's occurred to me that I could probably get many more people to visit this blog, if I adopted a more emotional style of writing, made more unfounded accusations, and conformed to one of the more factually-challenged positions favored by some Americans.

I'm not going to do that.

I've abandoned my academic career, and so have no reason to adopt the attitude that 'all whites are racist, the military-industrial complex is intolerant [not "evil" - that's a politically-incorrect concept formulated by a male-dominated, hierarchical, oppressive religious establishment], and Global Warming imperils delicate Mother Nature and microbacterium hatanonis.

I like living among people who aren't all exactly like me, so the 'keep America American' viewpoint is out: Besides, although I look 'Anglo,' I'm not a red-white-and-blue-blooded 100% all-American descendant of 'real' Americans. As one of my ancestors said of another, "he doesn't have family: he's Irish."

Partly because I converted to Catholicism, I'm aware that people who don't believe exactly what I do are, in many cases, reasonable, responsible members of society. And, particularly since starting this blog, I've found that Islam, if anything, has achieved a greater diversity of belief and cultural assumptions than Protestant Christianity: no small feat.

Looks like I'm stuck with trying to sort out facts from assertions.

As we say here in Minnesota, "it could be worse."
Updated November 6, 2009, 8:00 p.m.
I added a few sentences to the "Major Hasan and Troubling 'Difficulties' " section, correcting an omission.


Anonymous said...

A loverly blog, and I live in Indonesia and am surrounded by Muslims and the head of a Muslim family but am not a Muslim.

Good to see you have a grasp of the complexity and variety of the religion and if I could be sure of things as are the majority of Islamophobes I meet on my log and on blogging generally, I would be as certain of things religious as they are but I can't, and am frequently confused.

Brian H. Gill said...


Thanks for the good words.

My personal contacts with followers of Islam have been through online correspondence - and the people I've met that way bear little to no resemblance to the murderous fanatics that some bloggers describe.

I think it helped me, growing up in a mainstream Protestant family in a virulently anti-Catholic community. That encouraged me to start digging for facts about Christianity and other religions - and led, indirectly, to my becoming a Catholic. Which is a topic for another blog.

About Islamophobes - and biased people in general - from yet another blog, on another topic: " 'My Mind's Made Up: Don't Confuse Me With the Facts'."

Anonymous said...

Kids at school have been having a difficult time with the American History and the sequence of events govering their study. I created some concise flashcards,which I hope will make things easier for them. What is your opinion on this method?( and also on these flashcards)

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.