Military worried, but are Muslims?

Thirteen Dead In Mass Shooting At Fort Hood

Coverage of the tragedy at Fort Hood, which left at least 13 dead, has continued its evolution. I mentioned Friday that it began with shock and ended up with Muslims condemning the alleged actions of Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan. The focus now has turned to fallout for the thousands of other Muslim members of the active-duty military.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The push to boost Muslim representation has proven to be a double-edged sword for the military, which desperately needs the Muslim soldiers for their language skills and cultural knowledge, but also worries that a small percentage of those soldiers might harbor extremist ideologies or choose to turn their guns on their fellow soldiers.

In one of the military’s most notorious cases of fratricide since Vietnam, Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar, a convert to Islam, rolled a grenade into a tent filled with other soldiers in April 2003. The attack killed two officers and wounded 14 others. During his court-martial, prosecution witnesses testified Sgt. Akbar had committed the attack because he believed the U.S. military would kill Muslim civilians during the coming invasion. Sgt. Akbar was later sentenced to death.

Muslim soldiers also face challenges stemming from their dual identities as adherents of the Islamic faith and as members of the U.S. military. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Muslims serving in the U.S. military often use fake last names to avoid being singled out by insurgents as traitors and to prevent reprisals against their families elsewhere in the world.

Pretty good story from the Wall Street Journal — good graphic and it covers a lot of ground in a short space. But some big unanswered questions. Primarily: Why would insurgents single out these “traitors?”

I can infer, but readers shouldn’t have to. Assumptions lead to mistakes. That’s the first thing I teach the new reporting interns at UCLA’s Daily Bruin.

Let’s see if the Paper of Record did any better. This story from The New York Times surveys what politicians and bureaucrats had to say on the Sunday morning news shows. The short answer: No.

General George Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, said on Sunday that he was concerned that speculation about the religious beliefs of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, accused of killing 12 fellow soldiers and one civilian and wounding dozens of others in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, could “cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers.”

“I’ve asked our Army leaders to be on the lookout for that,” General Casey said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It would be a shame — as great a tragedy as this was — it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well.”

General Casey, who was appeared on three Sunday news programs, used almost the same language during an interview on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” an indication of the Army’s effort to ward off bias against the more than 3,000 Muslims in its ranks.

“A diverse Army gives us strength,” General Casey, who visited Fort Hood Friday, said on “This Week.”

Senators Joe Lieberman, Lindsey Graham and Jack Reed also weighed in, thanking Muslim troops for their service. But missing from any of this is discussion of what it means to be a Muslim member of the military. The WSJ discussed the strategic import of Muslim soldiers and the NYT article focused on fears for their treatment. But missing from either article — a quote from one of those Muslims.

Sure, the military is worried, but are they?

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  • Mark

    Hopefully the military and politicians are just as worried about our military being infiltrated by Islamic terrorists as are they are about not discriminating against loyal Muslim soldiers. Military leaders and Muslim military personnel need to come up with some way to prevent other Muslims soldiers from becoming radicals and to identify those whose loyalty to the US has been dangerously compromised by jihadism. The Army certainly had enough information to be worried about Nidal Hasan, why didn’t they act?

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    That’s a question many of these stories are asking.

  • Erin

    Sorry to use the comment box to ask this, but why do GetReligion posts now show up only as snippets in my feed reader? It’s very annoying and means I can’t read the posts in offline mode because I have to click over to the website to read them.

  • Jerry

    “A diverse Army gives us strength,”

    But missing from any of this is discussion of what it means to be a Muslim member of the military.

    Given the past issues with military intolerance such as the scandals which rocked the Air Force Academy a few years ago, I’m hopeful that any prejudice that manifests will be promptly and publically addressed. It’s too much to hope for any historical perspective that harkens back to World War II treatment of Germans and Japanese in the military, but I hope the issue is raised at least to some degree.

  • Dave

    I recall recently reading — but cannot remember where — why Muslim US troops would be wary of being targeted by insurgents. Evidently some jihadis believe it is a sin against Islam for a Muslim to fight other Muslims on behalf of a non-Muslim authority (eg, the United States).

  • Northeasterner

    The WSJ should know that being a Muslim does not magically imbue someone with language skills and cultural knowledge.

    When I studied Arabic at the Defense Language Institute, a number of instructors were Arab Christians who had fled persecution in their homelands. If properly taught, an intelligent soldier can develop language skills and cultural knowledge regardless of his or her religion.

  • Dave

    Mark says:
    “Hopefully the military and politicians are just as worried about our military being infiltrated by Islamic terrorists as are they are about not discriminating against loyal Muslim soldiers. ”

    But Mark, Hasan did not “infiltrate” the military. He was in the Army for 21 years. Essentially the military was his most formative experiene. Also there is no indication he had extremist views until the very last few years.

    Much has been said about his posting on sucide bomnbers and analogies to Kamakazee or peopel jumping on a grenade — what is left out is that if you google papers written by western non moslem terrorism experts for example at Rand, or if you even look through papers written by non Moslem military, including active duty, scholars from the Army War College you see many with essentially identical conclusions.

    A suicide bombing by an insurgent against a militayr target is not in fact terrorism. It is just asymetic warfare against a legitimate target. If the suicide bomber isn;t wearign a uniform is that per se a war crime or an illegal act when US patriots did the same?

    Of course suicide bombings against civilian target are terrorism, and of course taking an oath to the army or simply being a US citizen and attacking any US target is treason. But from what I actually read of Hasan’s exact words on the net some are highly problematic but some being noted are not.

    Let’s imagine it is 1960. Would you support the idea that Jews were “infiltrating” US weapons development and should be as a class generally suspected of being traitors? Look at the atomic spies list from Venona, these are people who created an existential threat to the life itself of a couple hundred million Americans: the list is almost all Jews.

    The fact is this shooting is a very complex event with red flags on Hasan that should have been raised no matter what his religion. Just like there were red flags on christian fundamentalists like Timothy McVeigh while he was in the military.

    Hasan’s Islamic background grew into an Islamic identity. But in the last few years he was exhibiting more and more bizarre behavior. If he had been a Christian with an Evangelical background there is a good chance he would have shot up a planned parenthood center instead. I think he just picked the target that most validated his attempted suicide.

    @Northeastener, You are wrong about the current DLI when it comes to Arabic.

    Firstly “Basic Arabic” at DLI is a 68 week course.

    Secondly almost none of the instructors are Arabic Christians. 90% of instructors are Moslem Arabs with a handful of people with no ethical ties to the region who are Arabic language PhDs. Yes, there WERE many Christian and Jewish instructors years ago but those immigration where in the 1950′s and 1960′s. You are actually more likely to see Palestinian Moslems who left persecution in Israel at DLI nowadays. Especially after the program was gutted in mid 2001 by the Army firing a huge cadre of non Moslems Arabic instructors at DLI who were discovered to be gay!!!

    I wonder if you have any idea of what you are talking about since the Army suggestion 2002 tha tit would have to enlist foreign Arabic speakers with no ties to the US into the special forces. Google: “Faced with a critical shortage of native Arab speakers, the Army is considering recruiting Middle Easterners into the ranks of its elite Special Forces, defense officials say.”

    Today have more felons in the Army then ever. More illiterates people and more not just foreign born but non US citizens. Indeed one of the US Army personnel killed last week was not just born in Mexico but was a Mexican citizen with no US citizenship. This is all due to the insane stretching of resources by fighting two wars when we did not have anywhere near the nubmer of troops necessary.

  • Dave

    I must regretfully decline credit for the previous comment. It was posted by a different Dave.

  • Northcoast

    I have a German name. My father in WW1 and cousins in WW2 never mentioned that this was a problem. Prior to WW1 there was a lot of German nationalistic pride, and there was some backlash against civilians of German descent after the war started, but I’ve never heard about that being a problem for soldiers.

    According to Wikipedia, Tim McVeigh was raised in a Catholic family and proclaimed his religion to be science.

    Service in the armed forces has been a path to citizenship through most of my lifetime. Likewise it has been a path to redemption for convicts who would be amenable to military discipline. I would think that there were more felons in uniform during the Vietnam war.

  • Jerry

    Hasan’s Islamic background grew into an Islamic identity. But in the last few years he was exhibiting more and more bizarre behavior.

    I’m not sure if this is a marker or not, but someone pointed me to this Fox news story: Alleged Fort Hood Shooter Frequented Local Strip Club
    I won’t excerpt a part of the story because I think it fits together well and paints a different picture.

  • dalea

    The article seems to confuse Muslim with Arab, which is not a necessary relationship. It would be helpful for the article to break down the Muslim troops by country of origin for them or their parents. Soldiers of Turkish or Bosnian or Indonesian background would probably have different outlooks on some things. The article does mention the languages spoken by Muslim troops but does not go into the varied backgrounds Muslims have.

  • Fred Kahn

    I read on the web site Pakistan News , a cited column by a muslim who cites indian-Israeli plots aginst muslims and an the alleged war by the US against Islam. Further , it repeats the myth that jews were on sich leaved from the twin towers on 9/11 inferring that the 9/11 was a jewish plot. It also hauled Major Hassan as a hero. Finally , it repeats that muslims are violating Islam if they fight muslims. Well, may i ask , then who are people allegedly muslims who constantly kill other muslims? If that opinion is widespread in pakistan,I then wonder about why the YS is involved there to help the government of Pakistamn/ I also wonder about the cognitive perception of sucha muslim toward the West? He also wrote that the Jews and the Indians are controlling the US press, the US government and all the US Presidents. In other words, that the mighty India/Jewish conspitacy is the cause of all the problems in the world. I am baffled that such is printted on the “Pakistan News.”web site?

  • Bigmo

    Many Muslims serve in the Russian and Indian army and none of this happens against India and Russia even though they are fighting in Chechniya and Kashmir. Many Muslims fought in WW2 alongside European powers.

    But lets face it, US foreign policy is JEWISH. Thats what Nidal probably had to face with and being Palestinian he chose to kill US soldiers.