Surveying Muslim reaction to Ft. Hood

Long before Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire on Fort Hood, killing at least 13, there was a well-established formula for covering this story.

Start with shock and awe. Then, as information starts to get out, report that the suspected shooter has an Arabic name. Confirm that he was, in fact, a Muslim. Once that has settled in, add to the story about motive the possibility of jihad and the references to 9/11. Finally, within short order, fill out the picture with a story about American Muslims condemning the alleged act of their misguided brother.

Ms. MZ and tmatt were all over the coverage of the Fort Hood massacre last night and this morning. Now here are my thoughts on the Muslim reactions to Hasan’s alleged actions.

Let’s look specifically at coverage from The New York Times: “Muslims at Fort Voice Outrage and Ask Questions.” (The Los Angeles Times also delivered a pretty straightforward story mixing man-on-the-street with advocacy leaders and The Washington Post offered this six-paragraph roll-call of the organizations speaking out.)

In the NYT story, we’ve got great quotes and a narrow window into Muslim life on and around the largest Army base in the country. Oddly, it’s not clear whether the lead quote is from a Muslim or just a friend of Hasan. Often, that wouldn’t matter. But here, on the face of the story, it does. Particularly when you read the remark:

“When a white guy shoots up a post office, they call that going postal,” said Victor Benjamin II, 30, a former member of the Army. “But when a Muslim does it, they call it jihad.

“Ultimately it was Brother Nidal’s doing, but the command should be held accountable,” Mr. Benjamin said. “G.I.’s are like any equipment in the Army. When it breaks, those who were in charge of keeping it fit should be held responsible for it.”

This story from reporter Michael Moss is fairly short, which almost always serves as a valid defense for not offering more religious depth. But the problem here is more fundamental. This is a classic example of a story about religion that is complete void of any religion.

We get a glimpse of the people at Friday prayers, but learn nothing of the religion that American Muslims are seeking to distinguish from Hasan’s alleged actions:

Among those attending Friday prayers at the Killeen mosque was Sgt. Fahad Kamal, 26, an Army medic who wore his Airborne uniform, and later he said he was angered on several levels. “I want to believe it was the individual, and not the religion, that made him do what he did,” said Sergeant Kamal, who returned to the United States last year after a 15-month tour in Afghanistan. “It’s an awful thing. I feel let down. We’re better than this.”

It was Major Hasan, though, who increasingly felt let down by the military, and deeply conflicted by his religion, said those who knew him through the mosque. Duane Reasoner Jr., an 18-year-old substitute teacher whose parents worked at Fort Hood, said Major Hassan was told he would be sent to Afghanistan on Nov. 28, and he did not like it.

“He said he should quit the Army,” Mr. Reasoner said. “In the Koran, you’re not supposed to have alliances with Jews or Christian or others, and if you are killed in the military fighting against Muslims, you will go to hell.”

That’s really the only religious reference in the story. More importantly, I’d like to know where in the Koran that verse is. The latter might be true — I don’t read Arabic — but I’m pretty sure the former isn’t. Ever heard of the Spanish Golden Age?

I could be wrong here. But it would be nice if the reporter would show me how.

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  • http://blog.hichamaged.net/ Hicham Maged

    As a devoted Muslim, I am shocked with that tragedy that express nothing but ignorance about values and principles of of Islam. We don’t know (yet) what are the motives behind this however generally speaking, radicals usually misinterpret verses from Qur’an (Koran as you typed) by mentioning them out of their original context in order to legalize their actions.

    That is why I felt very sad for the families of the victims, and for the acts that help in fixation of those stereotype images against Islam, Muslims and Arab too. Brad, in a nutshell nothing legalize this in Islam regardless the faith or the race of people.

  • Jerry

    Brad,

    You mention an important point that illustrates the ignorance of so many about the religion they profess. The golden age of Islam did indeed take place in Spain and elsewhere. So not only are so many ignorant about what their religion says, but they’re also ignorant about the lessons of history. Adding to the double dose of ignorance is the blindness of so many who assume they know what the religion teaches so they are ignorant about their ignorance.

    It’s possible he was referring to Surah 5:51. I found one example of a fatwa which explains that Surah: http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503543362 Not being a Muslim nor reading Arabic, I don’t know if’s that is a generally accepted interpretation, but it strikes me as reasonable. In any event, to the earlier ignorance and blindness should be added one more – lack of understanding of what Islamic jurisprudence (ijtihad) is all about.

    One more related point – when we talk about the reactions of Muslims to a crime committed by one, we should also compare/contrast how members of other religions react to crimes committed by one of their own.

  • Judy Harrow

    Brad,

    Thank you for your reference to the Golden Age of Spain. The actual term in Spanish is the convivencia, which translates as the “living together.” To me, that says it all. It was not Muslim intolerance that brought this Golden Age to a bloody, fiery end.

    I live in the NYC area. As you might expect, every local museum had some sort of response to 9/11. The wonderful Newark Museum did an exhibit on the convivencia — that’s where I learned the term. It never specifically mentioned 9/11, but the message was loud and clear: we did this once, we can do it again.

  • http://alislam.org Hasan Hakeem

    Brad,

    There is nothing in the Holy Qur’an to support Reasoner’s statement: “In the Koran, you’re not supposed to have alliances with Jews or Christian or others, and if you are killed in the military fighting against Muslims, you will go to hell.”

    This has nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with mental illness and its impact on the shooter.

    Thanks, Hasan

  • http://www.soilcatholics.blogspot.com Peggy

    My Q: How does an 18-year old become a substitute teacher in Texas?

    How does he have any knowledge of the Koran as well?

  • http://www.protocatholic.blogspot.com Gretchen

    Hasan, please put into context these few quotes from the Koran:
    “Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it.” (Surah 2:216)
    “Believers, do not make friends with any but your own people…They desire nothing but your ruin….You believe in the entire Book…When they meet you they say: ‘We, too, are believers.’ But when alone, they bite their finger-tips with rage.” (Surah 3:118, 119)
    “Seek out your enemies relentlessly.” (Surah 4:103-)
    “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends.” (Surah 5:51)
    “Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme.” (Surah 8:36-)
    “…make war on the leaders of unbelief…Make war on them: God will chastise them at your hands and humble them. He will grant you victory over them…” (Surah 9:12-)
    “Fight against such as those to whom the Scriptures were given [Jews and Christians]…until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.” (Surah 9:27-)
    “If you do not fight, He will punish you sternly, and replace you by other men.” (Surah 9:37-)
    “Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them.” (Surah 9:121-)
    “Muhammad is God’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another.” (Surah 48:29)

    It is quite important to counter assertions that “there is nothing in the Holy Qu’ran to support….” I believe Muslims count on our ignorance of the Koran.

  • http://mithras.blogs.com Mithras

    Oddly, it’s not clear whether the lead quote is from a Muslim or just a friend of Hasan.

    Yes, it is. The quote from Benjamin is immediately preceded by this paragraph:

    But some of the men who had befriended Major Hasan at the mosque said the military should examine the policies that might have caused him to snap.

    In context, especially given that he refers to Hasan as “Brother”, indicates Benjamin is one of those men.

  • Eugene Crowner

    Every Muslim is under obligation to make one pilgrimage to Mecca.

    Christian churches, Synagogues, and Bibles are prohibited in the entire country of Saudi Arabia.

    According to recent headlines, Coptic Christians in Egypt are being persecuted worse than usual.

    An Afghan man who became a Christian was forced to go to Italy to preserve his life.

    The term “cognitive dissonance” comes to mind when hearing Muslims talking about tolerance.

  • Jerry

    Gretchen, the same can be said about Christians and the Bible. From http://www.evilbible.com/Murder.htm A few examples that prove the contention of those who state that Christianity and Judaism are religions of violence and murder: (note that I don’t believe that, but what I’m doing is illustrating how others can look at the Bible and find a violent religion therein.)

    Kill People Who Don’t Listen to Priests

    Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death. Such evil must be purged from Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT)

    Kill Nonbelievers

    They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13 NAB)

    Death for Hitting Dad

    Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:15 NAB)

    Kill the Entire Town if One Person Worships Another God

    Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the street and burn it. Put the entire town to the torch as a burnt offering to the LORD your God. That town must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction. Then the LORD will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make you a great nation, just as he solemnly promised your ancestors. “The LORD your God will be merciful only if you obey him and keep all the commands I am giving you today, doing what is pleasing to him.” (Deuteronomy 13:13-19 NLT)

  • http://www.protocatholic.blogspot.com Gretchen

    Jerry, Let’s be clear here. Those quotes you referenced refer mostly to those within the Israelite religion–they are intended for Israelites. The last one you reference refers to national conquest of the land–hardly unique among humanity.

    So, let’s continue along your line of thought. Tell me, does both Judaism and Christianity continue to enslave its own people, forcibly convert ‘infidels’, and so forth? Are those verses you refer to indicative of both religions today, or for many centuries for that matter? And, does Jesus Christ teach Christians to conquer in such a manner? Was that part of His plan? Hardly. That His followers sometimes do such things does not negate His message. Muhammad, on the other hand, does advocate forced conversions and murder and conquest. Muhammad’s religion is a state religion–there is no separation.

    And if you want to try and make us all feel better by saying Islam is going through ‘growing pains’ like Judaism and Christianity did in their time, please spare me. I’d prefer to avoid the outcome of the so-called growing pains, as I am sure the many victims of Islamic extremism would also.

    You are comparing apples to oranges and it doesn’t signify.

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    And this thread is veering off-point. We could debate ad infinitum the violent strains of Islam and religion in general. Please keep comments focused to media coverage of Islam as tolerant or intolerant, doctrinally violent or peaceful.

  • Julia

    Ever heard of the Spanish Golden Age?

    Actually Christians and Jews during the Muslim rule of Spain were dimmis. They were 2nd class citizens who paid a tax to be left alone.

    So there wasn’t an alliance of Muslims, Jews and Christians in Muslim Spain – although certainly there was a degree of cooperation among some.

  • Mark

    I’m always irked when Muslim apologists say things like “when a Christian murders someone, the media never refers to his religion.” This idea that there is a double-standard is ridiculous. In the rare instances when a Christian murders because of his faith (abortion related stuff comes to mind) it is DEFINITELY mentioned. However, the vast majority of murders by Christians have nothing to do with a religious ideology. The same cannot be said of Islamic terrorism.

  • Sarah

    Can we all agree that killing in the name of God/Allah is wrong and every religion has made that mistake? Each of our faiths have phrases that can be twisted to draw power, but ultimately, each faith provides a path for peace, love and caring for others. In the case of Fort Hood, Muslims, Mulahs and Mosques who are proponents of peace and tolerance MUST stand, speak out and be heard by all Americans.

  • Kristine

    Yes, I agree with what Sarah said.
    The family of the shooter has already made a statement that their own beliefs are in opposition to violence. I think that is important. (and, I’m sure, very difficult for the family to come to grips that one of their own members caused this pain and death.)
    As for Christian churches not being held accountable in the media for violence done in the name of God by church members – puh-leeze. It is done all the time.

  • Kristine

    Oh, one other thing. The Muslim community would be MUCH better off just skipping mentioning the fear of ‘scapegoating’. In particular, as the 2nd talking point, right after condolences to the family. It’s kind of like pro-life Christians who say how terrible it was to have heard about the killing of an abortionist, and then immediately talk about how it will hurt their cause. DROP IT. It makes you sound like you’re really not that concerned about anybody else. Yeah, people will make the connection. The job of a ‘spokesperson’ for a religious group should be, in this case, to prove by actions and words that the violent person was an aberration instead of a representative of this religion.

  • tea

    I am so disgusted by Reasoner and Benjamin’s comments, and am not at all surprised that they are converts to Islam who have deeply misguided notions of the religion they chose to join. There’s a bunch of people like them in NYC as well.

    Ugh. Idiots. These two idiots who were friends with Hasan should not have been quoted as representing how Muslims feel? They’re self-victimizing fools. And it’s not surprising that these idiots were friends with Hasan, the murdering idiot.

    We as Muslims need to start taking more responsibility for the idiots within the Muslim community and the idiocy of their lack of knowledge and the true damage that can lead to.

    Ugh.

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