Following the violent attack on Soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, there has been an outpouring of support from the local community, with churches calling for prayers and military Chaplains asking for prayer for the alleged assailant. Former President Bush quietly visited Fort Hood victims last Friday, and President Obama plans to attend a memorial on Tuesday.
The actions of Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the suspected gunman, have been roundly criticized by a variety of organizations representing the American Muslim community.
Though a footnote to the story has been Hasan’s apparent allegations of mistreatment for his faith, a local leader in the Islamic community, Osman Danquah, apparently saw more to the story. He “sensed” that Hasan was “troubled,” and even went so far as to deny Hasan’s request to be a lay Islamic leader at Fort Hood:
He was disturbed by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s persistent questioning and recommended the mosque reject Hasan’s request to become a lay Muslim leader at the sprawling Army post.
Indeed, some of Hasan’s former classmates indicated that he was the instigator of controversial rhetoric.
Another American Islamic leader who spoke on the attack was Qaseem Uqdah, once a Marine Corps gunnery sergeant and now the leader of the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council. When asked about the allegations of religious harassment, Uqdah acknowledged that it likely occurred, but that it wasn’t confined to Islam:
What I really want to stress here is that it’s not just with Muslims. You could have incidents with gay soldiers or Christian soldiers, Jewish soldiers. These things do occur. And the military has resources and mechanism to address it…
While there are undercurrents of religious harassment, part of the reason Hasan was never highlighted, despite reportedly making openly anti-American comments, was the hypersensitivity of the military to religion, not its crass prejudice. For example, Hasan’s former classmates have said they complained to their faculty about his irrelevant lecture framing the US military actions as a war against Islam, but no one lodged a formal complaint with the military due to fears that they would be perceived as prejudiced against Islam.
Interestingly, while even Islamic advocacy organizations are downplaying the accusations of harassment–instead insisting that it was an inexcusable criminal act–a non-Islamic organization has emphasized Hasan’s allegations.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation used the attack at Fort Hood as a rallying cry or cause célèbre, citing Fort Hood as a “hot spot” of Christianity in the military and equating Hasan’s “ardor” with that of Timothy McVeigh and James Dobson. The MRFF emphasized the victimhood of Muslims in the military, with Weinstein making the unsubstantiated accusation that
carrying an Arabic name or professing Islamic faith can lead to suspicion and discrimination…There is an incredible amount of reprisal and humiliation.
In addition to that victim status, the MRFF also implied that a cause of “religious terror” such as Hasan’s attack was Christianity itself:
We must therefore discourage overt and coercive Christian proselytizing in the military which is rampant and may be causal to eruptions of other religious terror. (emphasis added)
In an attack on American troops by an American Soldier of the Islamic faith, the MRFF still found a way to shift the focus to Christianity.
Despite the MRFF’s dire warning about Christianity, it is worth noting that the attack at Fort Hood, if the current facts are confirmed, would be the second in which an Islamic American soldier killed his compatriots for religious reasons. On the other hand, there are zero incidents of any other religious adherent committing an equivalent act.
In addition, while the MRFF is focusing on discrimination against Muslims, it appears to be ignoring Hasan’s own conduct. The MRFF has said nothing about the reports that Hasan openly proselytized his own patients, attempting to convert them to Islam, or the fact that he belittled his patients’ addictions as “unholy” behavior. Similar allegations against Christians brought threats of a lawsuit from Weinstein and, as noted above, ominous warnings about Christian-inspired “religious terror.” In Hasan’s case, Weinstein has been silent.
There are a variety of reports that support the position that one man does not represent a religion, even if his ideology played some part in his actions. Weinstein seems to agree, having “called on” the President to issue an order protecting Muslim military members from the rest of the military, as if anticipating some kind of religious backlash.
Ironically, to date Weinstein’s own MRFF has defined an entire religion by the beliefs (not even actions) of a few. In addition, both he and his organization selectively apply their definition to those whom they see fit; that is, the MRFF has told Christians what those Christians believe. Such contradiction with his current statements on Islam are typical of Weinstein’s selective outrage.
Religious harassment in the military is unacceptable. There is no justification, ideological or otherwise, for Hasan’s massacre. And no religion–neither Islam nor Christianity–should be vilified for Hasan’s actions.