Ft. Hood Redux

Islamist CartoonI opened this new version of Skalduggery with a post concerning cowardice and virtues that had as its triggering subject an article by Christopher Hitchens. It happened that I disagreed with Hitchens in that case – I found his claim that “religion poisons everything” unconvincing. More, it’s often easier to find ideological zealotry outside of religion; a god was not required for the butchery perpetrated by Mao, Lenin, or Hitler. Religion has produced some of the finest episodes in mankind’s short history; however, it has also been conducive to some of the worst intolerance in our history. I wonder how Muslims would respond to Hitchens’ most recent article and my commentary on it?

In Christopher Hitchins’ latest article for Slate, HARD EVIDENCE: Seven salient facts about Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, he doesn’t just outline seven salient facts concerning the shooter at Ft. Hood, he also provides three salient characteristics of the Muslim death-squad type. Since I’m not really going to focus on the seven salient facts of the article, I encourage you to take a trip over to Slate and read the article. Hitchens opens this way:

The admonition not to rush to judgment or jump to conclusions might sound fair and prudent enough, perhaps even statesmanlike when uttered by the president, as long it’s borne in mind that such advice is itself a judgment that is more than halfway to a conclusion. What it plainly implies in the present case is that the actions of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan should not be assumed in any meaningful way to be related to his Muslim faith. (Slate 20091116:1146)

It is easy to see that the president’s admonition not to rush to judgment is in fact a judgment. If you haven’t seen his video address concerning the “Ft. Hood Tragedy,” then here it is for your consumption.

Just to reassure my readers… I. Am. Not. Rushing to judgment. If you’ve read my posts, then you know I have little patience for chowder headed extremists of any stripe. Unlike Hitchens, I am actually quite tolerant of most religions having been a devout follower of a religion at one time myself – I gave it up for lent. However, like Hitchens, “I do not say that all practitioners of woman-hating, anti-Semitic, sadomasochistic suicide immolations are themselves insane, but I do say that the teaching itself is demented. In the same way, I do not say that all Muslims are terrorists, but I have noticed that an alarmingly high proportion of terrorists are Muslim” (Slate 20091116:1146)… especially in the last 25 years.

Hitchens then points out that the “gallant major,” the sarcasm is obvious in the original text (ok, dry humor for my fellow seminarians), may have been subject to a little ill treatment, but only up to a point. Hitchens reminds us that the major’s parents were given refuge here, that he joined an all-volunteer army, and was given permission by omission to “vent extremely noxious opinions about members of other faiths, to say nothing about his adopted country” (Slate 20091116:1146). To drive a point home that is apparently lost on some members of our citizenry, he reminds them:

Black Americans used to be segregated. Jewish recruits were mercilessly hazed, as were men or women who looked as if they might be gay. Did any of them ever come up with an act of mass murder as a response? Did any of them ever offer a black or Jewish or gay ideology in justification of it? Would they have earned sympathy and understanding if they had? By the time the mushy “pre-post-traumatic” school was done with the story, Maj. Hasan was not just acquitted of being a bad Muslim. He was more or less exonerated of having even done a bad deed (Slate 20091116:1146).

The next portion of the article should come as no surprise to people paying attention. A person worrying about the motives and intentions of a Muslim colleague is not “Islamophobic” in circumstances such as these. Take a gander over at the HuffPo on this subject and you’ll find assorted complaints about the right-wingnuts who mention these concerns – oh, and to be honest, there are actually a vanishingly small number of very legitimate complaints about behaviors this atrocity has spawned. I guess we Americans, whether Muslim, Christian, Jew, or atheist just can’t seem to follow the president’s advice on this one. On the other hand, it seems obvious that people will respond to an event of this magnitude – and Christopher Hitchens closing remarks seem especially appropriate:

I wrote some years ago that the three most salient characteristics of the Muslim death-squad type were self-righteousness, self-pity, and self-hatred. Surrounded as he was by fellow shrinks who were often very distressed by his menacing manner, Maj. Hasan managed to personify all three traits—with the theocratic rhetoric openly thrown in for good measure—and yet be treated even now as if the real word for him was troubled. Prepare to keep on meeting those three symptoms again, along with official attempts to oppose them only with therapy, if that. At least the holy warriors know they are committing suicide (Slate 20091116:1146).

Somehow “Cheers” doesn’t seem like the appropriate sign off for this post. My daughters and wife have a perfectly serviceable adieu –

Love and light to ALL of you.

  1. November 19th, 2009 at 09:12 | #1

    Thorny Issue. We all know that we should view people as individuals. Yet, it is much easier to group people. I try hard to see people as individuals formed by differing combinations of nature and nurture. Try as I might, I still find myself viewing people by a class or group on occasion.
    In the early 60s, I lived in Hawaii. Many of my friends were Japanese-Americans. Their parents were fiercely patriotic. They didn’t teach their kids Japanese. Most of the old traditions were replaced with “American Traditions.” This was, I believe, a reaction to the shame of Pearl Harbor in particular and World War II in general.
    At the outset of World War II, in the, then 48 states, there was such fear of a fifth column invasion that we interred Japanese and Aleuts in camps until the end of the war. Was it justified? What would you have done?
    I think we are at a point not dissimilar to the start of World War II. We see the ‘bad guys’ in the middle east and see that most are followers of Islam. We want to simplify and lump all followers of Islam as potential bad guys.
    Does anyone today not think it would be crazy to inter all Japanese and Aleuts to prevent a fifth column invasion? Yet we are warming up to similar actions against followers of Islam. What has changed? Will we be able to resist the temptation to solve a problem with certain individuals by acting against an entire group?
    Thorny issue.
    Steven, you have to stop doing posts like this. They make me think too much and I’m going to fry what’s left of my mind.

  2. John
    November 19th, 2009 at 15:09 | #2

    The right wing criticism of Obama for not rushing to judgment is just political posturing, he’ll be criticized by them no matter what he says. (Ironically, the far left are criticizing him for not being liberal enough)

    Events like these need to be looked at individually, rather than automatically assigning the “Terrorism” label if an islamic person commits the crime. Just like when a minority is assaulted, it isn’t always a hate crime.

    If it is determined that he was working with a terrorist group and not acting alone, then call him a terrorist. But if he was acting alone, he’s just another mass murderer who happens to be islamic.

  3. Jeff
    November 19th, 2009 at 20:01 | #3

    @John
    I have to disagree on the finer point of him being a mass murderer who happens to be Islamic. While I don’t believe the major was a terrorist operative of a named group (given what I know to date), he isn’t simply a mass murderer with certain traits. Islam gave him a faith-level basis for his deed, his Islamic imam gave him pep talks for his deed, and his internalization of Islamic ideals ultimately made it okay for him to decide to do his deed. And now his Islamic imam, once a resident here in Virginia and regular speaker at the so-called ‘moderate’ mosque I pass every day to work, has given the thumbs up on the killings.

    Was this imam rejected by the mosque and told not to come back? Nope. He gave sermons there for over a year and left to return to his ‘homeland’ of Yemen (he was a natural born citizen of the US but we’re not Islamic enough to be considered a homeland). So I have to wonder, if this ‘moderate’ mosque has an extremist giving sermons to a pretty decent turnout regularly for over a year – what in the world are we considering moderate nowadays? Why are we ignoring the obvious conclusions?

  4. John
    November 20th, 2009 at 01:05 | #4

    @Jeff
    I haven’t seen any of the background info you have mentioned about this guy yet, but then I haven’t followed this story in depth, so I will accept your account in good faith.

    My main point in commenting was not specific to this case, but general in nature as to how events like these are used for political gain, and this applies to both the left and right. I’m tired of various groups finding a “silver lining” to tragedy to further their political goals with little, or no regard to the victims.

  5. Mr. Grim
    November 23rd, 2009 at 13:40 | #5

    If he had jumped into the room, guns blazing and yelled, “Die, you gravy-sucking pigs!” I would be inclined to buy the whole “just a mass-murderer” thing. But as soon as one of these ding-dongs yells, “God is great!” in arabic as they mow down the defensless or blow themselves and a dozen other people to Kingdom Come, they just dragged them, and by association, their religion into the “nutbag terroroist” category.
    Talk is cheap. Every time one of these attrocities takes place, here or abroad, you get the weepy-eyed muslim “moderates” denouncing the attack and swearing to Allah and the rest of the world a bunch of hollow assurances that Islam is not to blame. They need to prove it at this point. You can bet good money that there are muslims here in this country that have evidence that one or more of “the faithful” are up to something sinister. By NOT turning these evil people in, they are condoning any action they may thereafter take. Don’t want the rest of the world to think Islam is all bad? Then SHOW us. Start policing your own.

    “Evil prospers when good men do nothing.” ~ John Philpot Curran

  6. November 26th, 2009 at 04:45 | #6

    @Hey Tom

    I couldn’t agree more Tom. In the late 60s and early 70s I lived in Morocco and befriended several Muslim boys – and we did the things boys typically do I suppose. Like you, “I still find myself viewing people by a class or group,” especially when dealing with groups rather than individuals. I believe we were wrong to inter the Japanese, they were fellow citizens and their country failed them miserably. Worse, so did their friends and neighbors. While many people today would try to justify the Japanese interment precisely because we are in a situation that is “not dissimilar to the start of World War II,” I seriously hope we don’t fall into an easy way to ameliorate our fears by acting against an entire group when the problem is with certain individuals within the group.

    I cannot forget the Moroccan boys I knew, you see, our parents too were friends. One couple worked in Rabat at the palatial estate of King Hassan II, the son of the Sultan who, with the Berbers, won Morocco’s independence from France. This couple strongly encouraged us to go to Ceuta with them, for a vacation… close in time to one of a couple of coup attempts that occurred in the early 70s. At great risk to their own welfare, they insured my family’s safety. These were good people, people of courage, and they and their children were people of faith. You’re right, it’s a thorny issue! On the other hand, I hope I measure up to the courage of my friends and their parents, and I hope we will “be able to resist the temptation to solve a problem with certain individuals by acting against an entire group?”

    @John , @Jeff and @Mr. Grim

    I’m going to do a quick rewrite of one paragraph of your comment:

    The left wing criticism of Bush for not *doing whatever one thinks he should do* is just political posturing, he’ll be criticized by them no matter what he says. (Ironically, the far right are criticizing him for not being conservative enough).

    It was precisely like that while Bush was in office, there is essentially no difference. As a consequence, our shared criticism in this regard becomes virtually meaningless as well. Even when it’s true, it’s value is sorely diminished for the same reason nobody believed the little boy who cried wolf. If a leader is “criticized by them no matter what he says,” then it’s hardly a stretch for the other end of the spectrum to write them off.

    I absolutely agree that “events like these need to be looked at individually.” My comments to Tom outlined one of the major reasons I feel this way. I think the problem is finding a definition of terrorism that works for most people – though I think most people have a visceral reaction to any shocking violence, and therefore might easily call it terrorism. If you Google “define terrorism,” then the shear number of possible definitions brings the problem into sharp relief. By some standards, if the violence isn’t directed at civilians, then it cannot be categorized as terrorism. Others, like you, tend to believe that there must be a terrorist group involved, i.e., that individuals acting alone are not terrorists by definition. As you said, “when a minority is assaulted, it isn’t always a hate crime;” however, whether committed by an individual or a group, the crime remains essentially the same based on mens rea, a guilty mind, or that which was intended. In this respect, I believe both Jeff and Mr. Grim make essential points that clarify intent. Jeff highlights background that signifies intent, and Mr. Grim highlights excited utterances that reveal motive. When violence is used to coerce, intimidate – inspire terror, for religious, ideological, or political reasons, then I believe it’s pretty safe to call it terrorism.

    Obama is fond of framing arguments as “either/or” structures, especially in terms of his common “false choice” alternatives. A common example throughout the campaign into his term in office is the “false choice between national security and our nation’s ideals.” Now the media seems to be trying to encourage just such a choice with respect to Nidal Hasan. I think most of us would acknowledge that our choices aren’t simply between being a terrorist or being unhinged, that quite a few more choices are available – even a continuum between these two poles makes more sense.

    That being said, I tend to agree with both Jeff and Mr. Grim in terms of terrorism. I don’t see the current events as terribly different from the Oklahoma City bombing. Both were domestic terrorism, where it seems Hasan was religiously and politically motivated, McVeigh was ideologically and politically motivated. Both targeted government personnel rather than “innocent civilians” though both harmed civilians.

    Thanks for the excellent dialogue guys! Steel on steel and all that ;-) I’m really working on being more concise!

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