Holy terror?

By ADAM REILLY  |  November 16, 2009

Other liberal commentators did mention Hasan's faith — but only in a cautionary or scolding matter. On November 6, Eric Boehlert of Media Matters for America responded to another mass shooting — in which Jason Rodriguez allegedly shot up the Orlando, Florida, consulting firm that had laid him off two years ago, killing one and injuring five — using Twitter to float a stealth accusation of anti-Islamic prejudice: "Funny, I don't hear ANY media chatter about what religion the alleged Orlando shooter is." The next day, the New York Times editorial page suggested that, for the time being, the public shouldn't even begin to think that Hasan's Muslim identity might have been a factor. As the paper put it: "until investigations are complete, no one can begin to imagine what could possibly have motivated this latest appalling rampage."

It's hard to know which of these disparate perspectives is less convincing. But let's start with the widespread conservative premise that a direct line can be drawn from Hasan's faith to his crimes — which, in terms of its broader implications, is clearly the more menacing of the two.

That premise is so reductive it's comical. According to recent news reports, there are roughly 3500 self-identified Muslims currently serving in the US Military — plus an unknown number of men and women who, like Hasan, are practicing Muslims, but don't identify as such on military paperwork. But by Malkin's own admission, however, the total number of anti-American acts perpetrated by active and former Muslim servicemen and women is in the single digits — including the 2003 grenade and rifle attack in Kuwait by Army Sergeant Hasan Akbar, which killed two and wounded 14.

The question for the aforementioned conservatives is this: if "Muslim soldiers with attitude" are so perilous, why haven't more of them followed the violent path taken by Hasan and Akbar? Are they simply biding their time, waiting for the perfect moment to inflict maximum possible damage? Or could it be that the majority of Muslim servicepersons simply aren't threats?

Religious overtones
Given the ease with which the arguments of Malkin et al. could be used to justify some truly toxic behavior, it's no wonder that so many liberals (as well as some conservatives, including former Bush speechwriter David Frum) have rushed to take precisely the opposite analytical tack. After all, if every American Muslim is a mass murderer in waiting, it's perfectly reasonable to suggest pre-emptive screening of all Muslims in the US military, as Fox News' Brian Kilmeade did on November 6 — and why stop there? Internal investigations of all American Muslims would probably be prudent, too. Internment camps for Islamic Americans — modeled after the facilities built for Japanese-Americans in World War II — might not be a bad idea, either.

But noble intentions can't rescue flawed logic, and any attempts to write Hasan's faith out of this story were similarly doomed from the outset, given the multitude of explicitly religious trappings that marked both his crime and the period of anguish that apparently preceded it. Consider that, according to multiple news reports, Hasan apparently:

* "Equated the 'war against terror' with a war against Islam," said a former classmate, and hired a lawyer in an attempt to exit the Army.

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  Topics: Media -- Dont Quote Me , Culture and Lifestyle, Nidal Malik Hasan, Religion,  More more >
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