Friday, January 8, 2010 1 Comment
Originally published November 12, 2009. This column was given two different headlines. In the Nov. 12 print edition, it was “Some factors forgotten in Fort Hood shooting”. Online, it ran as “Reports on Fort Hood shouldn’t promote Islamophobia”.
One week ago, a man killed thirteen and wounded another 29 in an unexpected shooting spree at Fort Hood in Texas. When news sources revealed his name, people suddenly forgot that he is a single, Virginia-born, 39-year-old Army psychiatrist who has served since 1995, and had been recently informed of his upcoming deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.
But a name like Nidal Malik Hasan attracts a lot of attention from the press and the public these days.
News reports continue to emerge that focus almost solely on Hasan’s Muslim background—e-mail exchanges with radical imam Anwar al-Aulaqi regarding a research paper, a presentation concerned with American Muslims’ potential personal reactions to waging a war against other Muslims, and much more.
The AP and ABC made sure to mention soldiers’ speculative claims that they heard Hasan yell “Allahu akbar!” during the violence last week. On Monday, Reuters, rather than identify him as a Virginian or even of the nationality of his parents, simply said that Hasan is “a Muslim born in the United States of immigrant parents.”
It’s interesting that the only word used to describe him in a very brief report is his religious preference.
Popular news media seems devoted to stripping all of the other details from this horrible event, leaving the public with two assertions—that Hasan is a Muslim and a terrorist.
It seems likely that Hasan’s perspectives on the United States, its overseas conflicts, and his religion factored into his extreme actions.
But as the press and the government mull over how this situation could have been prevented, all they’re doing is debating over something that doesn’t really have a clear solution.
It is in no way acceptable to seek out Muslims in the military and investigate their behavior and correspondences without a concrete instance of questionable action on the part of an individual.
On top of that, it’s another nigh-impossible task to create regulations that give investigators further scope over personal data and the power to decide what is potentially dangerous.
Rather than wade into the quagmire of whether others’ inaction in approaching Hasan had to do with some misguided sense of “political correctness,” the greater issues at hand are basic oversights on the part of others at Fort Hood.
How did a psychiatrist get a potentially unregistered civilian handgun onto a base? How did a military mental health professional with potentially serious emotional and psychological issues get out of his own standard psychiatric examinations?
It’s not to say that Hasan’s religion shouldn’t be discussed if it’s proven to be the primary motive for his appalling behavior, and in his circumstance, it may well be. But most of the presentation of information concerning his beliefs is the same kind of sensationalist fear-mongering that’s put Muslims in such a compromised position in the U.S. in the first place.
While we continue to seek justice in the aftermath of such a terrible crime, it is deeply important that we remember one person who identifies in any particular way—Christian, Latino, gay, American, Muslim—is not an example of everyone else who identifies the same way.
Other people who are observant Muslims, who have names that others could construe as “Middle Eastern,” and the like should not be forced to cringe as they listen to the news, hoping that actions of one single human being will not reflect upon their own.
Chelsea is a senior in LAS.