Friday, November 06, 2009

Shock and Anger at Ft. Hood Rampage

A deranged U.S. Army major opens fire at Ft. Hood in Texas and takes 13 lives, injuring many more. There are no ifs and buts about this: No matter what his personal grievances may have been, he is a killer, a cold-blooded murderer, and must pay the price for his heinous crime.

The killer’s name is Nidal Malik Hasan, a Virginia-born American Muslim who joined the Army right after high school, against his parents’ wishes. Nidal justified his decision to join the Army this way: “I was born and raised here. I’m going to do my duty to the country.”

He started out with a noble intention but when it came to preserving that nobility through life’s trials, he failed miserably. He became an Army psychiatrist, trained to heal soldiers suffering from the stress and trauma of war. But the healer turned into a killer, unable to control his inner demons.

Americans of all creed and color have expressed grave misgivings about our involvement in Afghanistan and the illegitimate war in Iraq. But if you are a member of the armed forces, you are bound by certain rules and obligations that the average citizen is not exposed to. If the rules violate your moral and ethical codes, you have several recourse, all spelled out in the Army code of conduct. They are difficult choices, but choices nonetheless.

Nidal Malik Hasan did not want to be deployed to Afghanistan. He became increasingly paranoid and hostile toward his country and its policies. And then one day he cracked and innocent Americans paid with their lives.

Reports are filtering out that he was taunted by fellow soldiers for his faith, that he posted blogs praising suicide bombers and denouncing the U.S presence in Muslim lands. If that is indeed the case, and the FBI and the Army knew that Malik Hasan was a ticking time bomb, what action did they take, if any? This is a question that must be answered. It is one thing to be sensitive about minorities; it is quite another to be lax about behavioral issues that can have deadly consequences.

One detail about the Major stands out: After the death of his parents in 1998 and 2001, “he became more devout.”

The implication seems to be that more devout means becoming prone to extremist behavior.

The argument is too silly to consider. It is enough to point out that if greater devotion led to more carnage, the world as we know it would have ceased to exist long ago.

What probably happened was that Major Hasan found comfort in his own volatile mix of rage, fear and frustration, and acted on the irrational impulse it created. He may have channeled it through a religious subtext of seductive certainty but we shouldn’t be fooled by it.

American Muslims are understandably nervous and disgusted. Even more so are the thousands of Muslims who serve in America’s armed forces. According to the Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council, there are currently 20,000 Muslims serving with honor in the U.S. military. Can they shake off that look of suspicion from fellow soldiers, that unspoken, subtle doubt about their loyalty to the nation? It will not be easy but one can only hope that it will pass with time

Meanwhile, our deepest sympathies are with the families of the fallen. The light of their lives was snatched away in a moment of cruelty. We mourn with them and pray for peace and justice for them.

No comments: