Islam under fire in Texas army shooting

RNW archive

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As the US army deals with the aftermath of a fatal shooting at one of its bases, a controversial American scholar has told Radio Netherlands the White House should vet all Muslims who want to enlist. Major Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 people and left another 30 injured – it’s believed he was unhappy about the prospect of being sent to Iraq.

The incident at Fort Hood – one of the largest bases in the US - was the latest in a number attacks carried out by American soldiers on their own people. In July this year, a Fort Hood soldier was charged with murdering a fellow serviceman after returning from Iraq. And in 2005 another US soldier was sentenced to death for a grenade attack in Kuwait, on the eve of the Iraq war, that left two other soldiers dead.

Bigger problem

Although only the second of these attacks was carried out by a Muslim soldier, Daniel Pipes – an academic on radical Islam – says this is a bigger problem than the US wants to admit. He argues all Muslims entering the police or army should be thoroughly investigated.

“Assuming this soldier Hasan was angry at the war, it’s not terribly surprising. There are tensions. Unfortunately, I think there’s a pattern when there are Muslims who engage in violent acts, to interpret this as something other than Jihad. And I think that’s a mistake. In general that’s the motive – it’s anger against non-Muslims.”

 
Listen to an interview with Daniel Pipes
[media:audio]

Video footage taken just before the Fort Base massacre reveals Maj Hasan was wearing what appears to be a traditional Arab robe and a skull cap. The shop owner where he bought his breakfast every day says the army psychiatrist was worried about being sent to Iraq and the prospect of fighting other Muslims.

Isolated incident

But while much is being made in the media of Maj Hasan’s faith, Muslims in the US stress this was an isolated incident. Robert Salaam was in the US marines for six years and converted to Islam shortly after 11 September, 2001. He agrees this was an isolated incident carried out by a possible extremist.

 
“It’s surprising because statistically it’s very rare for troops in general to turn on their fellow comrades, especially in this case, and outside of the Hasan Akbar incident [in Kuwait], there really isn’t much of this thing with Muslim-soldiers turning on fellow comrades. It tends to be rare…. It’s extremely shocking whether it’s a Muslim or not.”
 
Listen to an interview with Robert Salaam
[media:audio2]


Ethical dilemma

Robert Salaam admits Muslims in the armed forces face an ethical dilemma and there is not enough recognition in the US of the important role they play. But he argues those who enlist must realise they might be sent to combat, and could be posted to Afghanistan or Iraq.

“I would say if you’re a Muslim considering going into the military and you have issues with these wars, then you shouldn’t go.”

 

Investigation ongoing
Investigators in Texas are still trying to piece together Thursday’s events and in particular, what prompted an experienced soldier – just two ranks away from becoming General - to embark on a killing spree.

Robert Salaam warned against jumping to conclusions about Maj Hasan’s motives and said there have only been two incidents of this kind in the past decade.

“Muslims have been in the US for several centuries and have contributed to American society in every single way. There are over 20,000 estimated active duty military… We’ve earned a right to serve in our country. We’re not vetting radical Christians – Timothy McVeigh was an army soldier and he blew up the Oklahoma federal building – crimes happen in America every few seconds and the country is majority Christian. We don’t call them Christian killings."