Friday, November 13, 2009

New Dordt Diamond Column: Don't Gloss Over Ft. Hood Reality

Last Thursday, an Army psychiatrist went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood army base in Texas, killing thirteen people and wounding thirty others.

The shooter’s name is Nidal Malik Hasan. He gave his neighbor a copy of the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, the night before the shooting. Multiple witnesses report hearing him shout “Allahu akbar” – Arabic for “God is the greatest” – as he gunned down his fellow soldiers.

At the time of this writing, President Obama is asking the nation not to “jump to conclusions,” and the lead Associated Press story on the case says that the shooter’s motive “remains unclear.”

The story does not mention Hasan’s Muslim-sounding name until the ninth paragraph, his shouting “Allahu akbar” until the twelfth paragraph, or his gift of a Qur’an until the forty-sixth paragraph. His religion is never directly identified. In the sixteenth paragraph, the story speculates about whether Hasan was working for an “unidentified radical group.”

I don’t think either President Obama or the Associated Press writers are stupid. I assume they’re tip-toeing around the blindingly obvious to avoid stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment.

The problem is, the average American isn’t that stupid either. And he is going to draw the obvious conclusion, whether the press and the president draw it for him or not.

No one should be prejudiced against Muslims. There are no violent religions, only violent people. But in light of current events, to claim that Hasan’s Muslim beliefs played no role in his actions is beyond dense – especially since this isn’t the first time Muslim American soldiers have turned on their comrades in recent years.

American Muslims are a tiny minority in a country that is at war in two Muslim nations overseas. At the movies and on TV, Muslims are the villains. We shouldn’t be surprised if some American Muslims feel alienated. Violent acts like Hasan’s are evidence that this alienation is nearing a dangerous point.

By driving that reality underground, our cultural gatekeepers leave the alienation of some American Muslims unresolved, and the perception that all Muslims are violent uncorrected. That is a recipe for more conflict.

As we struggle to understand this horrific attack, let’s not brush over uncomfortable realities. If President Obama and the press will treat us like adults and address this problem head-on, all Americans will be better for it. And we in the church should go out of our way to make sure our Muslim brothers and sisters feel welcome in this country.

Further reading:
A Muslim Soldier's View from Fort Hood

Jacob Weisburg: "The president needs to dip into his reservoir of good will to remind mainstream Muslims of their special responsibility."

Revolution Muslim

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