Published 10 Nov 09
By Abigail R. Esman
World Defense Review columnist
Texas Jihad: Telling the truth about Fort Hood, for once
The Fort Hood shootings were not the act of a soldier under stress who simply became unsnapped. They were the work of a Muslim extremist, an act of Islamic terrorism, and it is time we all stop cringing from the words and beating about the bush, and say so. Any other effort at explanation is simply an exercise in the absurd, something along the lines of Iranian President Ahmadinejad's insistence that homosexuality does not exist in his Iran. Poppycock.
Let's examine, for a moment, what we know about the "alleged" shooter. (I love that we all call him the "alleged shooter," as if hundreds of witnesses were not present to confirm it.) He wore a djellaba in off-duty hours. He frequented Muslim extremist web sites, where he praised suicide bombers as heroes. He sought a "good Muslim" woman for a wife. Islam, in other words, had ceased to be merely a matter of faith for him: it had begun to shape the way he dressed, the qualities he looked for in a spouse, the way he spent his leisure time.
We also know that, having praised the work of suicide bombers, he set out the morning of the shootings expecting that he would not be coming home: he gave a neighbor the basic essentials of his life – his food, and the mattress where he slept. And then, according to the Washington Post, he told another: "I'm going to do good work for God."
Like Mohammed Bouyeri, who casually walked away from Theo van Gogh's corpse after shooting and then stabbing him with the aim (he told the court during his trial) of being captured by police and shot to death, Nidal M. Hassan expected – and hoped – to be martyred at Fort Hood.
This also tells us something else: these were not the acts of someone who suddenly became overwhelmed, and lost it. This was a planned, premeditated act of mass murder, no different than the hijackings of 9/11 – or shall some argue now, that the 19 hijackers, too, had simply become disgruntled with their lives, and that their involvement in the events of 9/11 had nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with stress? And let's talk about that "stress" story. Hassan had not even been deployed yet – not even once. Yet other Muslim-American soldiers have managed to perform their tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and make it home, under significantly more stressful circumstances than those encountered by a military psychiatrist at a VA hospital in Texas, without trying to blow their fellow soldiers' heads off. True, every individual has his own personal limitations, and what is stressful for one is often easier for another; but I find it difficult to believe that the stress of imminent deployment for a member of the military – that is, someone who has known from the day he signed his name to the first contract page that deployment to a war zone was possible, and who has, in this case, had eight years to come to terms with that possibility – is enough to turn him suddenly into a mass murderer. (Not that long ago, guys who didn't want to go to war ran off to Canada, for instance; but that was a different era.) Surely, there's no case in arguing that this particular soldier couldn't take the thought of being on the battlefield, of shooting others and being shot himself. So what, then, would cause him such anxiety?
Why would "anxiety" be translated into an act of good "for God"? I'll tell you: it was because his service to Allah had become more important than his service to his country. He would kill for Islam, but he would not fight for freedom, for America.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, has everything to do with his religion.
Yet still, the media refuses, by and large, to say so. When a Christian fundamentalist blows up an abortion clinic calling abortion "murder" and a "sin," no one shies from pointing to his religious affiliations, or the role they likely played. No one says the perpetrator may have had "other" reasons for selecting such a target, or destroying these women's (and doctors') lives.
The thing is: this is not the first time. This past summer, American intelligence uncovered a good half-dozen or more plots, all in various shapes of execution, to perform acts of violent jihad on US soil – and all of them involving Americans. In June, for instance, an American convert to Islam, Abdul Hakim Mujahid Mohammad, fired at a military recruiting center, killing one soldier and injuring another. In May, four men were arrested for conspiring to bomb two synagogues in New York's Riverdale section of the Bronx. And in July, eight men were arrested and indicted in North Carolina for supporting terrorism.
Yet most people I talk to are completely unaware of any of these – or if they were aware when the arrests were made, have since forgotten. The Gosselin family dramas, the balloon boy who wasn't in the balloon after all – these things they know well. But the others have been tucked carefully into the inside, left-hand pages of newspapers, pursued for a day or two by Good Morning America and Today, and then strategically set aside.
Is it any wonder the public opposes Obama's plans to send more troops to Afghanistan? Those now reaching voting age were hardly even in grade school in September, 2001. They were the children we kept away from the TV, the ones we (rightfully) protected from the horror of that day, and what it meant. I cannot remember the last time I saw a rebroadcast of the images – not of the tumbling towers, those we see often enough – but of the people, of the people – jumping from the 87th floor, or of the streets of downtown Manhattan, empty and covered entirely in ashes, looking (as everybody said then) like Beirut.
There are better ways to protect good Muslim Americans from racist attacks a consequence of acknowledging Hassan's massacre for what it was – an act of Islamic jihad – than pretending it was something else. We can just as easily celebrate, at the same time and with equal vigor, the heroism of Muslim American soldiers who fought for American values abroad, who entered the military after 9/11, or who have assisted US counter-terrorism efforts, all without feeling that to do so was incompatible with Allah's will. There are those like Zuhdi Jasser, for instance, a Muslim-American doctor and US Navy Lieutenant (whose tours of duty included a term in Somalia, as it happens), and who is the founder and Chairman of the Board of the American Forum for Democracy, an organization aimed at uniting devoted Muslims in the fight against Islamic extremism. In an interview, Jasser has said that he would want to be buried "with the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and The Holy Koran" (along with his Peter Gabriel CDs).
There are such men. There are such Muslim Americans. And then there are Muslim American jihadists – and Nidal Hassan is one.
So my plea to my colleagues in the US media is this: Stop the lies, and stop the whispers. Let's tell the truth for once. It is the best protection that we have.
— Abigail R. Esman is an award-winning author-journalist who divides her time between New York and The Netherlands. In addition to her column in World Defense Review, her work has appeared in Foreign Policy, Salon.com, Esquire, Vogue, Glamour, Town & Country, The Christian Science Monitor, The New Republic and many others. She is currently working on a book about Muslim extremism and democracy in the West to be published by Praeger in 2010.
Visit Esman on the web at abigailesman.com.
© 2009 Abigail R. Esman
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