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November 12, 2009

It's wrong to blame Muslims for what criminals do

The Canadian Charger

PhotoImmediately after Major Nidal Hasan shot and killed 13 American soldiers and injured 30 others, at Fort Hood, Texas, the media was almost monolithic in reporting that Major Hasan is Palestinian, an Arab and supposedly a devout Muslim.

Aside from the fact that he is a psychiatrist and he was scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan, there was little other information about Major Hasan.

What conclusion will the majority of people draw from this coverage of a tragedy?

Non-Muslims shoot multitudes of people regularly – especially in America – but the perpetrators' religious affiliations seldom becomes a focal point of media coverage.

Eric Rudolph and a significant number of others, bombed abortion clinics in the U.S., claiming to be good Christians, fulfilling God's will.

It's also becoming more commonplace for parents who murder their children to claim they wanted to protect them from a dangerous world, and that their children have gone to “a better place.”

Not much seems to be made of the fact that these killers are invoking a Christian concept of the afterlife.

Whether or not mass killers claim to have a religious or political affiliation and a corresponding agenda, we rarely – if ever – discover a well-adjusted individual or individuals who are responsible for these massacres.

With few exceptions, the perpetrators are odd loners, with poor social, and often cognitive, skills, who have trouble establishing meaningful relationships with other people – especially women.

Moreover, many of the perpetrators seem quite “normal” to those around them: interviews with those who knew the killer or killers, almost invariably describe them as quiet people who were “nice and polite” and seemed harmless.

However, Major Hasan didn't fit this stereotype.

He had frequent arguments with fellow officers over what he considered to be stupid and immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and he openly expressed his anger at his upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

One can't help but wonder how Major Hasan could reconcile his abhorrence for what he considered immoral wars with shooting and killing 13 innocent people and wounding 30 others. Where is the logic?

And this is the point: while there are always reasons why people do things, they are often irrational reasons that defy explanation. 

Whenever someone perpetrates a tragedy of this sort, many ask why?

They seem to be implying that there must be a reason, and more specifically a logical and perhaps justifiable reason, for killing people.

Because several terrorist groups in the world at the moment claim to be followers of Islam, the question of “Islamic” terrorism casts a wide shadow over the Fort Hood massacre, notwithstanding a FBI statement released Monday saying, “the investigation to date indicates that the alleged gunman acted alone and was not part of a broader terrorist plot.”

Moreover, the Fort Hood massacre is a nightmare for the Muslim community in North America, as it lives in fear of a backlash similar to the one that occurred after the 9/11 tragedy, when Muslims were attacked simply because they were Muslim.

Considering there are currently over 10,000 Muslims serving loyally in the U.S. Military and many others who have died fighting for America, it's impossible to reconcile their conduct with that of Major Hasan's.

Why don't more media outlets emphasize these points in order to combat an anti-Muslim backlash?

Referring to the Fort Hood massacre, President Obama - a leading voice against Islamophobia - said: “It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know. No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just or loving God looks upon them with favour.”

In Iraq devout Muslims work loyally as translators and guides for U.S. Forces, sometimes dying to rid their country of “Islamic” fanatics.

In recent years, U.S. soldiers have fought, and often with, Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, however these actions don't generate headlines or sell newspapers.

While the Obama administration has refrained from using “Islamic” when referring to terrorism, the Fort Hood massacre is providing fodder for talk and radio shows, and websites which exploit such isolated incidents to ratchet up Islamophobia.

Because shootings have become so commonplace in America, it is not surprising that they don't generate the visceral response from the public they did at one time.

When President Reagan got shot, it didn't have nearly the same impact on people that the Kennedy assassination had.

However, throw in an “Islamic” factor and instantly there is a public backlash.

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