The first reports on the BBC indicated that the terrible shooting at Fort Hood, committed by Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an American soldier of Palestinian ethnic origin was not “connected to terrorism”.
Instead, there was some discussion of concern about being deployed to Afghanistan, and suggestions that Major Hasan had “been battling racial harassment because of his “Middle Eastern ethnicity””.
Indeed, the BBC report initially included the following quotation:
Asked whether the shootings were a terrorist act, Lt Gen Cone said: “I couldn’t rule that out but I’m telling you that right now, the evidence does not suggest that.”
I did not post on the topic of Major Hasan’s massacre of his army buddies this morning because I do not automatically assume that any crime that is committed by a Muslim is religiously motivated. Indeed, there have been many mass shootings in the US, some committed by soldiers and some not, some committed by jihadists, and some by other species of nutters.
Mehdi Hasan, the political editor of the New Statesman, shares my view. Posting a couple of hours ago, he makes a reasonable point:
However, some commentators on the US right and far-right have gone further in providing definitive, conclusive and politically convenient motives for the attack, based on little more than speculation and prejudice. Take Robert Spencer. The best-selling conservative author, self-proclaimed “scholar of Islamic history” and notorious Muslim-baiter has a piece on the attack on the Front Page magazine website, entitled “Jihad at Fort Hood” (!) in which he opines, under a massive mugshot of Maj Hasan:
“Major Hasan’s motive was perfectly clear — but it was one that the forces of political correctness and the Islamic advocacy groups in the United States have been working for years to obscure. So it is that now that another major jihad terror attack has taken place on American soil…”
“Clear”? Spencer must be a mind-reader because Hasan has not said why he carried out the attack, nor have the authorities provided a motive – yet.
The point is that, at this stage, we simply don’t know. So why speculate, let alone conclude?
People like Robert Spencer are nasty, divisive and Islamophobic bigots who take whatever opportunity, whatever tragedy, they can to stir up hatred against Muslims and Islam in the west.
However, as further details of the story emerge, there is increasingly reason to believe that Major Hasan may well have had a religious motive for this slaughter. Here they are.
AP has reported:
At least six months ago, Hasan came to the attention of law enforcement officials because of Internet postings about suicide bombings and other threats, including posts that equated suicide bombers to soldiers who throw themselves on a grenade to save the lives of their comrades.
They had not determined for certain whether Hasan is the author of the posting, and a formal investigation had not been opened before the shooting, said law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the case.
Here is the posting in question:
NidalHasan scribbled: There was a grenade thrown amongs a group of American soldiers. One of the soldiers, feeling that it was to late for everyone to flee jumped on the grave with the intention of saving his comrades. Indeed he saved them. He inentionally took his life (suicide) for a noble cause i.e. saving the lives of his soldier. To say that this soldier committed suicide is inappropriate. Its more appropriate to say he is a brave hero that sacrificed his life for a more noble cause. Scholars have paralled this to suicide bombers whose intention, by sacrificing their lives, is to help save Muslims by killing enemy soldiers. If one suicide bomber can kill 100 enemy soldiers because they were caught off guard that would be considered a strategic victory. Their intention is not to die because of some despair. The same can be said for the Kamikazees in Japan. They died (via crashing their planes into ships) to kill the enemies for the homeland. You can call them crazy i you want but their act was not one of suicide that is despised by Islam. So the scholars main point is that “IT SEEMS AS THOUGH YOUR INTENTION IS THE MAIN ISSUE” and Allah (SWT) knows best.
Then there is this from the BBC:
Early on Friday the commander of the Fort Hood base, Lt Gen Robert Cone, told reporters that, according to eyewitnesses, the gunman had shouted the Arabic phrase “Allahu Akbar!” [God is great] before opening fire.
The Telegraph reports:
“He was making outlandish comments condemning our foreign policy and claimed Muslims had the right to rise up and attack Americans,” Col Lee told Fox News.
“He said Muslims should stand up and fight the aggressor and that we should not be in the war in the first place.” He said that Maj Hasan said he was “happy” when a US soldier was killed in an attack on a military recruitment centre in Arkansas in June. An American convert to Islam was accused of the shootings.
Col Lee alleged that other officers had told him that Maj Hasan had said “maybe people should strap bombs on themselves and go to Time Square” in New York.
Possibly also relevant is this:
On a form filled out by those seeking spouses through a program at the mosque, Hasan listed his birthplace as Arlington, Va., but his nationality as Palestinian, Khan said.
“I don’t know why he listed Palestinian,” Khan said, “He was not born in Palestine.”
I am also not sure what to make of this:
He steered clear of female colleagues, co-workers said, and despite devout religious practices, listed himself in Army records as having no religious preference.
The Washington Post has this:
The psychiatrist once said that “Muslims should stand up and fight against the aggressor” and that the United States shouldn’t be fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place, according to an interview with Col. Terry Lee, a co-worker, on Fox News.
Major Hasan appears to have been very religious. His devoutness may have stood in the way of him finding a wife:
“He came to mosque one or two times to see if there were any suitable girls to marry,” Khan said. “I don’t think he ever had a match, because he had too many conditions. He wanted a girl who was very religious, prays five times a day.”
A co-worker at Walter Reed said Hasan would not allow his photo to be taken with female co-workers, which became an issue during Christmas season when employees often took group photos.
There are also a few other odd stories doing the rounds.
CNN says that this is surveillance footage taken of Major Hasan yesterday morning. He has dressed up as a Saudi.
Finally, there is this story from a regional US TV station:
News Channel 25’s Henry Rosoff has learned the Hasan, was giving all of his furniture along with copies of the Qu’ ran to neighbors Thursday morning.
Mehdi Hasan concludes:
I wonder what it must be like to be a patriotic American Muslim serving in the United States armed forces right now – there are up to 10,000 American Muslims serving their country who will now, I assume, be treated with suspicion and considered, by Robert Spencer and others of his ilk, as potential fifth-columnists or Al Qaeda infiltrators.
He is absolutely right. Major Hasan has betrayed all his army buddies, but patriotic American Muslims in particular.
It is perhaps too early to conclude that this was a jihadist attack on a US Army base. Remember, in the initial reports, it was suggested that there were three gunmen, and that Major Hasan had been killed. There may be a good deal more to come on this story.
However, there are certain details of the story which do now indicate that religious faith might have been a motivating factor in this crime.
PS: It is also worth reading Mehdi Hasan’s excellent piece on suicide bombing.