Major Nidal Malik Hasan went berserk and killed 13 soldiers at Fort Hood. A horror, a tragedy. Terrible for the victims of the massacre and their families and terrible for the millions of Muslims who live in America and Europe, but timely fuel for the Global War on Terror which is largely predicated on anti-Muslim paranoia.
The media are rife with hate speech bordering on fascism. Cal Thomas describes the incident as a disturbingly familiar script: “…a fanatical Muslim blows up or goes on a shooting spree, killing many. This is quickly followed by condemnations from major Muslim civil rights groups.” Not only is Thomas endorsing the stereotype of the crazy, murderous Muslim but he is also mocking and belittling the genuinely horrified reaction and condemnation of acts of violence by the Muslim community – a condemnation which distances Islam and Muslims from aberrant, individual acts of aggression.
Thomas reiterates the much touted fear of the enemy within “striking at America’s underbelly” and cites verses from the Quran, Hasan’s anti war stance, and his “preference for Muslim clothing” (whatever the hell that means) as reasons for having known what was coming.
Charles Krauthammer is equally jaded. When you hear the “jihadist battle cry” of Allahu akbar (God is great) he says, what do you expect? He explains at great length how Hasan preached the Quranic take on jihad and war during his Grand Rounds at the hospital. This information is apparently coming from one of Hasan’s colleagues who stood listlessly in the hallway and kept asking himself rather innocently whether the man was a terrorist or just plain weird. Funny how in a country where having a Muslim last name can get you detained at pretty much any airport or checkpoint, talking about jihad and “punishments visited upon nonbelievers” was so casually ignored. If ever there was such a thing as a red flag, that was it. If this information is accurate, why was no action taken?
Was it just too good to be true? Eboo Patel wonders whether “…these writers would have felt a twinge of disappointment if the shooter turned out to be white (as in Columbine) or Korean (Virginia Tech). I wonder if they would have sighed and wished that the next tragedy would come along just as fast as possible, hopefully that will have some Muslim shooters or bombers – all the better for casting a negative light on a fifth of their neighbors on planet Earth. Seems like they got what they wanted at Fort Hood.”
But both Thomas and Krauthammer would have you believe that it was on account of political correctness and the present outreach to the Muslim community that such signs were ignored. Tunku Varadarajan goes a step further. He thinks that there are no signs to be wary of. Normal Muslims can, at any time, discard “the camouflage of integration” and reveal their inner terrorist. This is not “snapping” he elaborates, for there is an element of calculation involved – it’s a “meticulous, even punctilious departure.” This idea is hardly original. I heard Daniel Pipes make the same argument years ago: good Muslims can turn into bad Muslims, suddenly, without warning – it’s like spontaneous combustion.
Varadarajan’s argument is so racist and ridiculous that I won’t waste my breath on it. I don’t expect much from a man who wondered wistfully back in January of this year, why India could not “do a Gaza” on Pakistan. Now he’s talking about “going Muslim” to describe an isolated act committed by a mentally disturbed man. I guess Varadarajan has a way with words.
Let’s look at the assumption of political correctness more closely. How many Muslims are in detention today on the basis of spurious evidence which has never seen the light of day? Many of them are US citizens. They are kept in solitary confinement and subjected to cruel and unusual punishment without ever having had a trial.
What about torture? Mark Danner calls it the purest expression of evil. It’s against enlightenment, a journey back into barbarity and darkness. Who are the people being tortured? All Muslims, including Muslim citizens of Western countries. Remember the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen? He was detained in Syria, beaten, tortured, and confined to a coffin-size space for 10 months before being released without charges. What about Binyam Mohamed, a British resident, who was tortured for 5 years (chained, beaten, sliced, sleep deprived) before being freed. No charges. No apology. Now that’s political correctness for you.
Let’s talk about Muslims in other countries. How many Muslims have been killed in Iraq? In Afghanistan? In Pakistan? These are all unprovoked wars. Al Qaeda is a loosely structured, international group of disaffected people with no central command or cumbersome military hardware. They’re completely portable. How can we go to war against them? How can we justify occupying Muslim countries to sabotage Al Qaeda? It’s absurd.
One million people have been killed in Iraq. It’s an infamy, an abomination. So we call civilian deaths “collateral damage” and we move on. But what’s the difference really? Al Qaeda wanted to sabotage America’s financial capital by destroying the World Trade Center towers. The ensuing civilian deaths could be called collateral damage. Does that make it more palatable? More justifiable?
What about the use of Reaper drones to target Al Qaeda operatives? The vast majority of people killed are Muslim civilians, mostly Muslim women and children. Many call this form of warfare summary execution without trial.
A veteran said to me the other day that war is a nasty beast. Once it’s unleashed, it’s hard to control. Therefore the need to think carefully, very carefully, before unleashing it. The beast doesn’t just affect them, it also affects us.
In his new book, “Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War” Mark Danner talks about the natural antagonism between imperialism and democracy. An imperialistic foreign policy cannot be supported by a democratic polity. Democracies are skeptical of the kind of ruthless power and aggression demanded by empire. The Global War on Terror has turned the United States into a state of soft martial law where warrantless surveillance, detention without trial and torture (the state’s mandate to penetrate a human being’s body and nervous system) have become legally certified.
Diversity or political correctness is not the enemy here. At this tipping point in our history, when we are on the verge of becoming a police state with interminable wars abroad, trying to promote more fear and hatred is hardly going to do the trick. Of course Thomas, Krauthammer and Varadarajan are not Muslims. They can feel safe. But once the beast of intolerance and hate is unleashed, who knows who’s going to be next?
1. Cal Thomas, “Country deceives itself about terrorists,” Democrat and Chronicle, November 11, 2009
2. Charles Krauthammer, Medicalizing mass murder,” The Washington Post, November 13, 2009
3. Eboo Patel, “Examining us examining Hasan,” The Washington Post, November 16, 2009
4. Tunku Varadarajan, “Going Muslim,” Forbes.com, November 9, 2009