x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Fears of anti-Muslim backlash after Fort Hood massacre

The shooting rampage by a US army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, at Fort Hood in Texas, came six months after the Camp Liberty killings in Iraq where an American army sergeant killed five fellow soldiers at a combat stress centre. Maj Hasan, one of only 408 psychiatrists serving 553,000 active-duty US troops around the world, was likely to have worked in such a centre when sent to Iraq or Afghanistan.

The shooting rampage by a US army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, at Fort Hood in Texas, came almost six months after the Camp Liberty killings in Iraq where an American army sergeant killed five fellow soldiers at a combat stress centre. Maj Hasan, one of only 408 psychiatrists serving 553,000 active-duty US troops around the world, was likely to have worked in such a centre when sent to Iraq or Afghanistan. Among the 13 killed on Thursday at the Fort Hood Readiness Centre, a soldier's last stop before deployment, five were fellow therapists, the army said. Nader Hasan told The New York Times that his cousin "was mortified by the idea of having to deploy." Mr Hasan said: "He had people telling him on a daily basis the horrors they saw over there." The Wall Street Journal said: "If he was agitated about his own deployment, he showed few signs of it, according to friends, neighbours and religious leaders. " 'It's a shock,' said Col Kimberly Kesling, who supervised Maj Hasan. "Before chatting with Ms Villa [his apartment manager] on Thursday morning, Maj Hasan went to a local mosque for morning prayer, arriving a half-hour early, as was his custom, according to an army veteran who prayed with him. And he made his customary stop at a 7-Eleven convenience store just off the base for hash browns and coffee. Surveillance tapes from the store show him smiling and chatting." CNN reported: "Lt Gen Russel Honore, who served at Fort Hood in the late 1990s, said the nearly eight years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq have created difficulties for the US armed forces. " 'This is a very complex situation, a situation we have not dealt with in the army before. We have never been at war this long before in modern history,' he said. 'And many of these soldiers have been deployed multiple times, so this has put a lot of stress on these soldiers and their families. " 'One of the biggest things on re-entry that the Readiness Centre does is to help those soldiers cope with being back home and dealing with the extremes of [post-traumatic stress disorder],' Honore said." Earl Ofari Hutchinson, at The Huffington Post wrote: "The instant the news broke that a soldier with a Muslim name shot up the base at Fort Hood the Council on American-Islamic Relations wasted no time and issued a loud and vigorous denunciation of the mass murders. The Council didn't know whether Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged shooter, was a Muslim by birth, a converted Muslim, or even a Muslim at all. The name and the horrific murder spree was enough to drive the group to quickly distance itself from the rampage. Other Muslim organisations instantly followed suit and issued their own equally strong disavowal of Hasan. "They were wise to do so. Though anti-Muslim hate crimes and anti-Muslim hysteria have leveled off somewhat since the September 11 terror attacks, Muslims still routinely get the blame for anything that even remotely smacks of a terrorism act. "Hasan's alleged Fort Hood bloodbath is no different. The pack of shrill rightist bloggers and talk radio chatterers jumped all over the shooting and gleefully fanned anti-Muslim passions. It didn't take much to get the anti-Muslim hate juices flowing. A legion of writers on web sites spewed the ritual anti-Muslim slurs, profanities, and insults at Hasan and Muslims. "President Obama saw the danger of anti-Muslim fear mongering, and tried to head it off at the pass. He quickly admonished the public not to rush to judgment about the shooting and the shooter. Obama took a page from Clinton and Bush's playbook when mob hysteria was building after the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1996 and the 9/11 attacks. Clinton and Bush cautioned the public not to finger point Muslims for the attacks." Maj Hasan, USA Today reported: "confessed to his local mosque elder months ago that he was conflicted between his devotion to Islam and his allegiance to the US military. " 'If soldiers come to me and have problems fighting other Muslims, what do I tell them?' Osman Danquah, co-founder of the Islamic Community of Greater Killeen, said Hasan asked him in August. "Hasan also asked about soldiers changing their minds after joining the military and inquired about other members of the congregation, Danquah said. His line of questioning sounded so disjointed, however, that Danquah said Saturday he suspected Hasan might be a federal agent trying to infiltrate the mosque. " 'I told him, "There's something wrong with you, and if you're here to gather information, we're not here to do anything against the government. We're here to worship,"' Danquah said." Mr Danquah, who is also an army veteran, told ABC's Good Morning America: "Hasan was soft spoken, but was obviously conflicted about the army's participation in the war on terror. 'I wasn't much impressed with him when we had a couple of conversations,' Danquah told GMA. "Danquah said Hasan wanted to know, as a psychiatrist, what he was supposed to tell soldiers who had resentment about going to war. 'My response was that it's volunteers,' Danquah said. 'It's an all volunteer army. No one is drafted into the army.'" Many Islamic leaders told the Associated Press the Fort Hood tragedy "could likely pose the sternest test for US Muslims since the September 11 terrorist attacks. " 'A lot of us work very hard for this country, to make America a better place,' said Muqtedar Khan, a progressive Muslim scholar who has just given Congressional testimony on US foreign policy in Afghanistan before Thursday's attack. 'And this one nut like Maj Hasan comes along and in one crazy episode of a few seconds he undermines these years and years of hard work we are doing to make American Muslims part of the mainstream in the community'... "In Washington, Chicago and elsewhere, mosques asked police for extra patrols. In Garden Grove, California, officers stood watch outside a mosque as a precaution. "Muslim leaders warned people to be vigilant and avoid exposing themselves unnecessarily - including walking alone, said Hussam Ayloush, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Southern California. " 'This is one of those moments where we have to sit and pray that most Americans will come out stronger, more united, and more tolerant,' said Ayloush, adding that Muslim organisations have received dozens of death threats and hate e-mail." The New York Times reporting from Greater Killeen near Fort Hood said: "A mosque leader, Dr Manzoor Farooqi, a pediatrician, when asked if he feared retribution for the shootings, said he hoped good relations would prevail. "Maj Hasan was one of about 10 men from Fort Hood who attended prayers in their uniforms, Dr Farooqi said, and he was shocked to see the major's face on television identified as that of the gunman. 'He is an educated man. A psychiatrist,' he said. 'I can't believe he would do such a stupid thing.' " 'I have no words to explain what happened yesterday,' Dr Farooqi said at Friday afternoon prayers, in which about 40 men were led by the mosque's imam, Syed Ahmed Ali. 'Let's have a moment of silence to bless those who lost their life.' " 'The Islamic community strongly condemns this cowardly attack, which was particularly heinous in that it was directed at the all-volunteer army that protects our nation,' Dr Farooqi said."

pwoodward@thenational.ae