Reflections on Fort Hood

We must strengthen — not divide — the diverse American community after the despicable shooting.

by Uttam Das

The act of rampage by a service member, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, at Fort Hood in Texas raises many questions concerning his motive. Does HasanâÄôs brutality signal an internal jihad threat? Or is it just another meaningless moment of American, lone-gunman violence? Is it a mere criminal act out of frustration or of his reported fear of deployment to AfghanistanâÄôs âÄúwar on terror?âÄù We know this is not a time to draw conclusions, since the investigations by the FBI and other agencies are still underway. And only a thorough, independent investigation could find answers to the questions now floating in the air. As President Barack Obama has rightly said, âÄúWe donâÄôt know all the answers yet.âÄù He is also cautious against âÄújumping to conclusions.âÄù The relevant laws should take due course for the vile act Hasan is responsible for. This should be an example for others not to attempt such a heinous move in future. But key potential circumstances also need to be taken into account. Perhaps this service member had been âÄúharassedâÄù by fellow colleagues for practicing Islam. Perhaps his perception on the âÄúwar on terrorâÄù prompted him to take arms against his fellow service members. Allegedly, the Muslims who serve in the American military are facing criticism in their respective communities. This needs to be investigated and, if true, addressed. According to press reports, some 3,557 military personnel identify themselves as Muslim. There are 1.4 million active-duty service members in different forces in the United States. HasanâÄôs belief in Islam is now giving some fellow service members a âÄúhard time.âÄù The New York Times commentator, Andrea Elliott, referred to Muslim soldiersâÄô and commandersâÄô notes to speculate that the âÄúrelationship between the military and its Muslim service members will grow only more difficult.âÄù The ArmyâÄôs Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. also expressed concern about a âÄúreaction against Muslims in the armed forces,âÄù according to The New York Times. But until there has been a final probe to suggest otherwise, HasanâÄôs act should not be taken to represent certain groups or communities of religious or professional affiliation. Given the religious and cultural pluralism of the United States, a single act should not be means to discriminate against an entire community. Rather, we should renew our vigilance to the cause of the diversity. Here, Muslim community leaders must work hard. Whether he intended to or not, HasanâÄôs act serves in part to put the patriotism of American Muslims in question. We must ensure that no âÄúradicalismâÄù comes to fit HasanâÄôs purpose. Also, there is a fresh and dire need for dialogue between military and Muslim communities given the probable erosion of trust and confidence among them. All of this cultural work should aim to facilitate the mutual understanding of diversity and pluralism and of culture and religious beliefs. All should stand by the cause of the country. After tragedies so haunting, we all must be careful to keep narrow interests and interpretations from diminishing the greater cause: an open, safe and robust American community. Uttam Das welcomes comments at [email protected]