Image Credit: Flickr

When I first heard about the shootings last Thursday at a military base in Fort Hood, Texas in which 13 people were killed and 30 were wounded, to be honest my initial reaction was, “God help us, not another mass shooting in America.” After all, I hate to say it, but these shootings are becoming increasingly and disturbingly common. I’ll spare you my thoughts on gun control.

However, as the story developed, so did my opinions and fears. The incident has no shortage of shock factors. For one, Major Nidal Hasan, 39 years old, was an army psychiatrist. You would think as a doctor, he would have sought or given himself some sort of professional help. But perhaps the one factoid which stuck with me is the fact that Hasan is Muslim. Once I read that, my heart dropped. The story immediately changed from potentially being just another “lone, crazy gunman on a shooting spree,” to “crazy Islamic fundamentalist, terrorist on a shooting spree.”

It did not take too long for the media to unleash hints of Islamaphobia in its suggestive headlines. But to be fair, those assumptions were and are justified I suppose. There were and are definitely some worrying leads. Reports indicate that Hasan was growing increasingly opposed to the US’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, becoming more anti-American. Apparently there were witnesses who even heard Hasan shout “Allahu Akhbar” before he opened fire. Clear indicator that his shooting was in the name of God?

Now there is talk of a serious backlash not only against ordinary Muslims in America, but against the estimated 3,500 Muslims serving in the US military, “prized for their cultural and linguistic knowledge.”

I have to say I was impressed by major Muslim- American organizations not missing the beat, condemning this act of violence right away, and saying it has nothing to do with the teachings of Islam. Hey, at least we are getting better and faster at getting these statements out!

But should Muslims in America be doing more? With every act of violence done in the name of Islam, we bow our heads in shame, brace for the backlash, and hope it will be over soon.

To a large extent, moderate Muslims around the world are just as victimized, if not more, by the fanatical Islamic minority who have done a tremendous job of becoming the mainstream and misconstrued image of Islam. Is it time for moderate Muslims to be more proactive?

I am writing this post after reading this article by Rob Asghar. Asghar asks for deeds, not words from the Muslim community. Though he makes some valid suggestions in his piece, such as setting up charities for communities “hurt by extremists who have hijacked Islam,” I want to know what else can we do? How can Muslims in America, around the world, take a real stand against radical Islam, and not just play the silent victim role?

This story is still very raw, still developing. We do not know all the facts yet. What we do know is that the chairman of the Senate’s Homeland Security committee, Joe Lieberman, has already labeled the shooting as “an act of Islamist extremism.”

I think that it is time for Muslims around the world, especially young Muslims, to start being proactive about what our religion stands for now, and what it will stand for in the future. Think of what the Islam that our children inherit will look like. Our silence condones the violence.

We cannot just continue to brace ourselves for backlash attack after attack. We need to start putting our heads together and come up with tangible solutions. There are only so many statements one can read. After awhile, people need to start seeing the action to match those fancy, official statements.


  1. I’m not sure if one can even call this a “Muslim” act. In this logic, why should American Muslims need to defend their faith against a despicable act of a derranged criminal?

    This is a criminal issue. Just because his name is “Muslim” doesnt make it a Muslim one.

  2. What strikes me is when you say “fanatical Islamic minority who have done a tremendous job of becoming the mainstream and misconstrued image of Islam”. It’s parallel to the voices of neo-conservatives becoming the mainstream. I find it interesting that it really is radicals vs. radicals in this fight. Moderates like us are just stuck in the crossfire.

  3. Also – Reimas – I think your comment proves the point. Though it is criminal and though it should not be considered a Muslim issue, it is and will be as long as there is no clear distinction by moderate Islamic voices to differentiate from the radical ones.

  4. I’m not a fan of the term “moderate” –moderate in terms of what?–this is a political distinction that has been crafted to create a dichotomy between us vs. them. The good guys and the bad guys. Reality is more subtle than such simple categorizations.

    Yes, there is no question people will attempt to make this is a Muslim issue, but let them try. Muslim groups the world over have been crying out at the top of their lungs. Fatwas by the worlds leading scholars and leaders of Islam have been declared over and over again. Interfaith activities in the U.S. are as common as apple pie now. What can, or should these so called “moderates” do in _this particular_ case?

    It is my opinion that to even address this as an Islamic issue is to give legitimacy to those who are trying to make that connection to discredit the Islamic presence in the U.S. I applaud the Muslim groups and their prompt and ready denunciation of the heinous act , but at the end of the day, this is a criminal issue, and should be dealt with by law enforcement–not from the pulpit.

  5. I don’t believe this isn’t an Issue regarding religion, though we feel the need to identify the problem in ways to understand what happened.

    What happened is less complex- like Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, and numerous other people who Kill, there was a complete lack of love and disconnect from society and purpose in their lives.

    Religion can offer a closer connection to all of the above, but from what I understand this is a man who wanted a wife. He was in search of something he could not find within, disillusioned, and lost compassion for even himself.

    Maya is the notion that we are separate from Love- we search our whole lives to awaken from this illusion. Some do and some don’t. Some will die for what they believe is purpose, and grab ‘Whatever’ shred of evidence there is for them to
    give their lives meaning.

  6. I’m sorry. I meant, I don’t believe this Is an issue regarding religion. Heinous act. yes. I agree we should All Be Proactive in setting the record straight. yes.

  7. Thanks for the comments guys!

    Reimas, while I agree with and appreciate your point on the importance of the language and labels we use, I think you may be oversimplifying in this case. If a Muslim man robbed a store at gunpoint, that is a crime. If a Muslim kills his daughter because he felt like it, it is a crime.

    While honor crimes are murder plain and simple, there is a link made around the world, but especially in Muslim cultures, that your family’s honor is directly linked to the sexual behavior of the women in your family. If that is under question, you have the right, even to kill, those females to get your honor back. It is an old Bedouin belief.

    It is not so black and white- Muslim man kills a women so it’s immediately considered an honor crime? That is incorrect and is not the case. You can’t dismiss the fact that honor crimes still happen across the Muslim world for the sake of honor alone in many, many if not the majority of cases. Jordan and many other countries in the Middle East, while are working hard to amend their laws on this issue, still do not support victims of honor killings, and in effect, protect the perpetrator and not the victim of the crime.

    In the case of the Fort Hood shootings, Hasan was not just a Muslim man who randomly decided to commit this act of violence. The more we learn about this case, the more we see the links that this was a hate crime, and was politically motivated. Hasan had apparently even contacted Al-Qaeda, and in a lecture in 2007, he had urged the US Army to release its Muslim soldiers.

    Clearly, these are some pretty blatant signs that this man was well on his way to becoming radicalized. He clearly had some extreme religious issues. So in this case, perhaps we can say it is a Muslim issue because this case is contributing to reinforcing a common, if not the common stereotype of all Muslim men being angry, American hating terrorists.

    A lot of complex issues at play here. We can’t just oversimplify and be dismissive.

  8. Something that I find interesting – Senator Lieberman (my fave guy on the hill) is leading the investigation on this matter. He has said publically that if there is evidence that this was motivated by links to Al-Qaeda then he would treat it as a terrorist act and as such the most deadly one on american soil since 9/11.

  9. Also – while I don’t think this is a place to define ‘moderate’ suffice it to say that it is the center point between two extremes – a reactionary extreme and a revolutionary extreme – and yes there is such a place…

  10. Not trying to simplify the issue. Of course religious overtones are there—but those tones are overblown in cases like this when a criminal who happens to be a Muslim is involved. What I mean to say is, yes, while he may have sought out al-Qaeda, and read extremist manuals, etc, that still doesn’t make this an Islamic or Muslim issue. It’s a matter of criminal justice—criminals will be criminals and can call it whatever they wish, let’s take Islam out of this equation.

    Also, let us retire the notion that Muslims aren’t doing enough. Could more be done, certainly—anything if it makes the world a more peaceful and nonviolent place! But a lot is being done, and I’m not sure it’s fair to ask the question repeatedly, “where are the moderates?!” They are in your face, they are issuing fatwas daily against terrorism, they are writing books, they are coming out with joint declarations against violence, they are holding dialogues, and events all across America! But terrorism is what gets people to click on the television, it’s what brings in the ratings and the commercials, and the revenue, that’s why there is a skewed perception connecting Muslims to violence. Does the connection exist, of course, but so do the those–in far greater numbers–who denounce such acts and live their lives as ambassadors of peace.

    In a case like this, an individual’s personal and political beliefs and instability should not hold hostage an entire faith, not should the faith have to respond to it. Religion is neutral in this matter. This was a criminal who happened to be a Muslim. No grand Islamic conspiracy here. Sorry.

  11. Sure – yet somehow…all of the cumulative efforts haven’t formed a political force nor a strong faction of public option. In moments like this – they have no strong spokesman in a country that tends to retaliate to the extremism in kind. I would rather not retire any notion – press forward.

  12. Sure – yet somehow…all of the cumulative efforts haven’t formed a political force nor a strong faction of public opinion. In moments like this – they have no strong spokesman in a country that tends to retaliate to the extremism in kind. I would rather not retire any notion – press forward.

  13. Very valid points Reimas. I am not saying Muslims are not doing anything, I am asking is it enough? As Anuj pointed out, if your efforts are not being recognized or publicized or even noticed, time to re-think strategy?

  14. Anuj, the tide is turning. In the last few months alone, there has been tangible difference. Even in the broadcasting of this particular event, there has been caution in the framing of this event as a Muslim event–though the loose and ambiguous connections to extremists does exist. Also the current administration no longer uses the terminology, “Islamic fundamentalist” or “Islamic extremism” when referencing these kind of episodes. And rightly so, as there is nothing Islamic nor faith or creed basis to it.

    There is still much to be done, but let us not discount the efforts that have brought us to this point. The perception of Islam will continue to evolve, my hope, for the better, but it will take time. Let’s not forget, this is a perception more than 1500 yrs in the making in the West, not isolated to the last 50 yrs–or even the last 9.

  15. It is clear that what we see happening here is the blatant aftermath of the consequences of 9/11 and the subsequent enforcement of the US Patriot Act. The Muslim community, ever since the collapse of the Twin Towers, had been under heavy assault by the American public, often receiving unjustified blame and suspicion for violence committed by others. The Fort Hood Shooting incident is no different, except that this one was actually carried out by a Muslim. Anushay nicely outlines the current situation of the Muslim community within American society; one major point is the tendency of the American general public to immediately assume that acts of violence committed by Muslims are automatically linked to a much greater scheme, one that may possibly be linked to terrorism and Al Qaeda. However, allow us to discuss the condition of Hasan, the man responsible for the deaths of 12 and the wounding of 31. His status as a major within the American military proves that he is, or at least once was, a patriotic citizen of the United States. Moreover, he served as a psychiatrist within the military; if anything, it is very possible that he broke down as a result of his mentally taxing occupation. Reasonably speaking, however, Hasan may have simply been feeling emotionally detached from his surroundings; having conducted some background research on him, I found out that Hasan was unwed at the age of 40, possibly suggesting a hint of emotional instability in his personal life. Additionally, the constant pressuring of his Muslim identity within the US military may have proved to be overwhelming, to the point of mental breakdown and the subsequent opening of gunfire. The lack of evidence suggests nothing, however, and these are only possible hypotheses. We should not relate the hostile intentions of a Muslim individual solely to his religion. By doing so, we are essentially generalizing the entire American Muslim community, signifying that all individuals in the community are commonly characterized by fanatic violence. Rather, we should take everything into account: his condition, status, and any recent events that might have triggered such behavior. Let’s be realistic; Anushay points out how Muslims tend to remain inactive despite receiving exaggerated blame for public violence. She also suggests that the solution to this would be to encourage Muslim youths to be more proactive about cleansing themselves of such atrocious generalities. To a certain extent, I wholeheartedly support her solution; it certainly is one that would eventually heal the wounds afflicted onto the American Muslim community by the tragedies of 9/11. However, as we’ve seen in the past, paranoia and uncertainty are two sickening traits that America has yet to grow out of. For instance, it took America nearly 200 years to overcome racism to an extent where all rights were distributed evenly across all races. Racism has all but completely evaporated within American society; despite having equal rights, each race is characterized differently by stereotypes and generalizations. However, there is no doubt that pro-activity has helped amend cultural and ethnic discrimination. African Americans, who were once treated as the lowest beings of society, have now gained major grounds both on political and social levels, which is further proved by the election of President Barack Obama. Without support and pro-activity, however, I believe that African Americans wouldn’t have been able to reach such a status. Leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. significantly catalyzed the process of racial equality; it is about time that Muslims step up to announce their voices as well.

  16. With the increasing number of highly publicized terrorist events since 9/11, anti-Islam sentiment has been on the rise as well. It never occurred to me that there was such a large impact on innocent Muslims living in America. This is a classic example of over-generalization: many terrorist attacks are by Islamic fanatics, so all Muslims must harbor terrorist thoughts. I know that this is not the case and I agree with you in that Muslims should not simply hope that the storm will pass; they should do something about it. Although it is not logical that innocent Muslims should be discriminated against for terrorist acts, discrimination will always occur unless measures are taken to prevent it. In the articles I read about the Fort Hood shooting, the attitude towards Islam is grim. One article uses words like “diabolical”, “cold-blooded”, and “cowardly” throughout the entire text. I know how it feels to be judged based on what other people have done. It is hard to stand up and do something about it because people have a negative opinion from the start. However, rather than being treated badly for uncommitted crimes, people should try to educate others. Right now, the public is receiving information about incidents like the Fort Hood shooting from the media. The media presents the news with a negative connotation on Islam. Charity groups and individuals should become more active in getting their messages out before violence against innocent people gets worse. In one of the articles that I read, the author was questioning the Obama administration’s slow pace on resolving homeland security issues. The author even went so far as to question the “so-called charities,” saying that they could be a possible financial resource for the “radical jihadists such as Mr. al-Awlaki.” These articles remind me of the Virginia Tech shooting. I remember that when I heard the shooter was Korean, I thought “Uh-oh, this really isn’t going to help my reputation when I go to summer school in America.” However, that was only one shooting. Other bombings and suicide attacks committed by Muslims are reported on the news almost every week, and I cannot imagine how tarnished Islam is to the public eye.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s