Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Consequences of America’s Failure to Understand Islam

By Jacob Thomas

Soon after the murderous attack on the enlisted men and women at Fort Hood, Texas, the picture of the officer who mounted that carnage was flashed on the television screen. It revealed the physiognomy of a Mideastern man! Before long, he was described as a psychiatrist with the rank of Major in the U.S. Army, the son of an immigrant Palestinian family, born and educated in the United States. Radio, television, newspapers, and the various Internet websites continued reporting on the massacre, and delved into the motives that caused a medical doctor to turn into an executioner.

I was struck immediately with the fact that his parents had given him the name Nidal. I am familiar with many of the names Muslims give their children, but have never heard of the name “Nidal,” which means “Struggle” being given to a Muslim boy.

I am convinced that these wanton murders could have been averted if our political leadership and the mainline media, were not blinded by an abysmal ignorance of the true nature of Islam. As a life-time student of Islam, its history and authoritative texts, I would like to point to the massacre at Fort Hood as a consequence of America’s failure to understand Islam. Here is a shocking example:

On the 10th of November, 2009, The Wall Street Journal published an article with this headline, “After the Fort Hood Massacre: Sorting the Hasans from patriotic Muslims in the U.S. military.” The following excerpts I believe display a false dilemma regarding the presence of Muslims in the military:

“There are two irreconcilable views of Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s murder of 13 people last Thursday at Fort Hood, Texas. One is that Major Hasan should be seen as not much different than many other disturbed individuals, whose demons pitch them into homicidal frenzies. The other is that the Hasan murders raise hard questions about the ability of Muslims to serve at all in the American military. Neither view is acceptable. It will be the job of public and military officials in weeks ahead to shape a policy response that recognizes the hard political and ethnic realities of the Fort Hood massacre. So no, Major Hasan is not just another nut. He volunteered himself into a larger Islamic jihad, whose political weapon of choice is the murder of innocents across the globe. Just as Americans can’t blink away the dangerous world of radical Islam, however, we also cannot pretend that we can field a military that doesn’t include Muslims. The unreality of attempting to fight this enemy without Muslim soldiers or operatives should be obvious.” (Source)

I am thoroughly baffled by these words, “we also cannot field a military that doesn’t include Muslims. The unreality of attempting to fight this enemy without Muslim soldiers or operatives should be obvious?” The author of this op-ed has actually muddied the waters at a time when clear thinking is absolutely necessary in the aftermath of this unspeakable tragedy.

The Defense Department is fully aware that Muslim recruits have entertained scruples about “fighting other Muslims,” and is willing to grant them the status of “conscientious objectors.” A strange concession indeed! Did it ever enter the minds of the DOD officials that granting Muslim soldiers such a selective ‘conscientious objection’ is tantamount to  implying that the US Army does not dispute their allegations that it is targeting innocent Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan! Traditionally, the classification of “conscientious objection” is granted to U.S. citizens who are members of pacifist churches and communions, and thus object to all wars regardless of  who the enemy is. If Muslims cannot fight even “bad” Muslims such as those of  al-Qaeda or members of the Taliban, why has it become absolutely necessary for the DOD to bend backwards in order to accommodate would-be Muslim recruits? I cannot comprehend this twisted logic!

Let me refer to an article of mine that was posted on this website, on 21 October, 2009,  and which dealt with a related topic. In “Islam and the Decline of the West,” I pointed to the danger faced by Western nations due to the growing number of Muslims residing among them. This issue is extremely important and still unresolved nine years after 9-11. See here.

Several months before the above mentioned article appeared on the Elaph website, I had commented on a 15 December, 2008, article that was also posted on Elaph with this headline: An Increase in the Islamic Terrorist Danger Facing Europe and America. It had predicted that more terrorist attacks would take place in both Europe and America. It can be found here.

The author of this article had premonitions about future acts of jihadist violence that would occur on both sides of the Atlantic. In the light of what some of these responsible and reformist Arab intellectuals have been writing on this subject, I offer the following hypothesis:

All Muslims carry in their cultural and religious baggage a strong exclusivist belief that they are the guardians of Allah’s mission and message to all mankind. Danger is on the horizon when this belief becomes extreme and radicalized in certain Muslims.  For such persons, this exclusivism may lie dormant in their consciousness until conditions become ripe for putting a more extreme face on this worldview, which in turn can lead to the commission of terrorist acts. A Muslim man’s journey starts in earnest when he begins attending mosques led by fiery and radical Imams.  Such Imams harangue worshippers during the Friday worship services with messages filled with invectives against the Kuffar. All non-Muslims who do not submit to Islam fit into this hated category.

Even the most “moderate” Muslim, attending this type of Friday propagandistic services week after week and month after month, would be made susceptible to forming attitudes and a mindset extremely critical of all non-Muslims that could eventually wreak havoc in various ways, including terror attacks. The continuous virulence of such an Imam’s sermons, coupled no doubt with copious quotations from the Qur’an and the Hadiths backing up such rants, would inevitably trigger in the psyche of a believer a dangerous urge to do something “fi Sabeel Allah” (in the pathway of Allah).  As recent history has proven, Muhammad ‘Atta and his vicious cohorts certainly gleaned hatred from such instruction and perpetrated the horror of 9-11.  How influential such teachings from radical mosques and Imams were in the life of Major Nidal M. Hasan, the Fort Hood terrorist, is yet to be determined.

My thesis would explain the Fort Hood tragedy, especially as I ponder once again the details that surfaced in the aftermath of the 9-11 attack. The papers packed in Muhammad ‘Atta’s suitcase did not accompany him on the flight into the Twin Towers in New York City. Eventually they were made public and published on the Internet. I read and re-read the speech he gave to his fellow believers the night before the horrific attack. He exhorted them to remain firm in their resolve to punish the arrogant USA by attacking the World Trade Center, which to him was a symbol of America’s arrogance.  He quoted passages from the Qur’an to strengthen them in their determination to go through the suicidal mission.

Further research into ‘Atta’s background was revealing.  Testimony from his German professor at Hamburg University was telecast on the internet some months ago.  It was noted that ‘Atta had been a normal student doing excellent work in his chosen field.  His thesis was in regard to “Urban Renewal,” a much-needed work in his native Egypt.

So what radicalized an otherwise intellectually brilliant student who had so much to offer his native country? One answer is certainly his Mosque attendance while a student in Hamburg. He chose to worship at the Jerusalem Mosque notoriously famous for being led by a fiery Imam who never ceased hurling curses and imprecations at the Infidels. I can only conclude that ‘Atta’s conscious and subconscious mind became saturated with that fire and brimstone preaching of the radical cleric.  He now had justification from his spiritual leader to go on a jihad and do something great for Allah. His aim became to murder as many Infidels as possible.

As Americans try to recover from the trauma of the Fort Hood Massacre, I would point out that there are some glimmers of hope within the articles I mentioned above, namely “Islam and the Decline of the West,” and “An Increase in the Islamic Terrorist Danger Facing Europe and America.” I based them on the writings of two reformist Arab intellectuals who were extremely concerned about the rise and spread of extremism among some of the immigrant Muslim groups in the West. They are not alone in that endeavor, as I discover daily in my reading of reformist websites. Therefore, it is my sincere hope that their warnings would be heard even more loudly, now after the tragic events at the military base in Fort Hood, Texas.