Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Ft. Hood jihadi, in a picture from 2000.
The establishment – law enforcement, politicians, the media, and the academy – stands on one side of this debate, insisting that some kind of oppression caused Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, 39, to kill 13 and wound 38 at Ft. Hood on Nov. 5. It disagrees on the specifics, however, presenting Hasan as the victim alternatively of "racism," "harassment he had received as a Muslim," a sense of not belonging," "pre-traumatic stress disorder," "mental problems," "emotional problems," "an inordinate amount of stress," being called a "camel jockey," or being deployed to Afghanistan as his "worst nightmare." Accordingly, a typical newspaper headline reads "Mindset of Rogue Major a Mystery.".
Instances of Muslim-on-unbeliever violence inspire the victim school to dig up new and imaginative excuses. Colorful examples (drawing on my article and weblog entry about denying Islamist terrorism) include:
- 1990: "A prescription drug for … depression" (to explain the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane)
- 1991: "A robbery gone wrong" (the murder of Makin Morcos in Sydney)
- 1994: "Road rage" (the killing of a random Jew on the Brooklyn Bridge)
- 1997: "Many, many enemies in his mind" (the shooting murder atop the Empire State Building)
- 2000: A traffic incident (the attack on a bus of Jewish schoolchildren near Paris)
- 2002: "A work dispute" (the double murder at LAX)
- 2002: A "stormy [family] relationship" (the Beltway snipers)
- 2003: An "attitude problem" (Hasan Karim Akbar's attack on fellow soldiers, killing two)
- 2003: Mental illness (the mutilation murder of Sebastian Sellam)
- 2004: "Loneliness and depression" (an explosion in Brescia, Italy outside a McDonald's restaurant)
- 2005: "A disagreement between the suspect and another staff member" (a rampage at a retirement center in Virginia)
- 2006: "An animus toward women" (a murderous rampage at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle)
- 2006: "His recent, arranged marriage may have made him stressed" (killing with an SUV in northern California)
Sgt. Hasan Karim Akbar, convicted of the 2003 murder of two fellow soldiers.
As a charter member of the jihad school of interpretation, I reject these explanations as weak, obfuscatory, and apologetic. The jihadi school, still in the minority, perceives Hasan's attack as one of many Muslim efforts to vanquish infidels and impose Islamic law. We recall a prior episode of sudden jihad syndrome in the U.S. military, as well as the numerous cases of non-lethal Pentagon jihadi plots and the history of Muslim violence on American soil.
Far from being mystified by Hasan, we see overwhelming evidence of his jihadi intentions. He handed out Korans to neighbors just before going on his rampage, telling them "I'm going to do good work for God." He yelled "Allahu Akbar," the jihadi's cry, as he fired off over 100 rounds from two pistols. His superiors reportedly put him on probation for inappropriately proselytizing about Islam.
We note what former associates say about him: one, Val Finnell, quotes Hasan saying, "I'm a Muslim first and an American second" and recalls Hasan justifying suicide terrorism; another, Col Terry Lee, recalls that Hasan "claimed Muslims had the right to rise up and attack Americans"; the third, a psychiatrist who worked very closely with Hasan, described him as "almost belligerent about being Muslim."
Finally, the jihad school of thought attributes importance to the Islamic authorities' urging American Muslim soldiers to refuse to fight their co-religionists, thereby providing a basis for sudden jihad. In 2001, for example, responding to the U.S. attack on the Taliban, the mufti of Egypt, Ali Gum'a, issued a fatwa stating that "The Muslim soldier in the American army must refrain [from participating] in this war." Hasan himself, echoing that message, advised a young Muslim disciple, Duane Reasoner Jr., not to join the U.S. army because "Muslims shouldn't kill Muslims."
If the jihad explanation is overwhelmingly more persuasive than the victim one, it's also far more awkward to articulate. Everyone finds blaming road rage, Accutane, or an arranged marriage easier than discussing Islamic doctrines. And so, a prediction: what Ralph Peters calls the army's "unforgivable political correctness" will officially ascribe Hasan's assault to his victimization and will leave jihad unmentioned.
And thus will the army blind itself and not prepare for its next jihadi attack.
Mr. Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.
Nov. 20, 2009 update: I review new evidence of the suspect's involvement with radical Islam at "Maj. Hasan's Islamist Life" and keep a running log of even more information as it becomes available at "More on Maj. Hasan's Islamist Life."
Jan. 15, 2009 update: The secretary of defense commissioned something he calls the "DoD Independent Review Related to Fort Hood" to figure out what went wrong in the Hasan case. It dutifully produced a 53-page document with lots of appendices titled Protecting the Force: Lessons from Ft. Hood. Suffice to say that the word Islamic appears just once (in the title of a cited reference) and the words Islam, Muslim, and jihad appear not a single time. Thus does the farce of continue; rather than address the army's denial about Islamism, this review commission perpetuates it.
Oct. 15, 2010 update: Enough of the smiling pictures of Hasan. Here is one from his trial that gives a better insight into his character.
Malik Hasan, not smiling.
FBI Director James Comey testifies.
FBI Director James Comey testifies.