In recent days, Islamic names, speculation and some outright lies about the faith have been associated with a horrific, tragic and fatal encounter.
The shooting of military personnel at Ft. Hood, Texas, and accusations that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was the person responsible for deadly carnage that killed 12 people and wounded at least 31 others at Final Call press time, revived recurring false images of Islam as the enemy of America.
Ft. Hood, the largest U.S. military base in the world that can accommodate some 50,000 soldiers, drew the media spotlight, analysts and a now dogged attempts to find connections between Maj. Hasan and so-called Islamic extremist groups.
There are conflicting reports about the man accused of the shooting: Some described him as a man who was happy with his work and while others described a man who felt conflicted about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and endured ridicule because of his faith. The media seems to take a special delight in describing Maj. Hasan as a “devout” Muslim, as if devotion to religious duty and spiritual principles leads to violent acts against innocent people.
The truth is the Holy Qur’an, the book of scripture of the Muslims warns against, actually forbids, letting hatred of a people drive one to extremes and condemns the unjust taking of life. Certainly if the book condemns such action, anyone who engages in acts that the book condemns is not acting in accord with Allah’s dictates.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, of the Nation of Islam, has loudly condemned the taking of innocent lives for political purposes and cited the words of Allah to justify his opposition to terrorist acts. Unfortunately his condemnation of such violence has largely gone unreported by mainstream media in search of sensationalism, instead of truth and right guidance.
And, as Frank Schaeffer, whose pedigree is intricately tied to the “modern religious right,” observed any misguided religious adherent can commit murder. His father, Dr. Francis Schaeffer, “is considered to be the godfather of the modern religious right movement,” notes an article on therawstory.com. Frank Schaeffer fears President Obama could be assassinated by someone from the religious right. He speaks after years as a proponent of his father’s work as a speaker and writer. He left the movement in the 1980s, remained a Republican until 2000 and, as therawstory.com noted, is no bleeding heart liberal.
“ ‘Since President Obama took office I’ve felt like the lonely — maybe crazy — proverbial canary in the coal mine,’ Schaeffer said. ‘As a former right wing leader, who many years ago came to my senses and began to try to undo the harm the movement of religious extremism I helped build has done, I’ve been telling the media that we’re facing a dangerous time in our history. A fringe element of the far right Republican Party seems it believes it has a license to incite threatening behavior in the name of God,’ ” he wrote, in a piece published on the website.
Should the religious faith of Scott Roder, who confessed to murdering abortion doctor George Tiller in a church, be seen as representative of Christianity? Did Mr. Roeder’s prediction to the Associated Press that more violence by anti-abortionists was coming compel congressional investigations into violent extremist plots from the religious right and anti-abortion groups?
The actions of someone who would turn weapons on innocent people are the acts of mentally unstable people.
It was just in May that a young Caucasian soldier turned his weapon on fellow soldiers at a counseling center in Baghdad. There the soldier opened fire, killing five of his comrades.
What cannot be denied is that U.S. soldiers are facing multi-deployments, family problems, suicides, and often a crisis in their mental health.
Writer Dahr Jamail, of truthout.org, noted that “soldiers returning home are routinely involved in shootings, suicide and other forms of self-destructive violent behavior,” while the Pentagon struggles to find ways to combat stress from “repeated deployments” and thousands have been classified as “non-deployable for medical reasons.”
While Sen. Joseph Lieberman, of Connecticut, convenes a hearing on likely dubious connections to extremist plotters and Maj. Hasan, an Iraq war veteran offered an analysis that is not tied to faith at all.
Victor Agosto, an Iraq war vet who was discharged for refusing to go to Afghanistan believes “the shooter clearly intended to stop people from deploying.” In the truthout.org piece, Mr. Agosto notes that the Ft. Hood facilities are the final stop before soldiers are shipped overseas.
At any rate a thorough investigation of the Ft. Hood shooting is warranted and speculation serves no one well.
It is also worth noting that shortly after the televised coverage of the Ft. Hood shootings another fatal encounter with a gunman occurred in Orlando, Fla., where Jason Rodriguez calmly walked into the offices of his former employer, allegedly shot one person to death and wounded five others. Experts predicted that more shootings could occur as the latest round of violence sparks copycats. What role did faith play in that crime?
Violence remains a major problem and an epidemic in American society where guns are readily available and the savagery of the country seems to know no bounds. What America needs is not to scapegoat Islam and religion, but to embrace spiritual values that could lay the base for solving serious social ills.