On Thursday, November 5th, Major Nidal Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood and killed 13 and injured 30. My initial reaction was like everyone else: extreme sadness over the loss of life, especially since it was not in a war zone and the victims were killed by another soldier. It is troubling. However, what I feared would happen as soon as I saw the name did happen. The focus now was on his level of religiosity and the role of Islam in this kind of violence. While I absolutely condemn these killings, I wish that for once the discussion focused on the human level–from all sides. Whenever a Muslim commits an act of violence, it is never read as an individual act or looked on as a human ill; rather, the person is always part of a larger problematic called Islam. Ironically, the next day, a shooting occurred in Orlando and the religion of the perpetrator was not mentioned at all.
Many Muslim groups were quick to condemn the actions and remind the public that these kinds of actions are not acceptable in Islam. Despite the numerous statements, programs on the shooting continued to circle around whether the shooter went to a mosque and how often, as if a mosque is fundamentally a space of violence. Muslims worldwide are avid mosque goers and find solace and comfort in that space. Moreover, in many mosques, there is emphasis placed on the core principles of the faith and how Muslims, through those principles, should become positive and constructive citizens, in whatever nation they belong to.
In one news program, in particular, the discussion was over “homegrown hate.” The story focused on a small group of Muslims who preached hatred against America and of course used Islam as justification. Coincidentally, they were doing this right after the shooting. Their views would be troubling to any Muslim who understands the compassionate nature of the Prophet Muhammad and how he called on his followers to be positive examples to the world. There are over 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, so it is dangerous to frame the opinion of a few as somehow representative of the much larger group. Couldn’t this possibly endanger the 7 million or so Muslim Americans who firmly believe in the peaceful nature of Islam and their role in American society?
Muslims are human as well. They face the same obstacles, occasionally break down, and some times deviate. Islam, like any other religion, can be manipulated, but there are far more believers who demonstrate and live the real message of the faith.
Do you think that Islam is more likely to call for violence than other religions? Can religion be misunderstood? Should there be a focus on religious adherence in acts of violence? Please share your thoughts.