This morning the United States Army said that the suspect in the mass murder at Fort Hood shouted “Allahu Akbar!” before shooting. Of course, yesterday the Army said that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was dead, but now says he’s not quite, so perhaps the Army’s grasp of the facts is not yet firm. Still, let’s say that it’s true, what does it mean?
It means that Nidal Malik Hasan was Muslim, and that’s all it means. A psychiatrist, he was obviously mentally ill, for one does not engage in acts of mass murder being of sound mind. Psychiatrists are not exempt from the diseases they treat. Mentally ill people are often religiously obsessed, (Richard Dawkins would say that by definition religious people are mentally ill, but he’s mad as a hatter) and often equate the voices in their heads with God (or devils) telling them to commit some heinous act.
This does not mean that every Muslim American or Muslim immigrant is a potential mass murderer, any more than every Roman Catholic is potential child molester or every evangelical is a potential “abortion doctor” murderer.
What is most troubling about this incident is not Hasan’s religion, nor the fact that Hasan’s mental illness went undetected or excused. What is most troubling is that it is one more piece of evidence that the “fight them over there so we won’t have to fight them here” war has been an abject failure. We lost that war. We lost it because we did not understand that one cannot fight ideas with guns. While we were busy doing the Imperial heavy lifting of changing regimes, young people in this country and around the world were being seduced by the idea that it was America who was the oppressor, America who was the terrorist nation, America who was the greatest threat to the future of the human race. One cannot disprove or dislodge those ideas by launching wars in distant deserts against people who all share the same religion. For all you will do is prove their arguments to be true.