WASHINGTON – He prayed every day at the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring, Md., a devout Muslim who, despite asking to be discharged from the U.S. Army, according to his aunt, was on the eve of his first deployment to war. Thursday, authorities said Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, a 39-year-old Arlington, Va.-born psychiatrist, shot and killed at least 12 people at Fort Hood, Texas.
In an interview, his aunt, Noel Hasan of Falls Church, Va., said he had endured name-calling and harassment about his Muslim faith for years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and had sought for several years to be discharged from the military.
“I know what that is like; I have experienced it myself while working as a bank executive,” she said. “Some people can take it, and some cannot. He had listened to all of that, and he wanted out of the military and they would not let him leave even after he offered to repay” for his medical training.
An Army spokesman, George Wright, said he could not confirm the report of any request to be discharged.
As authorities scrambled to figure out what happened at Fort Hood, a hazy and contradictory picture emerged of a man who received all of his medical training from the military and spent all of his career in the Army, yet turned so violently against his own. Hasan spent much of his professional career at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., caring for the victims of trauma, yet he spoke openly of his deep opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He steered clear of female colleagues and, despite devout religious practices, listed himself in Army records as having no religious preference, co-workers said.
Hasan, who was shot while being taken into custody, was reported in stable condition at a hospital Thursday night, authorities said.
Hasan is a 1997 graduate of Virginia Tech who went on to get a doctorate in psychiatry from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. From 2003 through last summer, he was an intern, resident and then fellow at Walter Reed, where he worked as a liaison between wounded soldiers and the hospital’s psychiatry staff. He was also a fellow at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress at the Bethesda military medical school.
He himself had been affected by the physical and mental injuries he saw while working as a psychiatrist at Walter Reed for nearly eight years, according to his aunt. “He must have snapped,” Noel Hasan said. “They ignored him. It was not hard to know when he was upset. He was not a fighter, even as a child and young man. But when he became upset, his face turns red.”
Hasan “did not make many friends” and “did not make friends fast,” his aunt said. He had no girlfriend and was not married. “He would tell us the military was his life,” she said.
The psychiatrist once said that “Muslims should stand up and fight against the aggressor” and that the United States shouldn’t be fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place, according to an interview with Col. Terry Lee, a former colleague, on Fox News.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told reporters after a briefing on the shootings that Hasan was born in Virginia to parents who immigrated from Jordan. The congressman said that Hasan “took a lot of advanced training in shooting.”