For American Muslims, the Fort Hood massacre is a crisis. There are open calls for a blanket investigation of Muslims in the military and even demands for a ban on Muslims serving in the armed forces.
Not since 9/11 has our faith – and our patriotism – been placed under such a microscope.
At the same time, not since the Twin Towers fell have American Muslims taken such a sobering look in the mirror to try to understand for ourselves why an unassuming member of our community – a doctor and a soldier – might have turned to mass murder, shouting “God is great” along the way.
Within hours of the shooting, national Islamic organizations issued unequivocal condemnations of the attack. Whatever the twisted motivations of the shooter, they argued persuasively that nothing in Islam could condone such an atrocity.
Muslim Americans have struggled mightily over the past eight years to try to explain our faith to anyone who would listen. We do not want all of our efforts to go down the drain at the hands of a psychopathic murderer.
Muslims in the military have worked double time to combat stereotypes, knowing that doubts over their loyalty hang over their heads.
I know of Muslim Americans who have joined the military, in part, to demonstrate their commitment to this great land. Some of them have made the ultimate sacrifice, such as Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor, who in 2006 threw himself onto a grenade during a firefight in Afghanistan in order to save the lives of his fellow warriors.
Despite our contributions to this country and our efforts to clear the good name of Islam, we have a longer way to go now because of Nidal Hasan. But he is no more representative of Muslim Americans than Timothy McVeigh was of Christian Americans. Muslim Americans should not be blamed for Hasan’s crimes.
Still, Muslims in America would be wise not to ignore the anger and fear that increases, rightly or wrongly, every time a Muslim is implicated in anything that even has the whiff of terror. We also need to continue our internal conversations among Muslims. We need to recognize that many Muslim Americans may have legitimate grievances with aspects of U.S. policy – whether it is the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, Washington’s blind support of Israel or the practice of extraordinary renditions.
But we must insist that violence is no way to register such grievances. And we must aggressively counter those in our midst who incite hatred and who romanticize militancy.
Our very freedom is at stake.