Backlash against Muslims after Ft. Hood shootings
|Tuesday, November 24,2009 12:44|
|By Askia Muhammad|
In the wake of the Fort Hood, Texas shootings Nov. 5 which left 13 dead and more than two dozen wounded allegedly by an Army psychiatrist who is a Muslim, a backlash—words, political recriminations, and violence—has spread across the country, targeting individuals as well as Islamic institutions.
In Tampa, Fla., a Greek Orthodox priest was reportedly beaten with a tire iron and chased for three blocks by a Marine reservist who mistook the man for a Muslim, claiming that the priest who does not speak Arabic, shouted “Allah-u-Akbar (God is great).”
In Tinley Park, Ill., police are investigation a grocery store incident where a Muslim woman's head scarf was yanked by a woman who reportedly made a comment about Islam, as well as vandalism at the home of another Tinley Park Muslim family.
Federal prosecutors moved Nov. 12 to seize four mosques and a New York skyscraper belonging to an Islamic foundation with alleged financial ties to Iran.
In the nation's capital, police were called to the headquarters of the Council on American Islamic Relations Nov. 11, after the civil rights group received numerous death threats.
Right wing elected officials, pundits and broadcasters have seized on the shootings to call the shooting an act of “terrorism” by a “radical Islamic extremist” and to call for a crackdown on all Muslims.
They charge that the response from the White House and military leaders reflects a dangerous trend of “political correctness” which overlooks “common sense” conclusions about what Maj. Nidal M. Hasan's—the suspect in the Ft. Hood attack—motivation may have been.
Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), normally a moderate and a sometimes White House ally broke ranks, declaring Maj. Hassan a “self-radicalized, home-grown terrorist” on Fox News Sunday. Sen. Lieberman said he will hold Senate hearings on the massacre.
Speaking on his television program “The 700 Club” Nov. 9, conservative televangelist Pat Robertson said the military had overlooked warning signs from Maj. Hassan, out of a politically correct refusal to face the truth about Islam. “Islam is a violent—I was going to say religion, but it's not a religion. It's a political system. It's a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination,” he said.
“I think we should treat it as such and treat its adherents as such, as we would members of the Communist Party or members of some fascist group.”
Another official, former Air Force Office of Special Investigations agent Dave Gaubatz called for a “professional and legal backlash against the Muslim community and their leaders.” The foreword to the book Muslim Mafia, written by Mr. Gaubatz, was written by a member of Congress, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC).
“If Muslims do not want a backlash, then I would recommend a ‘house cleaning.' Stack every Saudi, al Qaeda, Pakistani, Taliban, Hamas, and Muslim Brotherhood piece of material from their mosque and have a bonfire. Tell the American, Jewish, and Muslim community this hatred will no longer be allowed in their mosques,” said Mr. Gaubatz, according to published reports.
Meanwhile, senior military officials in the administration of President Barack Obama have sought to pre-empt the backlash.
General George Casey, Army Chief of Staff, spoke repeatedly in the days immediately following the shooting. “I'm concerned that this increased speculation could cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers. And I've asked our army leaders to be on the lookout for that,” Gen. Casey told CNN's “State of the Union.”
“The speculation could potentially heighten the backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers,” he told ABC's “This Week.” Gen. Casey warned that religious tolerance could become another casualty in the wake of the shooting. “It would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity became a casualty here,” he said.
While visiting the United Arab Emirates, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano echoed Gen. Casey's sentiments. “This was a terrible tragedy for all involved,” Sec. Napolitano told reporters in Abu Dhabi, according to published reports. “Obviously, we object to, and do not believe, that anti-Muslim sentiment should emanate from this.”
But anti-Islamic sentiment has been widespread.
“I just got a report yesterday of a Muslim schoolgirl in Texas. She had her work up on the wall with a photo of herself on the poster, and somebody defaced it with the word ‘terrorist' and an image of a gun pointing to her photograph,” Ibrahim Hooper, communications director at CAIR said in a broadcast interview.
“A lot of hate emails, a lot of threats around the country. You know, it's nothing on the scale, obviously, of the backlash that we saw after the 9/11 attacks, but I think the hate rhetoric that we're seeing on right-wing talk radio and on the hate sites on the internet, I think it's really pushing for some kind of backlash,” said Mr. Hooper.
“There does seem to be a rush to judgment about possible religious motivations for the tragedy,” Thomas Cincotta, civil liberties project director at Political Research Associates, a Somerville Massachusetts-based progressive think-tank, told Inter Press Service.
“People are using this as an opportunity to spread Islamophobia, this has to be contained. The White House and this administration have tried to contain this,” he said.
Muslim leaders continued to call for patience and steadfastness. “The Prophet (Muhammad PBUH) also said, one of the best jihads is to speak truth to a governing authority that has deviated from the right way,” Mauri Salakhan, executive director of the Peace and Justice Foundation told The Final Call.
“We can do this in America. The Muslim community has to do it more. We can't continue to allow fear, to allow fear and anxiety around what might happen if we stand up and speak out, to chill the kind of activism that should be coming from us now. And so, if we do what we're supposed to do, I believe that positive change can come,” he said.
Government officials, particularly conservatives in Congress appear to want to scapegoat Muslims, rather than repair internal problems in the military, and deal with the issues caused by this country fighting two wars against Muslim countries, where torture and humiliation are routinely reported against Iraqis and Afghanis by U.S. forces, and where the skyrocketing number of civilian casualties are dismissed as acceptable levels of “collateral damage.”
“I'm frustrated with the media who only want to talk about soldiers that were treated by Major Nidal Hasan,” Chuck Luther head of Disposable Warriors told The Final Call's Nisa Muhammad.
“I have two soldiers that are really bad and if nothing's done to help them it will happen again. The mental health system is broken. General Casey is the biggest failure. He doesn't care. There have been 136 suicides through October.
“It's just a matter of time before someone else explodes. They will tell you it's our Army and we can do what we want.
“It can happen again. Someone else is going to crack. A soldier just told me today, ‘Why are they doing this to me? If I don't get some help I'm going to snap and kill somebody,' ” Mr. Luther continued.
“I was kicked out of the Army because of PTSD. The reason I was beating my wife and using drugs was to get away from the sounds of children crying and having my buddies blown up and seeing them put in body bags,” Mr. Luther said.
Meanwhile, the number of suicides in one military branch—the U.S. Marine Corps—continues to rise despite what authorities maintain is a widespread effort to reach out to those in psychological distress. Forty-two confirmed or suspected suicides among the Marine Corps' 208,000 troops were recorded through Oct. 31 of this year, according to the service's Personnel and Readiness Division.
The 42 deaths equal the number of suicides recorded for all of 2008. In addition, nearly 150 suicide attempts were made in 2008; no figure is available yet for 2009. Thirty-three Marines killed themselves in 2007, compared with 25 in 2006.
Details have emerged suggesting that Maj. Hasan fits the profile of many other mass shooters in U.S. history, not that of an Islamic extremist. He has been described by some as a quiet, loner, who exhibited symptoms of emotional and psychological problems and was frustrated with a perceived set of grievances against him, and he reportedly felt isolated and under attack as a Muslim within the army.