• Arts
  • November 15, 2009
  • 9 minutes read

Issues in the hysteria against Arabs and Muslims following Fort Hood massacre

Issues in the hysteria against Arabs and Muslims following Fort Hood massacre

The massacre at Fort Hood of 13 American soldiers and wounding of 30 more raises serious issues regarding violence, terrorism, race in America and the patriotism of Arabs and Muslims.

The massacre is first and foremost a tragedy. Arab and Muslim Americans, like all Americans, grieve for the victims. There was no justification for the violent act at all and it has been condemned across the board by Arab and Muslim American organizations.

Yet, despite that, many Americans, not only those crazed on the extreme far right, but mainstream Americans, are debating the ridiculous overreaction that Arabs and Muslims should be banned from military service because the alleged shooter, Major Malik Nadal Hasan, is an Arab Muslim of Palestinian heritage reportedly from el-Bireh in the occupied West Bank in Palestine.

Arab and Muslims are terms that are often interchanged incorrectly by mainstream Americans and the mainstream news media. They are different. There are, according to the military, about 3,550 Muslims serving in various military units. But that number only reflects those who have identified their religion and broadly goes beyond “Arabs.”

Arabs are both Christian and Muslim and some are even Jews. There are even other religious denominations beyond those three major groups. We don’t know how many “Arabs” there are precisely in the military but the Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in the Military (APAAM.org, the national Arab veteran’s organization to which I belong and helped found) estimates — I repeat estimates that there are about 3,500 Arabs serving in military ranks. That number may well be low and the real number could be as much as 20,000.

I served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. My father and uncle served in the Army and Navy during World War II. My brother was a Marine. My family is much like most Arab American families in this country who have and continue to proudly served in the military and the question of loyalty has never been justified by any facts.

The fact that Major Malik Nadal Hasan is Arab and Muslim is relevant only to his specific circumstances and his criminal conduct. It cannot be extrapolated to apply to Arabs and Muslims who live in this country or who serve in the US Military.

And we do not extend the acts of violence in any other circumstance involving other ethnic groups, so why for Arabs and Muslims? Because it is politically expedient to blame Arabs and Muslims for every problem this country faces, instead of facing the facts and failures of American foreign policy. Hate mongers like U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman wants to exploit the tragedy to make a political point to help promote his anti-Arab and anti-Muslim agenda, and to ingratiate himself with Americans distressed by this tragedy.

That is the shameful conduct.

The day after Major Hasan’s act of violence, an Hispanic man walked into his former employer’s office in an engineering firm and murdered one colleague and wounded four others. he could easly have killed 13 people and wounded 30. The precise numbers are irrelevant. Yet no one suggested that Hispanics should be profiled, arrested and jailed and labeled “terrorists” as Lieberman and other hate mongering irresponsible leaders in this country are doing to Arabs and Muslims.

What’s the difference?

The difference is the racism and hate that is directed by racists and bigots in this country who are eager to exploit every crime of violence involving an Arab or a Muslim to benefit their selfish agendas.

In fact, these hate mongers do not extrapolate racist characteristics when the event is positive. For example, in 2006, Navy Seal Michael Monsoor was with his fellow American soldiers in Ramadi, Iraq when they came under attack. A grenade was thrown at them and it bounced off of Monsoor’s chest. The grenade fell to the ground next to his fellow American soldiers. Instead of running and fleeing, Monsoor fell on the grenade and sacrificed his own life to save the lives of the other American soldiers. He was recognized with the Medal of Honor last year.

But did Lieberman and other hate mongers point to Monsoor, an Arab, and say that all Arabs and Muslims in the military are suspected of being heroes who would sacrifice themselves for the good of this country and to protect other Americans. No. Monsoor was ignored because it contradicts the goal of hate mongers like Lieberman and others. It undermines their racist views.

What Major Malik Nadal Hasan did was the act of an individual. The investigation isn’t even complete and people are already screaming conclusions. If Major Hasan was involved with others in planning to do this gruesome deed to massacre innocent Americans, then it might rise to the level of “terrorism.”

But the evidence is showing that Major Malik Nadal Hasan was a troubled individual who had a conscientious objection to serving in Iraq. Instead of addressing that conscientious objection (the right of every American in the military) the military ignored him. In fact, his family says the military system persecuted him because of his objections. His colleagues, who clearly hated him, have been quoted as alleging all kinds of ridiculous scenarios including exaggerating his comments about supporting the Palestinian resistance against Israel’s brutal and illegal military occupation of Palestinian lands — the reason for Lieberman’s racist hate mongering, by the way.

Signs that Major Hasan had problems were seen but not acted on for a variety of reasons.  But let the investigation determine that truth. For now, though, Americans should step back and be the Americans this country fights hard to assert, people who do not apply racist stereotypes to events and who see people for who they are and by their conduct, and not judge people based on the race or religion or even their politics.