Fort Hood and Intolerance
On Friday, representatives from the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, the Diocese of Providence, and the Jewish Federation of Rhode Island publicly responded to the massacre at Fort Hood. As the Projo‘s Maria Armental reported on Saturday…
The Rev. Donald Anderson, executive minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, said he called the news conference to “tell the Muslim community that they are not standing alone.”The article provided no explanation of why the religious leaders feel that Muslims without a connection to Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan other then their religious faith might feel that they are standing alone, as a result of Hasan’s actions. Asked immediately after the press conference by WPRO (630AM) radio’s Dan Yorke why the Muslim community was the focus of the interfaith coalition’s public announcement, Rev. Anderson cited several examples of religious intolerance that have occurred in Rhode Island — none against Muslims — but some definitely disturbing cases of vandalism involving images of swastikas and upside-down crosses.
“We are together as one,” Anderson said, flanked by religious leaders of the state’s Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities, “and we want to speak together with one voice.”
The religious leaders extended their prayers to the victims and their families.
“We know the actions of one individual did not represent the actions of one faith,” said Marty Cooper, community relations director of the Jewish Federation of Rhode Island.
But if the interfaith coalition’s concern is general religious intolerance and the ugly ways in which it can mix with other human weaknesses and lead to violence against the innocent, what absolutely cannot be overlooked is the evidence coming to light that Hasan himself was associated with people who traffic in an intolerance at least as virulent as any of Rev. Anderson’s examples.
On Sunday, the London Telegraph reported on Hasan’s connections to radical Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki…
Hasan, the sole suspect in the massacre of 13 fellow US soldiers in Texas, attended the controversial Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Great Falls, Virginia, in 2001 at the same time as two of the September 11 terrorists, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt….The preacher at the time was Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Yemeni scholar…Awlaki’s teachings include such beliefs as Christians and Jews living in Muslim majority countries should be banned from holding public office and be required to pay extra taxes, that infiltration is “the way of the Jews and the hypocrites” (I see a bit of a contradiction here, but I digress) and that….
Hasan’s eyes “lit up” when he mentioned his deep respect for al-Awlaki’s teachings, according to a fellow Muslim officer at the Fort Hood base in Texas, the scene of Thursday’s horrific shooting spree….[The officer] had previously argued with Hasan when he said that he felt the “war on terror” was really a war against Islam, expressed anti-Jewish sentiments and defended suicide bombings.
Our position is that we will implement the rule of Allah on earth by the tip of the sword whether the masses like it or not.Even if Hasan was a mentally disturbed individual, there is a strong possibility that his association with a particular brand of Islamist ideology that encourages violence for religious aims helped push him to murder. And according to the Cybercast News Service, Anwar al-Awlaki is continuing to encourage religiously motivated violence in the wake of the Fort Hood; he has said that he would like to see more Nidal Malik Hasans…
In a posting on his Web site Monday, Awlaki praised Hasan, calling him “a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people”…What message does that send to other “disturbed” individuals who might be on the edge of doing something similar?
“Nidal opened fire on soldiers who were on their way to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan,” Awlaki said. “How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done?”
“In fact the only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the U.S. army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal.”
Ultimately, if the members of the interfaith coalition are hypothesizing that the Fort Hood massacre could cause a “backlash” of attitudes of intolerance that might lead to violent acts , and that stopping the spread of misplaced rage and its potential consequences depends upon good people taking a stand in public against such attitudes, then they must also be willing to take as strong a stand against attitudes of intolerance connected to murderous acts that already have happened — especially when the purveyors of intolerance are calling for the violence to be repeated. Different rules for different forms of religious intolerance are not acceptable, and our local clerics need to consider using their public presence to reassure peaceful people of all faiths that they do not stand alone when targeted by other clerics who encourage murder. Stopping with a dismissal of Nidal Malik Hasan’s actions as definitively nothing more than the work of one deranged man, unconnected to anything else going on in the world, does not accomplish this.