FORT HOOD: A DEFINING MOMENT FOR MUSLIM AMERICANS
by Salam al Marayati
To my fellow Muslim Americans,
A moment of truth has arrived for us. We now must demonstrate, beyond the condemnations and condolences, that we are working for America, not merely taking seats on the margins of our society. Are we an integral part of the American fabric or are we simply visitors to America? Whether we were born in the United States or immigrated here, whether we are of Arab, Indo-Pakistani, Anglo, African or any other background, it is time to amplify our Muslim American identity.
For those who immigrated here, home is not where our grandparents are buried; it is where our grandchildren will be raised. For those who were born here, the psychological self-alienation of our identity and schizophrenia of living in two worlds must come to an end.
America is our home, and it is our country to defend. It is in our hands to define who we are. No one else has that right, nor do they have the right to question our patriotism.
Unless we clearly define who we are to the rest of America, the pre-existing vacuum will be filled with the only image available to the public: a Muslim American member of the U.S. military gunning down other soldiers on American soil. The terrorist attack of 9/11 was about foreign agents infiltrating our open society. Fort Hood was about an American-born Muslim acting out his anger and frustrations on other Americans, leading to a killing spree. The loss was our loss. Those Americans who were killed at Fort Hood dedicated their lives to defend our democracy. They do not decide where they will be deployed. They go where our political leaders decide our military priorities reside.
There is very little confirmed about Maj. Nidal Hasan’s motivation for the shooting spree. It is very likely that he had a complete psychological breakdown and resorted to shooting anyone around him. What triggered the murderous act remains to be determined by investigators. But don’t think that he fell under the military’s radar because the Department of Defense is “politically correct” about scrutinizing troubled soldiers, especially troubled Muslim soldiers. I was part of a Pentagon delegation to Guantanamo Bay two years ago. Sensitivity and political correctness are simply not characterizations we can realistically attribute to the military. Our military is professional, and it concerns itself with the mission at hand and successfully executing the plan delivered to them by their superiors.
Speculative and unconfirmed news reports have left an indelible impression that Maj. Nidal Hasan was influenced by Al-Qaeda via the internet. Regardless of the veracity of these stories, ideologically motivated violence continues to occur at an alarming rate in Muslim countries. That this cancer could have rooted its ugly head in the form of a disgruntled Muslim American and the potential for any more should be a cause of concern for all of us.
It is time to determine what is more relevant to the world at this painful moment—the handful of violent extremists or the overwhelming majority of mainstream, moderate thinking Muslims. Right now, one person who opened fire at Fort Hood is relevant to American society, and his image invokes fear and harm.
We have only one option available to deal with ideologically motivated violence: the Islamic theology of life must overcome the cult of death. No more justification for violence against the innocent or the defilement of jihad in order to lead young men and women to their death, while Muslim leaders sit on their hollow thrones.
We, as Muslim Americans, are the answer to this frightening phenomenon of terrorism and violent extremism. We own our own destiny, and it is fundamentally intertwined with our nation’s destiny. Terrorism will be defeated with our work on the frontlines, not in the battlefields, but in our mosques and community centers and youth associations. By standing up and working for change, we are acting on the best and guiding principles of Islam and of America.
“O you who have attained to faith! Respond to the call of God and the Apostle whenever he calls you unto that which will give you life; and know that God intervenes between man and [the desires of] his heart, and that unto Him you shall be gathered.” Quran 8:24
From the Desk of the Executive Director, MPAC
Created in 1988, the Muslim Public Affairs Council is a public policy institution that focuses on fostering a vibrant Muslim American community that is a vital and contributing element of America’s pluralism. MPAC has built a reputation as a consistent and reliable resource for government and media, and is trusted by Muslim Americans as an authentic, experienced voice. The Mission of MPAC encompasses promoting a Muslim American identity, building constructive relationships between Muslim Americans and their representatives, and training a future generation of men and women to share our vision.