Islam in America: Muslims at Fort Voice Outrage and Ask Questions
New York Times, November 6, 2009
KILLEEN, Tex. — Leaders of the vibrant Muslim community here expressed outrage on Friday at the shooting rampage being laid to one of their members, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who had become a regular attendee of prayers at the local mosque.
But some of the men who had befriended Major Hasan at the mosque said the military should examine the policies that might have caused him to snap.
“When a white guy shoots up a post office, they call that going postal,” said Victor Benjamin II, 30, a former member of the Army. “But when a Muslim does it, they call it jihad.
“Ultimately it was Brother Nidal’s doing, but the command should be held accountable,” Mr. Benjamin said. “G.I.’s are like any equipment in the Army. When it breaks, those who were in charge of keeping it fit should be held responsible for it.”
The mosque, the Islamic Community of Greater Killeen, sits off Highway 195, near Fort Hood. Major Hasan began attending prayers about two months ago.
The mosque has about 75 families who have lived peacefully with their Christian neighbors.
“After 9/11, nothing happened here,” said Ajsaf Khan, who owns three convenience stores with his brother, Abdul Khan. “We are very cooperative.”
A mosque leader, Dr. Manzoor Farooqi, a pediatrician, when asked if he feared retribution for the shootings, said he hoped good relations would prevail.
Major Hasan was one of about 10 men from Fort Hood who attended prayers in their uniforms, Dr. Farooqi said, and he was shocked to see the major’s face on television identified as that of the gunman. “He is an educated man. A psychiatrist,” he said. “I can’t believe he would do such a stupid thing.”
“I have no words to explain what happened yesterday,” Dr. Farooqi said at Friday afternoon prayers, in which about 40 men were led by the mosque’s imam, Syed Ahmed Ali. “Let’s have a moment of silence to bless those who lost their life.”
“The Islamic community strongly condemns this cowardly attack, which was particularly heinous in that it was directed at the all-volunteer army that protects our nation,” Dr. Farooqi said.
Nihad Awad, the national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said, “We reiterate the American Muslim community’s condemnation of this cowardly attack. Right now, we call on all Americans to assist those who are responding to this atrocity. We must ensure that the wounded are treated and the families of those who were murdered have an opportunity to mourn.”
Among those attending Friday prayers at the Killeen mosque was Sgt. Fahad Kamal, 26, an Army medic who wore his Airborne uniform, and later he said he was angered on several levels. “I want to believe it was the individual, and not the religion, that made him do what he did,” said Sergeant Kamal, who returned to the United States last year after a 15-month tour in Afghanistan. “It’s an awful thing. I feel let down. We’re better than this.”
It was Major Hasan, though, who increasingly felt let down by the military, and deeply conflicted by his religion, said those who knew him through the mosque. Duane Reasoner Jr., an 18-year-old substitute teacher whose parents worked at Fort Hood, said Major Hassan was told he would be sent to Afghanistan on Nov. 28, and he did not like it.
“He said he should quit the Army,” Mr. Reasoner said. “In the Koran, you’re not supposed to have alliances with Jews or Christian or others, and if you are killed in the military fighting against Muslims, you will go to hell.”
Mr. Benjamin, who worked as a private contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan after leaving the Army in 2000, said the military should have let Major Hassan resign. “They should take more consideration of the human beings in the uniform,” he said, “rather than simply say, ‘We invested our money in you and need to get our money’s worth.’ ”
Still, Mr. Benjamin added, Major Hassan had overlooked an important, and peaceable, tenet of Islam. “We do have the right to retaliate,” he said, “but he who does not is twice blessed.”
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