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Polarizing around Fort Hood

Can we please avoid a horribly polarizing and ultimately harmful debate over whether Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s interpretation of his Muslim faith played a role in motivating his alleged act of mass murder?

We need to be able to keep two ideas in our heads at the same time.

If there is evidence that Hasan was motivated by radical Islamic ideas and gave signs of this to his fellow soldiers, we need to know why the Army didn’t act earlier to prevent the Fort Hood catastrophe. If these are the facts of the case, we need to know why this happened so that it does not happen again. A commitment to religious liberty does not -- cannot -- require anyone to overlook threats to the country or to the safety of our men and women in uniform.

But we also cannot let this necessary inquiry fly off into sweeping accusations of disloyalty against all Muslim soldiers. This would be deeply unjust to hundreds of thousands of loyal Americans who are Muslim, harmful to the military, and untrue to our own best instincts. As Judge John T. Noonan has argued, the American experience of religious freedom is “the lustre of our country.” We should not only be proud of this tradition, but also do all we can to safeguard it. “The American experience has lighted up the skies,” Noonan wrote of our devotion to the free exercise of religion, and so it has.

A great nation finds the means of simultaneously protecting our security and preserving our freedom. We should bear that in mind even as we stare the facts of this case in the face unflinchingly and deal with them.

By E.J. Dionne  | November 10, 2009; 11:12 AM ET
Categories:  Dionne  | Tags:  E.J. Dionne  
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Only 3,500 avowed Muslims are identified by the D. O. D. as being on active duty.

I fail to see a significant threat to anybodys civil liberties if these people are placed under enhanced scruitiny.

Posted by: donovan29 | November 10, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I'll tell you what needs looking into. How did the US Army, knowing what it knew about this guy, give him the job of counseling other soldiers having mental issues? Because the US Army might spend millions training how to kill but gives mental health scant attention or priority. I can assure you a head case like this Major wouldn't have been put in charge of a batallion or anything else the Army considers important. That's what needs to be investigated.

Posted by: AHappyWarrior | November 10, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Baloney, EJ, the guy could have been witnessed shaving his body and building a bomb and it would have destroyed the career of any soldier who remarked on it
due to "political correctness". Shoot the messenger is given new meaning where islam
is concerned and Obama's soft attitude toward the belief makes it political suicide to even mention him and his behavior.

Posted by: PhillupSpace | November 10, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the thought that his superior officers may have brushed off his statements because they were afraid to ruin their careers if their reports were interpreted by higher ups as "insensitive." Let's face it, once you make a report like that, it takes on a life of its own. Any career officer is going to be extremely reticent to make the call - talk about high risk / no reward.

And for anyone who thinks that the military is not obsessed with political correctness - ask yourself this one question: Do you think the military and Washington is going to investigate this with the same vigor they investigated say, Tailhook?

No way, the military, politicians and the mainstream media get more outraged over girls getting their butts patted than Muslim extremists killing our soldiers.

Posted by: sold2u | November 10, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

"Only 3,500 avowed Muslims are identified by the D. O. D. as being on active duty.

I fail to see a significant threat to anybodys civil liberties if these people are placed under enhanced scruitiny."

How about those 3500 individual Americans?? Since Christians are bombing Abortion centers, why not putting 'avowed' Christians under increased scrutiny? Their radical pastors justify the violence in the name of Christianity?

How about removing the scourge of all religious extremism from Government and remember that, in America, we have freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion.

Posted by: thebobbob | November 10, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

The only polarization is between citizens who can examine the mounting evidence of jihadist motivation and those who cleave to political correctness and diversity worship beyond all reason.

Posted by: screwjob1 | November 10, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

One of the objectives of terrorists is to provoke reprisals that will win more converts to their cause. This person must have become convinced that the wars in Asia are generally unjust and even worse because they are directed against a religion. He must have expected to produce reactions that would prove his point.
We have to remember that the wars were not started with the declared aim of destroying Islam or ending its political effectiveness but of liberating Muslims from oppressors - and that implies that enthusiastic support from most Muslims should have been expected.
If we now say that we cannot trust Muslims to serve in our armed forces we come close to accepting his view, which was emphatically not the official view, that we are fighting a war of religion - proving him right.
That would in fairly short order destroy the pro-Western regimes in Pakistan, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Is that what we want? More seriously, it would create a religious test for full citizenship of the Western countries, ending decades of religious tolerance. Has it come to that?
I could see a situation arising in which this point has been reached. I don't think that it has been reached yet and we shouldn't let one fanatic perpetrating one outrage push us down the road he wants to see us travel.

Posted by: MHughes976 | November 10, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Seemingly a number of comment-posters are not able to keep in their heads at one time the two ideas put forward by the writer of this article. Surely his argument is valid that authorities should not shy away from examining Hasan's religious motivation. The military top brass unfortunately has been pretty up-front in saying that only one narrative is wanted, and that does not include Hasan's religious motivation. How would that enable honest investigation? On the other hand, surely it is just to assert that Muslim soldiers can serve loyally. This should not mean that their backgrounds should not be carefully investigated, including the messages they may have picked up from radical imams.

Posted by: Ted36 | November 10, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

I trust that all of the posters here who are advising us on how harshly the militaty would have dealt with someone reporting this man's increasingly erratic behavior, are experts on military politics and regs. You are a veteran and/or military expert aren't you "Phillupspace" --- or are you just blowing bullit points out of you know where?

Posted by: dirktazer | November 10, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

How about these questions: Are all religions mutually tolerant? Are any inimical to the American way?

We can give every benefit of the doubt to adherents of various faiths, but we can't afford to ignore what those faiths command. Heresy and extremism are the sins of individuals perhaps, but religion and theology should never be above criticism. Many in this country feel comfortable bashing Christianity--why not extend the Equal Opportunity?

Posted by: elgropo1 | November 10, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Dionne,

Why do we keep getting this straw man argument from left-leaning journalists and members of the administration? I have not heard a single pundit or politician "fly off into sweeping allegations of disloyalty against all Muslim soldiers." This is a non-issue. Everyone is arguing the first point you made; namely, we need to know why our government ignored clear signs that this man was a dangerous extremist. Those wandering off into the straw man argument that you make must actually be uncomfortable with getting to the bottom of this, because you keep distracting from it, with this ill-founded paranoia about non-existent "sweeping allegations" against all Muslims.

Posted by: chazmull | November 11, 2009 12:57 AM | Report abuse

Faithful Muslims are taught that God will bless them if they kill infidels. So they are a potential risk if they are in a position to do harm, even though most may be harmless.
It is foolish to allow the ruling elite in Washington and the Pentagon to refuse to consider this because of its "Politically Correct" sentiments.
Remember that in England, after 1688, Roman Catholics were thought to be a source of risk and legally could not hold office or command troops, this was the law until after the Second World War when it was agreed that the Christian religion was not important.
But for Muslims religion is still vitally important and non-Muslim Americans should appreciate the fact.

Posted by: onclejon | November 11, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Can we please avoid a horribly polarizing and ultimately harmful debate over whether EJ Dionne is an idiot or a moron.

He is both.

Posted by: manbearpig4 | November 11, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

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