News accounts are spotty; emotions run high; reliable information is rare; rumor abounds. Nevertheless, what are we to make of Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan’s horrific rampage at Ft. Hood, Texas, where in cold-blooded fashion he murdered 12, and wounded at least 31?
I think on the one hand we will see the familiar therapeutic exegesis, in which we hear of traumatic stress syndrome, justified and principled opposition to the Iraq and Afghan wars, generic mental illness, anger at being deployed overseas, or maltreatment from fellow soldiers due to his Muslim faith and various other efforts to “contextualize” the violence. (I am watching Major Hasan’s cousin on the news right now [I think], on spec, explain that the otherwise normal killer was a victim of bias and was ill at ease with firearms (after shooting over 40 victims and surviving the carnage). I cannot imagine the trauma of family members of the dead hearing such sentiments aired, or knowing that the killer apparently had voiced prior extremist sympathies.
On the other hand, one could instead see Hasan in a long line of killers and would-be murderers of the last decade that in some loose way express an Islamic anger at either American culture or the United States government or both, as a way of elevating their own sense of failure into some sort of legitimate cosmic jihad.
Prior to 2009, there have been at least 20 terrorist plots broken up after September 11, 2001—aimed at subways, malls, military bases, airports, bridges, and synagogues. Those foiled cabals are in addition to more common scattered murdering by freelancing angry killers, who in some very general way either evoked radical Islam, their own faith, the Palestinian cause, al-Qaedistic Islamism, or solidarity with worldwide Islam (from the Beltway sniper to the UNC and the San Francisco car murderers), and a number of lethal attacks on Jewish centers and temples resulting in numerous deaths (from the LAX attacks to the San Francisco and Seattle shootings).
In 2002, long ago, I wrote an article in which I called this al Qaedism and updated it with more recent examples in 2007.
In this year alone, aside from the recent mass murdering at Ft. Hood, there have been four more terrorist plots uncovered. Colorado resident Najibullah Zazi was recently indicted for conspiring to use explosives in the U.S., apparently as part of a plot to let off a bomb in New York on the anniversary of 9/11. In addition, North Carolina residents Daniel Patrick Boyd and Hysen Sherifi were arrested and charged with conspiring to murder U.S. military personnel at Quantico, Virginia. In Texas, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi—a 19-year-old Jordanian citizen who was in the U.S. illegally—was arrested and charged after he placed a would-be bomb near Fountain Place, a 60-story office tower in downtown Dallas.
Most recently in Boston, a Massachusetts man was arrested in connection with terrorist plots that included attacks on U.S. shopping malls and on two White House officials. Tarek Mehanna, 27, of Sudbury, Mass, was charged with plotting with other terrorists from 2001 to May 2008 to carry out overseas and domestic terrorist attacks— including killing shoppers and first responders at malls.
While there is sometimes talk of backlash and anti-Muslim hysteria since 9/11, I don’t think the number of Muslims attacked or killed is comparable to the number of non-Muslims killed by Muslims who evoked Islam in some way as a catalyst for their angers. Nor do we see comparable serial Christian, Hindu, or Jewish-inspired attacks either against mosques and Muslims or the policies of the United States government, either by single actors or more active and organized plotters. I do not quite then understand our official government statements that “the attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has (sic) led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust.” In theory this sounds magnanimous and serious. In fact, I would like to see examples of “some” and serial incidents where very many Americans out of unwarranted furor have helped breed “fear and mistrust”.