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Secularist Center for Inquiry Releases Statement in Response to Fort Hood Tragedy

November 11, 2009

(Amherst, NY) —  In response to the recent tragic events at Fort Hood, Texas, the Center for Inquiry, a secularist think tank, has released a statement/editorial from Ibn Warraq, Islamic scholar and leading figure in Quranic criticism. Warraq is a senior research fellow at the Center for Inquiry and author of five books, including Why I Am Not a Muslim and Defending the West (both published by Prometheus Books). The statement follows below.

Denying Reality, or the Heavy Cost of Political Correctness

By Ibn Warraq 

In the wake of the murder of 13 and the wounding of 38 soldiers at Fort Hood on November 5, media analysts, politicians, and other sundry experts scrambled to present the accused perpetrator of the acts, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, 39, as a victim. In so doing they served, knowingly or otherwise, as apologists for radical Islam. From CNN to the New York Times, NPR to the Washington Post, the killings were presented as a result of racism. They were attributed to fear of deployment in Afghanistan and harassment from other soldiers. Cited were Major Hasan’s supposed maladjustment to his life and his sense of not belonging, pre-traumatic stress disorder, and various personal and mental problems. All these explanations are variations on what I have called “the Root Cause Fallacy,” which has been committed time and again since the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001. The Root Cause Fallacy was designed to deflect attention away from Islam, in effect to exonerate Islam, which, we are told, is never to blame for acts of violence. On this view we must not hold a great world religion of peace responsible when individuals of that faith resort to force. We must dig deeper: the real cause is poverty, U.S. foreign policy, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Western colonialism and exploitation, marital problems of individuals, and so on. The present “psychological” interpretations in the case of Major Hasan are just the latest example of the Root Cause Fallacy at work.

The Australian tells us that the mindset of Major Hasan remains a “mystery,” yet his Jihadist intentions are there on the surface for everyone not paralyzed by political correctness to see. According to CNN (Nov. 7), on the morning of the shootings Hasan gave copies of the Koran to his neighbors. According to the Associated Press (Nov. 6), soldiers reported that Hasan shouted out “ Allahu Akbar ” [God is Great] – the war cry of all Jihadis – before firing off over a hundred rounds with two pistols in a center where some 300 unarmed soldiers had lined up for vaccines and eye tests. NPR informs us that Hasan was put on probation early in his postgraduate work at the Uniformed Service University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., for proselytizing about his Muslim faith with patients and colleagues. The Associated Press (Nov. 11) adds that classmates who studied with Hasan from in that postgraduate program reported Hasan making a presentation during their studies "that justified suicide bombing" and spewed "anti-American propaganda," denouncing the war on terror as "a war against Islam." Classmate Val Finnell and another student complained about Hasan, shocked that someone with "this type of vile ideology" would be allowed to wear an officer’s uniform. But, importantly, no one filed a formal complaint about Hasan’s views and comments for fear of appearing discriminatory -- in other words, out of political correctness. According to The Telegraph (Nov. 6), Army colleagues reported that Major Hasan had condemned U.S. foreign policy, that he clearly declared that Muslims had the right to rise up and attack Americans, that he expressed happiness when a U.S. soldier was killed in an attack on a military recruitment center in Arkansas in June, and that he said people should strap bombs on themselves and go to Times Square. It has been widely reported that Major Hasan attended the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Virginia Falls during the time that Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemen-based al-Qaeda preacher with extensive terrorist connections, was its main preacher. Awlaki even praised Major Hasan as a hero on November 9, four days after the Fort Hood attacks. The Times of London revealed (Nov. 10) that Major Hasan had been in direct correspondence with Awlaki, in connection with which Hasan had already been under investigation by the F.B.I. Almost every news source has reported that Major Hasan was also under investigation by federal law enforcement officials for his postings to an internet site speaking favorably of suicide bombing.

Fortunately, not all in the media were hamstrung by political correctness. Here is Ralph Peters in the New York Post (Nov. 6): “On Thursday afternoon, a radicalized Muslim U.S. Army officer shouting ‘Allahu Akbar!’ committed the worst act of terror on American soil since 9/11. And no one wants to call it an act of terror or associate it with Islam. What cowards we are. Political correctness killed those patriotic Americans at Ft. Hood as surely as the Islamist gunman did. And the media treat it like a case of non-denominational shoplifting. This was a terrorist act . When an extremist plans and executes a murderous plot against our unarmed soldiers to protest our efforts to counter Islamist fanatics, it’s an act of terror. Period.”

There was a laudable concern among Americans about a possible “backlash” against all American Muslims. What backlash? Even following the September 11 attacks with their 2,976 victims, Americans behaved with exemplary restraint. They behaved in a civilized manner in the face of barbarism.

It is time to abandon apologetics, and political correctness. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Muslims are implicated in the horrendous events of September 11, 2001 -- or of November 5, 2009. However, to pretend that Islam has nothing to do with 9/11 or the Fort Hood massacre is willfully to ignore the obvious. To leave Islam out of the equation means to forever misinterpret events. Without Islam, the long-term strategy and individual acts of violence by Osama bin Laden and his followers make little sense. Without Islam, the West will go on being incapable of understanding our terrorist enemies, and hence will be incapable to deal with them. Without Islam, neither is it possible to comprehend the barbarism of the Taliban, the position of women and non-Muslims in Islamic countries, or -- now-- the murders attributed to Major Hasan.

We are confronted, after all, with Islamic terrorists; and we must take the Islamic component seriously. Westerners in general and Americans in particular no longer seem able to grasp the passionate religious convictions of Islamic terrorists. It is this passionate conviction, directed against the West and against non-Muslims in general, that drives them. They are truly, and literally, God-intoxicated fanatics. If we refuse to understand that, we cannot understand them.

Jihad is “a religious war with those who are unbelievers in the mission of Muhammad. It is an incumbent religious duty, established in the Koran and in the Traditions as a divine institution, and enjoined specially for the purpose of advancing Islam and repelling evil from Muslims.” That is how it is described in no lesser source than the Dictionary of Islam , so we should not pretend surprise if Islamic terrorists see their mission in such terms.

In the wake of the Fort Hood Massacre, America’s armed forces, the F.B.I., C.I.A., Department of Homeland Security and other counter-terrorist bodies face some difficult decisions about Muslims employed in their services. After all, the view Major Hasan expressed – that Muslims in the U.S. Armed Forces should not serve in Iraq or Afghanistan, or anyplace where they might have to kill fellow Muslims – is precisely in keeping with fatwas issued by such Muslim leaders as Ali Gum’a, the mufti of Egypt, which forbade Muslim soldiers to take part in the so-called War on Terror.

When Muslim soldiers or agents or operatives feel that their primary allegiance is to Islam and not the United States, can we safely allow their service to continue? It is an agonizing question, but one we must confront; however, we cannot properly confront this question while we struggle to pretend that Islam itself is not part of the dispute.

Ibn Warraq is a senior research fellow at the Center for Inquiry and author of five books, including Why I Am Not a Muslim and Defending the West (both published by Prometheus Books).