Is Nadal Malik Hasan’s Religion Relevant?

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Despite the fact that solid information about yesterday’s mass shooting at Fort Hood are just starting to trickle in–heck, it was only 12 hours or so ago that we learned that the shooter wasn’t actually dead–speculation has swirled today about whether Nadal Malik Hasan’s brutal act was linked to his Muslim faith.

In general, conservatives have held up the shooting as a “we told you so” moment and lectured liberals about the dangers of trusting Muslims, especially in the armed forces. For their part, liberals have insisted Hasan was simply a lunatic whose rampage was unrelated to his religious affiliation and decry attempts to draw a connection as “double standards.”

I think we can all agree that there’s something wrong with a person who fires into a crowd and continues firing until brought down. It doesn’t matter whether the person thinks he is killing for a cause or is simply responding to the voices in his head–that kind of homicidal act is madness. If the details that are beginning to emerge are correct, though–if those are Hasan’s internet postings, if he did yell “Allahu Akbar” as he began his killing spree–it would be folly to assume Hasan has nothing in common with the small but determined group of radical Muslims who seek to destroy the West.

However–and this is a strong however–just because the immediate assumption on the morning of 9/11 that the terrorists were Muslim turned out to be correct and just because this may be a case of a shooter motivated by a warped interpretation of his Muslim faith does not mean that it’s okay to cry “Muslim” every time an act of terror takes place. In the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, you’ll remember, we heard the same insistence that it must be the work of Muslim terrorists. The position of some conservatives seems to be that it’s acceptable to assume that the perpetrators of evil acts are Muslim. If that assumption ends up being proven false, then oh well. If it’s dangerous to dismiss the threat posed by radical Muslims, it’s no less dangerous to force an entire religious population to live under a cloud of suspicion until proven otherwise.