Nidal Malik Hasan: Islamist?
The above image is slide number 49 of 50 in toto from a PowerPoint presentation given by Nidal Malik Hasan in June 2007 at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center during the senior year of his residency there. The entire series can be seen at the Washington Post's site "Hasan on Islam," but is also available for faster reading at Robert Spencer's Jihad Watch site on pdf.
Without knowing what Hasan actually stated in his presentation, I cannot conclusively affirm that he was stating his own opinions about what Islam truly teaches or simply reporting the opinions of others. But whatever he intended at the time of his presentation, by November 5, 2007, his actions clearly demonstrate that he had come to adopt an interpretation of Islam that he must have thought justified him in killing 13 people and wounding 30 others.
The question that many people are asking about Hasan at the time of his shooting rampage is this: Was Hasan a disturbed individual, or was he an Islamist?
I think that he was both, but not so profoundly disturbed as to render him less than responsible for his actions. David Brooks, writing "The Rush to Therapy" (November 9, 2009) for the New York Times, has some interesting thoughts on the tendency of too many pundits and other public figures to absolve Hasan, and his article should definitely be read in its entirety. In the course of his analysis, however, Brooks makes a remark that is certain to generate some controversy:
The conversation in the first few days after the massacre was well intentioned, but it suggested a willful flight from reality. It ignored the fact that the war narrative of the struggle against Islam is the central feature of American foreign policy. It ignored the fact that this narrative can be embraced by a self-radicalizing individual in the U.S. as much as by groups in Tehran, Gaza or Kandahar.Did Brooks really mean to say that "the war narrative of the struggle against Islam is the central feature of American foreign policy"? That isn't the war narrative at all, and the statement doesn't sound quite like the Brooks that I know. Did he mean to write "Islamists"? Or "Islamism"? Or "radical Islam"?
The line drawn between Islam and Islamism is a fine one, to be sure, but it's a pragmatically useful one to draw even as we debate precisely where to draw it, for Muslims need to see that we non-Muslims recognize a difference, and that we therefore perceive a choice between a moderate version of their Muslim religion and a radicalized one.
There are, manifestly, moderate Muslims, they are the only hope for the peaceful integration of Islam in our contemporary world, and their existence reminds us of why we need to draw the fateful line with prudence.