Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Nidal Hasan: An American or a Muslim? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

How can one strike a balance between individual freedom and cultural and ethnic diversity? It is a dilemma that becomes doubly urgent when certain acts are committed like the one by Nidal Hasan, the US officer of Palestinian descent, who opened fire and killed a number of his military comrades in a US base in Texas last week. Several dimensions governed the dissemination of the news on the Fort Hood incident. The news drew intense media coverage and analysis on American and Arab electronic sites and other outlets. Hasan was linked to the Al-Qaeda organization and it was reported that he converted to Islam. It was also reported that he is a member of a terrorist sleeper cell.

All of the above was incorrect. The division in opinions, analyses, and straight coverage was outweighed by the attack on Islam and Muslims, which is normally ascribed to the hysteric patriotism that dominated the US society and the West in general after the 11 September attacks that generally gave precedence to security over diversity. As for the leftists and those close to them, they criticized media establishments, newspapers, and commentaries for raising the issue of Nidal Hasan’s ethnic and religious background in their reviews and analyses of the incident. Is Nidal Hasan’s cultural and ethnic background related to what he did? The answer may not be a decisive one because decisiveness on this issue needs more evidence rather than analyses and theories that continue to dominate the coverage of this incident. What Hasan did also falls within the context of American violence that is represented in the acts of random shootings and mass murders that recur on many occasions in the United States. Two years ago, when Seung-Hui Cho, the American student of Korean descent at Virginia University, killed 32 of his colleagues in a random shooting, the factor of his Asian roots was also raised by the media. However, the truth is that Nidal Hasan, Seung-Hui Cho, and Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the Oklahoma bombings, have something in common: They are all Americans and their American character is not less effective than Cho’s Asian character or Nidal Hasan’s Islamic character.

The first thing that drew the attention of the media in regards to the incident is that Hasan is of Arab and Muslim descent. However, no one paid attention to the significance of the fact that Hasan was born in the United States and lives in the United States. There is a basic difference between an American Muslim and a non-American Muslim. In one aspect, Hasan’s deed points to a kind of American violence, but on the other hand, it is easy to include it in the context of violence committed by Muslims in several parts of the world. Two identity components stand behind Hasan’s deed. Those that ascribe his deed only to the American culture should keep in mind many other pieces of evidence that surfaced and that are related to his first identity. But what is certain and absolute is that he is as American as Timothy McVeigh was American.