This Remains A Religious War


My friend Bruce Bawer has a powerful piece up on Fort Hood. Money quote:

CNN (ditto the New York Times website) was considerably less useful than the tidbits I picked up online by following links on various blogs and in Facebook postings. They led me to (among other things) an AP story, a Daily Mail article, and a Fox News interview that provided telling details: Hasan had apparently been a devout Muslim; Arabic words, reportedly a Muslim prayer, had been posted on his apartment door in Maryland; in conversations with colleagues he had repeatedly expressed sympathy for suicide bombers; on Thursday morning, hours before the massacre, he had supposedly handed out copies of the Koran to neighbors. A couple of these facts eventually surfaced on CNN, but only briefly; they were rushed past, left untouched, unexamined; the network seemed to be making a masterly effort to avoid giving this data a cold, hard look. Meanwhile it spent time doing heavy-handed spin devoting several minutes, for example, to an inane interview with a forensic psychiatrist who talked about the stress of treating soldiers bearing the emotional scars of war. The obvious purpose was to turn our eyes away from Islamism and toward psychiatric instability as a motive.

I have no doubt that avoiding this ugly possibility did guide CNN. But equally, it should be said, many of these reports were hard to confirm yesterday, their implications explosive and there was a legitimate need to keep an open mind on a news day when the most basic facts - such as whether the killer was dead or alive - were wrong. AC360 ran the video below, for example, of Hasan in Muslim attire. That doesn't seem so p.c. to me.

But what does Bruce want the US to do in response to an incident like this?

Screen all potential Muslim soldiers in future? Have special surveillance of such soldiers? It's easy to see how this might make matters worse just as it might make them better. Michelle Malkin, remember, favored interning Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. Is that what the anti-Jihadists now want for American Muslims? Or what, exactly?

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Denial of these Islamist currents, even within the military, is dangerous and foolish. But equally, over-reacting to them is dangerous and foolish. The cycle of sectarian distrust and division can happen here as well as over there. Reducing all of us to these atavistic identities only exacerbates the problem and drags us further into the cycle of medieval religious conflict. And the task of threading our way through this political minefield is immense.

If I thought we couldn't do it, I'd despair. But I believe we can, and have since this war broke out on September 11. We need to remember that we are not fighting for Christianity over Islam or even the West over Islam. We are fighting to retain an open democracy, where all religions can coexist, where religion is separate from politics, where toleration is a civic virtue. This requires attention to the real and dangerous Islamist threat - and in that respect Bruce's and Michelle's warnings against p.c. denial are perfectly valid and important. But it also requires insisting that our membership in society is based on a citizenship devoted to core ideas, not a citizenship based on raw religious or ethnic identity.

I fear in an economic depression, as unemployment rises over 10 percent, we live in a tinder-box in which such passions can be ignited to divide and destroy us. The key is the self-restraint to live without denial of the threat within but without the easy recourse to baser identities that will finally devour us all.

(Photo: Monica Cain, wife of soldier Darren Cain, waits outside Fort Hood on November 5, 2009 in Killeen, Texas. At least one gunman killed 12 people and injured 31 in a shooting on a military base at Fort Hood this afternoon. One shooter was killed by military police and at least two other soldiers are in custody. By Ben Sklar/Getty Images.)