When Muslims Commit Violence

I want to broadly second Goldblog on this point:

Elite makers of opinion in this country try very hard to ignore the larger meaning of violent acts when they happen to be perpetrated by Muslims. Here's a simple test: If Nidal Malik Hasan had been a devout Christian with pronounced anti-abortion views, and had he attacked, say, a Planned Parenthood office, would his religion have been considered relevant as we tried to understand the motivation and meaning of the attack?

Of course. Elite opinion makers do not, as a rule, try to protect Christians and Christian belief from investigation and criticism. Quite the opposite. It would be useful to apply the same standards of inquiry and criticism to all religions.

I did not leap to that conclusion in this case as the primary reason for the attack because we didn't fully know the entire picture - and still don't. But as the pieces fall into place, it seems increasingly clear that Nidal Hasan's faith - and the conflicts it presented in the context of the war on Islamist terror - was absolutely relevant in this horrifying massacre of servicemembers. It may well have been combined with individual stress, exposure to others with PTSD, fear of deployment, psychological disturbance, etc. But that it was a critical factor seems to me important to note.

But every case is unique.

If the man is not part of any wider conspiracy or terror group, it is silly to treat him the way we would a Qaeda cell, for example, as Lieberman seems to want to do. And the random murder spree was not designed to wound the US militarily in any strategic way. But religion is poisonous when it fuses with politics and deploys violence to control or punish others - and Hasan's increasingly Wahabbist version of Islam is about as crude a conflation of religion, certainty and violence as one can imagine.

This applies to the extremes of Christianity and Judaism as well, of course. I do not think you can understand the assassination of abortion doctor George Tiller without grasping the religious motivation of his killer, just as I think a brutal gay-bashing by a thug with Leviticus tattooed on his arm gives you a good idea of the religious motivation for the beat-down. Ditto, I might add, when we discover that it was a fanatical Jewish settler - transposed from America - who gunned down people at a gay walk-in center in Jerusalem. Religious fanaticism - in Texas or the West Bank or in Gaza - is a dangerous, dangerous impulse in an increasingly fundamentalist age. We should not balk at saying that as plainly as we can and demanding that religious leaders condemn the violent and extremist members of their respective flocks. And we should try much harder to find such extremists in the military and do a better job at monitoring them or throwing them out.