Friday, November 6, 2009

A tough day to be a Muslim

Word has just come out that the army psychiatrist believed to be responsible for the twelve shooting deaths in Fort Hood, Texas, did not himself die in the incident.

Major Nidal Malik Hasan has now probably brought on millions of Muslim Americans the kind of attention they'd rather not have: a heightened scrutiny stemming from a distrust that they — by virtue of being Muslims — are suspect at best and potential terrorists at worst.

Major Hasan was born in Virginia to Jordanian immigrants and is being described as "a devout Muslim." If he survives his hospitalization and is brought to trial, we might hear if that had any role whatsoever in this incident, but there will no doubt be many in the blogosphere and on the airwaves chomping at the bit about the connection.

Are Muslim Americans a special threat? I think one could argue that people raised in Catholic, Protestant, or atheist homes are — in toto and per capita — a greater danger to public order in America.

UPDATE (November 7, 2009, HST):
I think I need to amend some of this because I may have given the wrong impression that my concern lies only with those who may be wrongly associated with the killer, his ethnicity, or his religion. It does not. I may have given the wrong impression that I have no sympathy for the victims of this act — which itself may be a hate crime — when in fact I do, very much.

Truly, my heart aches for each each of the twelve victims and their families, as well as the Fort Hood community at large and our entire country, where such random violence has become far too commonplace (just yesterday six people were shot in their workplace, with one dying, in Orlando, Florida), regardless of the motive or the background of the culprit.

I am deeply saddened at the loss of people like Francheska Velez, a photograph of whom is being held at left by her grandfather, Jose Rodriguez. Velez, who was three months pregnant when she was gunned down and killed, had just returned from an overseas posting that included Korea and Iraq.


  1. I'm not an American, but as a Muslim, I can say that we've been trying to take over America for a while now. It started with driving taxis and owning convenience stores, meaning you couldn't eat or get anywhere late at night if we didn't want you to. Then we got one of us elected president and the pendulum has really shifted in our favour.

    It's not a serious response to a serious issue, sorry.

  2. Adeel, I'd say your response was a darned appropriate one nonetheless.

    The fear-mongering with Muslims and Arabs in America is annoying. After the Oklahoma City bombing in the mid-1990s, authorities tracked down a man flying at that time from Oklahoma City to Jordan, and in the process never entertained that it could be a home-grown WASPy group that was behind it. That they caught Timothy McVeigh was almost a complete accident.

    But Muslims are feared and misunderstood in America, and that will last a long time. Much like Asian Americans who still are considered suspect and disloyal when push comes to shove.

    It's particularly ridiculous with Arab Americans, who are, by majority, non-Muslim (in America, most Muslims are not Arabs and most Arabs are not Muslim), a point that was addressed in the movie Towelhead.

  3. It seems to me that given what happened, it was a tough day to be a NON-Muslim.

  4. Point well taken, Robert. This is indeed a tragedy for a lot of people, and my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.

    I didn't mean to distract from that, the obvious tragedy. But I get this sinking feeling whenever something like this happens, that there will be more than a few more innocent victims, like a Sikh in a gas station who has nothing to do with any of this, for example.

  5. So, you're expecting a similar backlash to the one Korean-Americans experienced after the Virginia Tech Massacre? Oh wait. That never happened.

  6. Matt wrote:
    So, you're expecting a similar backlash to the one Korean-Americans experienced after the Virginia Tech Massacre? Oh wait. That never happened.

    I had double-check my post here, because I don't think I ever wrote anything about KAs and backlash (the part about AAs and disloyalty is more like job-related stuff). I was thinking about Muslims in America, Arabs in America, and people who might be mistaken for them. The physical vulnerability of those groups is quite high, and I believe this is fairly well documented, because of visibility and a particularly strong perception that they don't really belong.

    As for things in the post-Cho massacre era, I have never said KAs did experience a backlash, though I believed KAs (and other AAs) might experience a backlash. And that fear was borne from an actual backlash that occurred in 1992.

    This is what I said in April about the Cho case:

    Given how badly the Los Angeles area Korean-American community was blindsided [in 1992], I'd say it was prudent for kyopo across America (and other Asians, as the JACL said) to be at least a little concerned about a backlash against Koreans following the Seung-hui Cho massacre, though that sentiment was roundly mocked in the K-blogs two years ago.

    Matt (and I say this respectfully), if you want to address my views on Cho or backlash or whatever, please first read through that post I just linked. I don't mind defending, amending, or retracting views or opinions or statements that I've actually made, but I don't like being forced to defend or repudiate views ascribed to me that I don't actually hold (and this sentence is really a general gripe, not a gripe about you).

  7. I don't really think there was a backlash against Muslims after 9/11, at least not in a short-term sense. The backlash in the form of the state security apparatus has been ridiculous for anyone of a Muslim background. If my passport said "Alexander" instead of "Adeel" and born in "Peru" instead of "Pakistan", my life would be a lot simpler. There's also the fear-mongering that occurs by dropping the M-bomb. And that's not, of course, counting all the people who ended up being thrown in jail or worse.

    Still, it's not like Muslims should be afraid to walk the street or go to a mosque. And there certainly are far, far too many Muslim wingnuts out there whose first reaction to hearing about Fort Hood would be that it's the government trying to frame Muslims, which sadly is one of their milder political beliefs.

  8. After 9/11, columnist John Leo spoofing wrote that CAIR claimed there had been 100,000 hate crimes against Muslims in America. One shooting, two bricks thrown through windows, and 99,997 limp handshakes and insincere hellos.

    At least by now the Muslim front groups have learned to preface their self-exculpations with expressions of concern for the real victims.

  9. Sanity Inspector, do you have a link to that article? Specifically, does the one shooting it mentions involve, Balbir Sodhi, a Sikh in Mesa, Arizona, who was gunned down by a man who proclaimed "I am a patriot" when he was arrested for it?

    Sikhs are neither Muslim nor Arab, so they have no reason to trump up accusations of hate crimes against Muslims, yet they say they have felt a backlash since 9/11, especially right afterward.

  10. I wonder what everyone means by "backlash"--obviously violence is one type of backlash, but what may be even more invidious and longer lasting is the shift in cultural climate that says it's OK to stereotype and hold negative opinions of a certain group of people. I tell my class that people don't wake up one day and decide that they want to put Jewish people in concentration camps (the Holocaust) or randomly beat Mexican Americans wearing zoot suits (the Zoot Suit riots) or target anyone who "looks" Muslim/Arab American in airports, in the mall, where they work, where they live. It begins slowly, with a belief that these particular people are "less than" others--usually the dominant group who holds power. And then something helps to spark/trigger all that negativity.

    A rather simplistic explanation for all of this, but my point is that joking that a limp handshake is a hate crime is to underestimate the cumulative effect of holding negative views of people from a certain group. Asian American students post-Virginia Tech have had dealt with some stereotypes thrown at them. Not hate crimes but a low level of hostility tapping into previous fears of "yellow peril" rhetoric from the turn-of-the-20th Century and the perennial idea that to have an Asian face in the U.S. is to be a foreigner and not belong.

    Similarly anyone who "looks" Arab/Muslim in America has undergone a stereotyping that in some cases has resulted in violence (anywhere from a bullet in the head to rocks/baseball bat beatings, things thrown through the window of a home) to the things that will break your heart--a little girl being told she is a terorist and no one will sit next to her in her classroom (this was documented through This American Life).

    So maybe a little girl facing hostility and intimidation every school day isn't exactly a "hate crime" per se, but it's an act of hostility and intimidation, esp. when school authorities allow it to happen and tacitly send a message that it's OK to treat someone who looks different in such a negative way. And these are just kids in elementary school. Wait to see what will happen when they grow up. Or just look at history to see what the backlash has been.


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