National Public Radio this morning had a report that included interviews with doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center about Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged shooter in yesterday’s Fort Hood massacre. That report came before employees at WR were put on lock down as far as talking to anyone, including the press, and, according to NPR, the FBI.
I can’t find the report on their Web site, although this story mentions briefly how Hasan was reprimanded for proselytizing about Islam when he was in training at the Uniformed Service University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. Even though I’m lacking evidence that what I heard in the car this morning wasn’t a product of my imagination, I’m sticking my neck out with a big question: Why didn’t the folks at Walter Reed report this guy as crazy if what they recall happening indeed did happen?
I think it is because there is a fine line between racial/ethnic/religious profiling and pointing out the obvious and people are really afraid of crossing over to the wrong side. Since 9/11 people have been afraid of appearing racist where Muslims are concerned. There’s good reason for that, such as the case of the flying imams.
So, instead of appearing intolerant, people stay quiet, even – sometimes especially – other Muslims. They don’t want to be judged by their religion so they are reluctant to judge others by that rubric, even when they know that the person they are dealing with is dangerous.
A few months after 9/11, I was working on an analysis piece for the Texas Catholic, and I interviewed a Dallas imam about this very thing. I asked him why imams would keep quiet if they knew someone nefarious was in their congregations. He said that if a dangerous Muslim was at a mosque, the best thing was to hope that he – in hearing the moderate, educated teaching preached at the majority of American mosques – would either change his stripes or, “in most cases, we just hope he leaves.” The community wants the crazy guy out of their religious space because, the imam said, lunatics are just as likely to kill other Muslims as anyone else.
In other words, moderate Muslims are trying to protect themselves as much as the rest of us, but in so doing – in not directly going after the crazies among them – they are putting others at risk. Ditto for your average citizen, or the doctors who knew Hasan. Who wants to be called intolerant or a racist? According to the NPR story, Hasan was cold, horrible with patients and fanatical about his religion. Doctors would talk about him in the hallway, the report said, asking themselves if he could be a terrorist or if he was just a really bad doctor.
Who knows if that is what drew him to kill people at Fort Hood? We won’t know until the investigation is complete, or until he talks. (And once he gets a lawyer, fat chance of him talking). But what we do know is that he was not a very warm, caring doctor – even by military standards – and people noticed that early on. They noticed that he seemed more concerned with his religion than his schooling and treatment of soldiers. They noticed that he used medical lecture slot to preach the Quran. And yet he continued at the medical school, worked at the hospital, moved on like low-achieving students who are socially promoted because the grade they are leaving just wants them out of their hair.
What happened at Fort Hood shows that common sense really needs a shot in the arm. We don’t necessarily have to go all Hannity on folks, but we need to stop being so afraid of speaking up when craziness is staring us in the face.