by Mark Durie
When Major Nidal Malik Hasan went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood on November 5, killing 13 and wounding 30, the question on everyone’s lips was ‘Why?’ Many speculated about his mental state, but a Pentagon report has asked why his supervising officers did not pay closer attention to his religious views.
The comprehension deficit is not just in the military. This shocking event also raised questions about the nation’s broader capacity to engage with Major Hasan’s World View. In the days following the shooting, there was still the greatest reluctance to allow any faith-based motives to be attributed to his actions. A spate of stories appeared on the post-traumatic stress in the military. President Obama pleaded with Americans not to “jump to conclusions” and said, “we cannot fully know what leads a man to do such a thing.” Army Chief of Staff General George Casey seemed to apply that attributing faith motivations to Major Hasan could be a greater tragedy than the killings: “what happened at Fort Hood was a tragedy, but I believe it would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty here.” Newsweek’s Evan Thomas opined “he’s probably just a nut case.”
Yet it was soon revealed that a year and a half previously Major Hasan had presented a seminar ‘The Koranic World View as It Relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military’ in which he explained, citing chapter and verse, why Muslim service personnel could initiate “adverse events”, up to and including deadly attacks on fellow US soldiers. His presentation of his religious World View was clear, logical and copiously referenced from the Koran. Tragically, however, his discussion of the implications of some Muslims’ divided loyalties was not understood.
Although the New York Times described Major Hasan as a ‘lone gunman’, the challenging reality is that the ‘Koranic World View’ outlined by Major Hasan is neither eccentric nor unsupported within the wider world of Islamic opinion. (This is not to say that all Muslims would agree with Major Hasan’s use of the Koran!)
To set Major Hasan’s World View seminar in the context of broader Muslim opinion, one does not have to turn to the American-born Yemeni Anwar al-Awlaki, Major Hasan’s spiritual mentor. One can instead look to the Islamic Fiqh Academy, a body set up by the Organization for the Islamic Conference, a veritable ‘United Nations of Islam’. The Academy’s stated purpose is to “achieve the theoretical and practical unity” of the worldwide Islamic community by providing authoritative interpretations of the teachings of Islam. In other words it seeks to guide the whole Muslim world on the right religious path.
The Fiqh Academy has solicited rulings from the world’s most respected Islamic jurists on certain questions of interest. One of these questions relates directly to the Major Hasan’s issue of divided loyalties: it was asked whether it is lawful, according to Islam, for a Muslim to become a naturalized citizen of a non-Muslim nation such as America.
The Fiqh Academy’s findings, reported on its website in Arabic, are salutary. The Muslim authorities were concerned about the issue of divided loyalties. Their rulings presuppose that naturalization in a non-Muslim nation, without proper justification, is unacceptable. Most considered that it could be allowed, but only under specific conditions of dire necessity, for example if Muslims have been persecuted in their own country, and they could find no Muslim society to escape to.
Another condition was that the naturalized Muslim should not seek to advance the cause of their adopted nation above that of Islam. Former Supreme Court Judge of Pakistan, and vice president of the Fiqh Academy, Justice Muhammad Taqi Usmani stated that “if naturalization in a foreign nationality is for the purpose of rendering it mighty and to be proud of it, or to prefer it to the Muslim nationality, or to resemble its people in practical life, this is absolutely forbidden.”
Another distinguished member of the Fiqh Academy, Sheikh Muhammad Mukhtar al-Salami, the former Grand Mufti of Tunisia, was concerned that if a Muslim adopts a new flag, an adverse consequence could be having to serve in the military against fellow Muslims: “he is one of the members of the state which he has associated with, and should a war occur between this state and an Islamic state, his duty demands him to fight Muslims and to pour bombs over their heads.” Sheikh al-Salami concluded that under such circumstances, to become an American citizen would be “an absolute rejection of the rules of Islam.”
There have been multiple incidents over the past decade where Muslim American service personnel have attacked and killed fellow US soldiers, for self-confessed religious reasons. These events have invariably been dismissed as the acts of isolated extremist individuals. However in the light of clear rulings, reported by the International Fiqh Academy, that Muslims are forbidden to aid the cause of a non-Muslim nation, or to aid in its wars against Muslims, a public debate needs to take place, about whether, to what extent, and in what circumstances, an Islamic World View can be in conflict with loyalty to the nation. To stifle this debate dishonors the innocent victims of these attacks, and invites continued ‘adverse events’.
This debate needs to be pursued without being censored by political correctness. It would, for example, be ridiculous to stigmatize the rulings of respected Muslim legal authorities as Islamophobic.
Religion is something which many in the West would prefer remained as a private category. However an adequate response to the tragic case of Major Hasan demands that his Koranic World View not be dismissed as something belonging to the private world of personal preferences. Major Hasan’s commanding officers should have paid closer attention when he was explaining his beliefs about the Koran, jihad and loyalty. If they had dedicated themselves to comprehending his World View, and acknowledged the implications of its crystal-clear logic, his thirteen victims would still be alive today.
Mark Durie is an Australian human rights activist, and author of The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom.