This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
Radical jihadism and moderate Islam are two different things. But if anti-Muslims tend to equate the moderates with the jihadists, the hypersensitive can make precisely the opposite mistake – with fatal consequences.
Maj. Nidal Hasan, who last week shouted “Allahu Akbar!” and began massacring people at Fort Hood, Texas, appears to have become a violently anti-American Islamist in the years before his explosion. And it increasingly appears that Hasan was overlooked in part because his angry, Muslim-flavored politics were confused with ordinary Islam.
This is a man of Palestinian extraction who reportedly would get belligerent about his Muslim beliefs, suggested that suicide bombings were justified and vented about America “killing Muslims” abroad. The “killing Muslims” line comes straight from Middle Eastern tirades against the United States. Not everyone who rants like that is a jihadist, but every jihadist rants like that. Somebody should have picked up on the pattern.
Hasan apparently did show up on the radar screen of both the Pentagon and FBI. His purchase of two powerful handguns – with two, a mass murderer can defend himself while reloading – was reported to the FBI. As with the lead-up to 9/11, no one put the dots together.
The truly shocking mistake was the Defense Department’s failure to see the significance of Hasan’s email correspondence with Anwar al Awlaki, an American-born, Yemen-based imam. Awlaki is an internationally known, fire-breathing jihadist preacher. He is believed to have counseled two of the 9/11 hijackers. Hasan was able to persuade someone that his communication with Awlaki was mere research into post-traumatic stress disorder.
Let’s try a World War II analogy. Few German-Americans were Nazis, but those few needed watching. If a German-American joined the Army, started parroting Nazi propaganda, accused the United States of invading Europe for the sole purpose of killing innocent Germans, then became a pen pal of Joseph Goebbels, somebody would have taken a second look at him.
Investigators on the watch for acts of terror within the United States have to possess sensitivity toward Islam and Arab-Americans. They also have to possess common sense.