Fort Hood and the Academic Apologists

In the wake of the horrific attack at the Fort Hood military base in Texas earlier this month, and the mounting evidence that the shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, was motivated by Islamist beliefs, the media has turned to Middle East studies “experts” for enlightenment. Instead, what the media, and, by extension, the American public, has received are the moral relativism and obfuscation that too often meet any effort to address Islamism or jihadism in an intellectually honest manner.

Writing for the Washington Post‘s “On Faith” blog, John Esposito, professor and founding director of the Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, extends his long tradition of issuing apologias for radical Islam by conflating Hasan’s actions with “extremists” of all religions. In the process, he professes ignorance as to why there might be suspicion directed towards Islam in the wake of 9/11, the worst Islamic terrorist attack in U.S. history:

Why this common tendency and double standard towards Islam and Muslims post-9/11? We judge the religion and majority of mainstream Muslims by the acts of an individual or an aberrant minority of extremists. Yet, when Jewish fundamentalists kill a prime minister or innocent Palestinians or Christian extremists blow up abortion clinics or assassinate their physicians, somehow the media is capable of sticking to all the facts and distinguishing between the use and abuse of a religion.

Having written this post while news of Hasan’s fanatical leanings and possible terrorist connections was still developing, Esposito warns against a “rush to judgment” that might, as he puts it, “negatively impact the American public’s perception of Islam.” Heaven forbid Americans start to suspect that Islam itself contains the seeds for Islamism. Contrary to popular belief, this awareness need not implicate all Muslims. Rather, it asks the faithful to address Islamist violence and aggression by implementing theological and cultural reform.

Esposito continues the moral equivalency and non sequiturs in a later “On Faith” post:

No major faith, including the five major world religions I have studied and taught, threatens the safety and security of the U.S. or its citizens. Religious extremists of any faith are a threat but they should be treated as any other extremists, religious or non-religious.

Yes — but the 14, 374 terrorist attacks worldwide over the past eight years weren’t perpetrated at random by members of diverse world religions. They were executed by radical Muslims, every one.

Ingrid Mattson, professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, director of the Macdonald Center for Islamic Studies at Hartford Seminary, and president of the Islamic Society of North America, is well-known for expressing her own Islamist sympathies. This may be why, in a November 8, 2009 New York Times article, Mattson made this clumsy attempt at obfuscation:

I don’t understand why the Muslim-American community has to take responsibility for him. The Army has had at least as much time and opportunity to form and shape this person as the Muslim community.

Arguing that the U.S. military was responsible for cultivating Hasan’s Islamist beliefs is laughable. So is the idea that the Muslim-American community bears no responsibility. After all, the “community” includes radical clerics such as Anwar Al-Awlaki, the former spiritual leader of the Virginia mosque Hasan attended (and who has since praised Hasan for the attack), along with organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), whose sole purpose is to intimidate into silence anyone who connects Islamic terrorism with Islam.

If not for the politically correct environment created by apologists such as CAIR, Mattson, and her academic cohorts, the numerous warnings from Hasan’s colleagues about his predilection for fanatical and threatening commentary might not have gone unheeded or been met with naïveté and incompetence. When people are afraid to speak the truth for fear of being branded racists or “Islamophobes,” it can have dire consequences.

Then there’s UCLA law professor Khaled Abou El Fadl, who has his own problematic history of dismissing concerns about Islamic terrorism, opposing counterterrorism efforts, soft-pedaling jihad, and promoting sharia law. In the same New York Times article, El Fadl, claiming to have “counseled Muslims conflicted about enlisting” in the military, elaborates:

In the Koran it says that war is to end the state of oppression and to uplift the oppressed. Is it an army that defends the oppressed, or have you slipped into becoming the oppressor? People from the military who contact me, that’s what I find they’re torn up about.

It should be self-evident that the U.S. military, which has liberated so many peoples from tyranny, is not an oppressor. El-Fadl here questions the legitimacy of U.S. military involvement in the Middle East and, by extension, the ability of Muslims to serve in the armed forces with a clear conscience. In his view, they are all victims of an internal conflict.

Muqtedar Khan, Director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware, takes the claim of victimization a step further. Khan echoes El Fadl and lends backhanded support for the belief that motivated Hasan and which is a canon of Islamist ideology: that the U.S. is at war with Islam. In a guest article for the Washington Post’s “On Faith,” Khan claims that Hasan:

… was in an army that was at war with his co-religionists and he had difficulty dealing with that. He was frequently taunted and harassed for being a Muslim by his own colleagues. After years in the military and after years of caring for soldiers as a doctor, he did not feel as if he belonged and perhaps that was the key to why he could turn on his own.

In fact, the U.S. military invested significant resources in Hasan’s lengthy career — and trusted him with the mental health of its soldiers — only to be rewarded by treason and mass murder. Furthermore, the claims that Hasan was discriminated against have not been verified and do not stand up to scrutiny. For instance, it’s well-known that enlisted personnel would never taunt or insult an officer.

In the same article, Khan laments the coming mythical wave of “Islamophobia” — a wave that has never manifested despite endless claims by Islamism’s apologists. As he put it:

… this episode will once again provide fodder for talk shows and websites, which exploit such isolated events to ratchet up Islamophobia.

He continues:

Americans must not allow this isolated event to fall back on stereotypes about Islam and resuscitate the prejudices that all of us have worked so hard to curb.

It’s ironic that Khan would decry prejudice when he himself refused to share an academic panel at the University of Delaware with IDF veteran and Campus Watch adjunct scholar Asaf Romirowsky in October, 2007. Khan made various excuses for his bigotry, but none of them held up, and as a result of his actions, Romirowsky was uninvited from the panel. (Khan, in an act beyond parody, was later awarded a sizable State Department grant to “initiate a dialogue on religion and politics.”) Yet Khan would deign to lecture the American public about imaginary “Islamophobia” and counsel Muslims “to share the message of peace, tolerance and pluralism” in the wake of the Fort Hood attack. He might want to take his own advice.

Despite these efforts at dissemblance, the facts in the Hasan case speak clearly to a jihadist agenda. Americans rightly concerned about the culture of political correctness and willful blindness towards Islamist ideology that has infected the U.S. military, intelligence agencies, and so many other institutions need only look to the denizens of the Ivory Tower for an explanation. Instead of explaining events like the Fort Hood shooting to the American public, all too often Middle East studies academics refuse to state the obvious and choose to obfuscate rather than clarify the events at hand. The rush to judgment against those who express valid concerns about Islamism only adds to the self-censorship that was in large part responsible for allowing Hasan to remain in the military and murder his fellow soldiers in cold blood.

Cinnamon Stillwell is the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. She can be reached at