After a fatal shooting at Fort Hood military base in Texas, the military and Muslim communities are concerned about anti-Muslim sentiments.
Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who is Muslim, is accused of killing 13 and wounding 38 on Nov. 5.
Hasan was reportedly scheduled for deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. Family members said he was “mortified” by the prospect.
The military is working to prevent anti-Muslim sentiments within the Army, said Army spokesperson Lt. Colonel Chris Garver.
“We feared potential backlash against Muslims based on the fact that the accused was Muslim,” Garver said. “We put word out to commanders in the field to be sensitive and to have a heightened awareness to this issue.”
Before his promotion to a major in May, Hasan’s actions caused concern at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
ABC News reported he once told a colleague she would be “ripped to shreds” for not being Muslim. He said Muslim soldiers should be released as “conscientious objectors.”
According to National Public Radio, Walter Reed officials did not take action against Hasan because they feared a backlash for targeting a Muslim.
Fort Hood officials said they were not told about these previous incidents. The Army has said it will investigate to what extent Hasan’s past issues were overlooked.
UC Davis Muslim Student Association vice president Mohammad Mojadidi said he has not experienced any maltreatment because of the incident.
“I’ve been asked more questions than usual regarding Islam’s position on terrorism and violence, mirroring the type of response American Muslims experienced shortly after 9/11,” Mojadidi said. “I do believe these questions have been asked out of curiosity, with good intention.”
Mojadidi said he is well connected with other MSA members at UC Berkeley, UCLA and other schools and has not heard of any negative backlash towards Muslims at those schools.
“As always, the Muslim community and student body in Davis extend their deepest prayers and regret that this kind of senseless killing was done under a false Islamic pretense,” Mojadidi said. “We ask that those responsible be punished to the full extent of the law and hope that the public recognizes that no religious or political ideology could ever justify or excuse such wanton and indiscriminate violence. One need only to reference the Quran 5:32; that unjustly taking a single life is as if one has killed all of humanity.”
California Islamic Center President Taj Khan has not seen backlash against Muslims since the incident, but referenced past events of anti-Muslim sentiment. For example, in 1997 the Lodi mosque was vandalized with a swastika.
Khan believes things are getting better.
“American-Islamic relations are improving,” Khan said. “There is still a long way to go in this relationship.”
Terrorism expert Joe Ruffini, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and author of When Terror Comes to Main Street, said in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor, Hasan was a “self-radicalized” extremist.
“There’s enough evidence to say that, you have a homegrown American of Jordanian descent who became radicalized [through the Internet and Jihad websites] enough to commit this heinous crime,” Ruffini said. “Whether he took it upon himself to do this for a religious or anti-American purpose or whether he was encouraged by a formal terror cell structure … I think the jury is still out on that.”
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached email@example.com.