Monday, February 22, 2010

"Allahu Akbar" - God Is Great

On November 5, 2009, Major Nidal Hasan walked into one of the military buildings on the army base, Fort Hood, and open fired while yelling “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic). He killed thirteen people and left over a dozen injured. The Fort Hood Shooting shocked the country and was an absolute tragedy but could it have been prevented? Supervisors admitted to being concerned about his extremist views on Islam and his odd behavior. He was currently on a “performance-improvement plan” which was his punishment for giving class presentations on his views of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. He claimed the Iraq War was a war on Islam and that the Islamic law was more powerful than the U.S Constitution. Despite being reprimanded for his views, he continued to give his presentations regularly. Hasan is currently paralyzed from his wounds in a Brooke Army Medical Hospital in San Antonio, Texas where he will remain until his trial.

This article is relevant to our discussions in class because of the religious implications. Hasan made it very clear that he believes his religion is more powerful than the U.S Constitution. Was punishing Hasan for his presentation a violation of the rights granted to him by the first amendment? When is law considered supreme over religion or vice versa?

Legally, Hasan has the right to say what he believes, however, as a soldier he has taken an oath to honor and protect the United States. His strong beliefs of religion over law and his negative opinions about the wars he is directly involved in, made him a direct threat to national security. As with politicians, soldiers should not integrate religion with their professional lives. This does not mean that they cannot practice religion, only that it should not impair their judgment when they are handling or defending matters of the law.

Officials who recognized this behavior should have spoken up but instead were restrained by the military cardinal rule of not turning in “problem soldiers”. As a response to the shootings Defense Department Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Veron Clark stated that his department would “recommend the army and the entire military to focus more on looking internally for potential threats among the troops”. Even though this might seem like the correct action to take after this incident, it can lead to the similar beginning of a third Red Scare but with terrorism instead of communism. There is a potential threat of judgment being based on all soldiers of the Muslim faith and their loyalty towards the country could be called into question. Soldiers of different faiths should not be implicated but rather the obvious extremists who are blatantly acting out.

As we are beginning to see in our discussions in class, there is a fine line between religion and its relationship with the law. This case is similar to the Scott Roeder case with the question of religion or law supremacy. When does law come before religion? I believe that when there is a question of national security or the welfare of a society is threatened, the laws in which everyone agrees to by being a United States citizen should take precedent. It does not matter what religion a person lives by because the law is the one common factor that we all share and agree to live by despite our differences.


Teresa M said...

Perhaps even sadder than the Fort Hood tragedy is this assumption that somehow because Hasan is a U.S. soldier he must separate himself from his religious faith. If one’s religious faith is as much a part of a person’s identity as one’s name or gender, how is a politician, or soldier, or teacher, or for another blog on this sight, a social worker, able to disintegrate [faith] for the purpose of one’s professional life? Does religious faith impair judgment? This reminds me of the furor not too long ago regarding the pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for the “morning after” abortion pill. Was the pharmacist wrong in trying to save a potential life (as the pharmacist viewed the situation)? Killing fellow soldiers in the name of Allah is not only illegal, but is unethical within the Muslim faith. This does not seem so much a matter of religion as it seems a matter of a psychological disorder. The fact that Hasan believes or states that Allah is greater than the U. S. constitution is not a criminal matter. This soldier’s potential threat came from a psychological point of view, not a religious one. As Alicia points out in her blog, when we make the automatic connection between his statement and his action as one of a terroristic nature, we stand to do what the military is loath to do—begin an internal inquisition. Watch out for those radical Muslims (as if radical Christians were not a problem)! I must affirm a fundamental principle of communication. Absolutist language (everyone must, no one should, etc.) is powerless language and is inherently unethical because it denies a person’s ability to choose. Is it not this, the choice of personal conscience, what the Supreme Court (as well as Jefferson and Madison) tries so hard to uphold?

josh l. said...

While I agree with Teresa's critique of this article, I do wonder about reducing the man’s actions involved in the Ft. hood tragedy to a "psychological" issue. While it seems reasonable to say that a person's faith is just as much a part of their identity as any other (i.e. being a soldier in this case), I wonder if reducing it to a psychological matter is equally troubling.

It seems problematic to say a person should put the law above their faith. If both influence a person’s ethical outlook, how is it fair to say that one should have preeminence over the other? And doesn’t the American law have its own ethical outlook? And isn't reducing the soldier's problem to a "psychological" matter doing the same thing as reducing it to a political or religious motive? That is, by saying that the soldier acted only out of a psychological disorder, do we not run the risk of depriving the soldier of the way in which his faith might have influenced his decision?

I would argue that in order to critique this soldier's actions, we would need to critique the ideology that drove his actions, whatever it may be. This is a complicated matter, obviously. But it seems reducing any persons actions to psychological, religious, or political, runs the risk of making something seem clear cut that is in fact opaque.

mwcraftsman said...

The fact that Major Hassan, a naval officer, must by Oath put his religious faith and personal opinions aside when it pertains to his duties as a naval officer should not be lost or muddled here. The oath of a naval officer: I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.[1]

Further more by choosing a life as a naval officer it is expected that he lives his life in a manner that is expected from a naval officer. Moral and ethical leadership is a strong tradition in the military, and is stated in the Navy Code of Ethics:
Navy Code of Ethics
10 November 2005
Key References: Title 5--Administrative Personnel Chapter XVI--Office Of Government Ethics Part 2635--Standards Of Ethical Conduct For Employees Of The Executive Branch--Table of Contents Subpart A--General Provisions Sec. 2635.101; Employees’ Responsibilities under Executive Order 12674 (as amended).
•Place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and ethical principles above private gain.
•Act impartially to all groups, persons, and organizations.
•Give an honest effort in the performance of your duties.
•Protect and conserve Federal property.
•Disclose fraud, waste, and abuse, and corruption to appropriate authorities.
•Fulfill in good faith your obligations as citizens, and pay your Federal, State, and local taxes.
•Comply with all laws providing equal opportunity to all persons, regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or handicap.
•Use nonpublic information to benefit yourself or anyone else.
•Solicit or accept gifts from persons or parties that do business with or seek official action from DOD (unless permitted by an exception).
•Make unauthorized commitments or promises that bind the government.
•Use Federal property for unauthorized purposes.
•Take jobs or hold financial interests that conflict with your government responsibilities.
•Take actions that give the appearance that they are illegal or unethical.

His actions were illegal, immoral and down right horrendous. No religion condones these types of actions. To state "he is a Muslim" should have no more bearing on this case than the color of his skin. A treasonous radical is still treasonous.