I had learned glimpses of what had happened at work, figuring that I would learn more after I finished my duties for the day. As I tried in vain to catch some sleep before my overnight shift, I overheard the name of the Fort Hood shooting suspect being repeated on the television: "Nidal Malik Hasan."
I could no longer sleep.
When I heard CNN's Wolf Blitzer say the alleged shooter's name, my stomach – literally – turned over. My worst fears had materialized: that the shooter would be a Muslim. Instantly, dread came over me, just as it did with every other major man-made disaster with a Muslim behind it.
It is bad enough that anyone would shoot and kill innocent people, no matter where that shooting takes place. It is as tragic in a shopping mall, or Brown's Chicken restaurant, or a place of employment. But, for a shooting to take place in a military base at the hands of a fellow soldier is almost too much to bear.
My heart, my thoughts, and my prayers go out to the families of the brave soldiers who died at the hands of this barbaric murderer. Their sacrifice and loss is no less noble, no less important, no less appreciated than the loss of a fellow American in battle overseas. As a parent who has lost his own child, I know far too well the pain of the parents right now who have come to the horrific realization that they will outlive their child. May God be with them all.
This fact alone is enough to bring me terrible distress. But, my angst and dread is increased several-fold with the knowledge that the shooter could be a Muslim.
Yet, why is this so? Why should the religion of the perpetrator matter? Indeed, if the motivation behind the shooting- which, it is important to point out, has not been identified – is out of a twisted religoius philosophy, it would be important to know the faith of the attacker. The problem is, even if religion is not the motive behind the attack, a pall of suspicion is cast over all American Muslims everywhere.
Immediately, American Muslim leaders issued statements of condemnation, which is right and proper. Yet, in the same breath, they also urge for calm, so that the flames of righteous anger do not singe innocent American Muslims who have nothing to do with the crimes committed by their co-religionists and are likely just as horrified as their non-Muslim neighbors over the events at Ft. Hood. So many times, both Islam and Muslims are stained by the actions of the few, and it makes tragedies such at the Ft. Hood massacre all the more painful.
The details of the terrible incident at Ft. Hood will continue to emerge in the coming days and weeks. Indeed, as I was writing this, news had come out that the shooter – thought to be killed – is actually alive, in stable condition, and in custody. Yet, if we can learn anything from this dark day, it is that a criminal is a criminal, no matter what the color of his skin, or the country from which he hails, or the faith he proclaims to profess.