Absent testimony from any law enforcement officials, last week's Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on missed warning signs before the Fort Hood massacre was more anecdotal than insightful.
Former government officials and experts discussed identifying potential radicals in the military and ways to encourage people to report any concerns they may have. (Our video summary of the hearing can be seen here.)
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) is crowing about praise its executive director received from one witness, a deputy national security advisor to President George W. Bush. Juan Zarate singled out comments in an article by MPAC's Salam Al-Marayati that Nidal Malik Hasan's shooting spree represented a defining moment for Muslim-Americans:
"We, as Muslim-Americans are the answer to this frightening phenomenon of terrorism and violent extremism. We own our own destiny, and it is fundamentally intertwined with our nation's destiny. Terrorism will be defeated with our work on the front lines, not in the battlefields, but in our mosques and community centers and youth associations."
Zarate called it "an incredible statement," and a sign that Muslim-Americans will lead the ideological battle needed to confront extremists and stop them from radicalizing future generations. Here's hoping Zarate is correct and that Marayati meant what he said.
The MPAC leader's overall record, however, indicates he may be more a part of the problem than part of the solution.
In the same article Zarate hailed, Marayati discounted the likelihood that Hasan carried out a terrorist attack, saying it was more likely Hasan "had a complete psychological breakdown and resorted to shooting anyone around him." He dismissed as speculative reports that Hasan was influenced by radicals tied to Al Qaeda.
This ignores the record available at the time Marayati's article was published, information that has only been solidified by subsequent disclosures. When the article Zarate praised came out, we already knew that Hasan had communicated with radical Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki and even attended Awlaki's Virginia mosque in 2001. The Washington Post already published a disturbing PowerPoint presentation Hasan gave at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on jihad and Islam and National Public Radio already reported that Hasan's radical views "freaked out" his colleagues.
MPAC's release, from spokeswoman Edina Lekovic, laments the "uphill battle, in which we have to fight for every single step forward." She cites those who call Hasan's rampage a terrorist act and concerns that his colleagues kept quiet about their anxieties about Hasan due to political correctness as part of that uphill fight.
That's taking ownership?
Remember that MPAC, with Marayati at the helm, has lobbied to have Hamas and Hizballah removed from the U.S. list of terrorist groups. Its 1999 position paper on U.S. terror policy even cast the 1983 Hizballah bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut "a military operation, producing no civilian casualties -- exactly the kind of attack that Americans might have lauded had it been directed against Washington's enemies."
Contrast these mixed messages with the candor other Muslim Americans have taken in assessing the problem exposed by Hasan's attack and other recent terror plots.
M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder and executive director of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, told numerous interviewers that American-Muslims needed to confront voices of extremism and intolerance in the United States. In an appearance on CNN, Jasser called on his fellow Muslims to "stop the ideologies that create individuals like" Hasan rather than engaging in "victimology, rather than just condemning something."
Similarly, journalist Asra Nomani wrote in the Daily Beast about the response often meeting whistleblowers within the Muslim community. Concerns are quickly shushed as fomenting divisions within the community:
"In that struggle, we whitewash the truth of men like Hasan responding defensively, rejecting any links to Islamic teachings and, ultimately, I believe, denying the reality of a radicalized ideology of Islam that sanctions violence. In this ideology, men like Maj. Hasan believe they are betraying their fellow Muslims if they fight for the U.S. Army in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Finally, writer/reformist Irshad Manji, director of the Moral Courage Project at New York University, immediately challenged Muslims not to whitewash Hasan's religious motivations for killing his fellow soldiers. In an appearance on MSNBC's Hardball, she also challenged Americans to stop being "tolerant of intolerance."
"I think it is very important to invest in reform-minded Muslims. I don't just mean moderates, Chris. I mean those who are willing to say, not only is this violence evil, but the fact that it is sometimes committed in the name of Islam means that we Muslims have to look inside ourselves and clean out house, even as some of us point fingers at the outside world."
From Manji's lips to Marayati's ears.