Blogs > HNN > Major Nidal Malik Hasan: Not An Islamic “Extremist,” But Simply A Good, Literalist Muslim

Nov 10, 2009 5:25 pm

Major Nidal Malik Hasan: Not An Islamic “Extremist,” But Simply A Good, Literalist Muslim

While the mainstream media outlets continue their politically-correct embrace of one another, rallying around the propaganda point that Hasan’s killing of 13 soldiers and civilians at Ft. Hood had nothing to do with his Islamic beliefs, even the more gimlet-eyed feel compelled to use terms like “extremist” to describe Hasan’s worldview. For example, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), in calling for possible Senate hearings into the murders, said he was doing so because “there had been strong warning signs that Hasan was an ‘Islamic extremist.’”
But was—is—he? The “Washington Post” today is reporting on the Power Point presentation Nidal gave to fellow doctors in 2007, entitled “The Koranic [sic] Worldview As It Relates to Muslims in the US Military.” The “Post” even has copies of the 50 slides he used for this lecture, a number of which detail the Qur’anic-prescribed afterlife rewards for “believers”—Muslims—and punishments for non-Muslims. The slides themselves simply provide the Qur’anic citations for these (and other) Islamic beliefs, and the “Post” story is ambiguous about whether Hasan was reporting dispassionately on these beliefs or advocating them. However, according to a story yesterday in the U.K. “Telegraph,” at that same talk Hasan “had told US military colleagues that infidels should have their throats cut,” as well as “be beheaded and have boiling oil poured down their throat.”
Are such beliefs “extremist” for a Muslim? Actually, no—at least not for a Sunni like Hasan.

In the Sunni world the only acceptable exegetical paradigm regarding the Qur’an is a literalist one, in which the ayahs (verses) of each surah (chapter) are binding, at face value, not only on Muhammad and those of his time—but also on each and every Muslim today, wherever he or she resides. And while there are Muslims who depart from this woodenly-literal reading, they are found in sects that make up perhaps 15% of the world’s Muslim population (Shi`is, of several stripes, most notably Isma’ilis; some of the Sufi orders; and borderline-heretical groups such as the Alawis of Syria and the Druze of Lebanon and Israel).
Thus, if his Qur’an briefing was any indication—and it damned well should be, Army political-correctness notwithstanding—Hasan’s murderous rampage at Ft. Hood was nothing if not a private jihad, fueled and justifed by the following Qur’anic mandates:
*Surah Muhammad [47]:3ff: “When you encounter the unbelievers on the battlefield, strike off their heads until you have totally defeated them….”
*Surah al-Anfal [8]:12ff: “I will cast dread into the hearts of the unbelievers. Strike off their heads….”
*Surah al-Dukhan [44]:43ff: “Surely the tree of Zamzam [bitterness] will provide food for the sinful. Like molten brass it will boil their insides, like the boiling of scalding water.”
Until it becomes acceptable in Sunni Islam to read such verses as metaphor—as, for example, rhetorical “decapitation” of non-Muslim arguments against Islam—and/or to limit them to the 7th century AD, the Hasans of the world will continue to find rational justification within the Islamic fold for personal jihad against “infidels”—totally apart from any connections to, or encouragement from, al-Qa`idah or any other Islamic terrorist group. Far from being an “extremist,” Hasan was, and is, simply a literalist Sunni Muslim who acted upon the teachings of his holy book, rather than merely pay it lip service. We should be thankful that, so far, the bulk of the world’s, and America’s, Muslims remain hypocrites--unlike Hasan.

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Peter Kovachev - 11/18/2009


ben levy - 11/17/2009

This is more unsound reasoning, which basically boils down to:

"Since A and B can both demonstrate examples of Trait X, A and B are identical."

Bradley and Corey's contention: "Both Islam and Christianity can demonstrate religiously motivated violence, and are therefore identical."

Both the Sahara and the Amazon can demonstrate dry sunny days, and periods of rainfall. Bradley and Corey would no doubt conclude the two environments are the same, and dress accordingly on trips.

Elliott Aron Green - 11/16/2009

Nancy, in fact there were three Jewish tribes in Medinah who fell out with Muhammad --possibly over the true interpretation of the meaning of peace-- and were either expelled or enslaved in whole or in part or massacred in whole or in part. The Bney Qurayza were just one of the persecuted Jewish tribes there. After subduing the Jews of Medinah, Muhammad and the Muslims went on to the Jewish oasis of Khaybar and subdued and massacred the Jews there, although, according to Muslim tradition, a Jewess whom wanted to take for a possession poisoned him, ultimately causing his death. I have no way of confirming this account.

Now, Nancy, you complain that verses of the Qur'an were taken out of context. Indeed, most or much of the Qur'an is out of context. That is, it is written in a very choppy style. Verses follow one another without any necessary logical connection. So they are obviously out of context. Stories that were "borrowed" from earlier, non-Muslim sources suddenly end before the ending in the original. An example of this phenomenon in the Qur'an is the Quranic story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. It is taken from the Jewish Midrash [also called the Aggadah] with some details added presumably from Arabian lore. In the Midrash it contains some amusing stories illustrating Solomon's wisdom and the Queen's cleverness at trying to trip him up. But the Quranic version [27:22-44] is cut off before the end in the original.

R. Craigen - 11/13/2009

Ms Reyes, do you know anything about any of the military campaigns sent out and commanded by Mohammed? Are you aware that most of their campaigns were offensive, not defensive? Are you familiar with the fact that the first several campaigns he sent out were armed raids on undefended trade caravans, whose purpose was to increase the wealth and power of his growing band of followers? Are you familiar with the surprise raids he personally led on villages of unbelievers, timed for dawn so that the civilian population would be caught unawares at their most vulnerable time? Are you familiar with his famous ruling -- codified for posterity as a Qur'an verse -- that conquered women become sole property of their muslim victors? (The official Islamic version has it that his followers were reluctant to rape the wives of their conquered enemies in front of their husbands, as he wished, as a final humiliation before killing them; Mohammed received a "revelation" that this was fine with Allah) How about the massacre of the Quraizah, a Jewish tribe who had refused to submit to Islamic rule and awkwardly attempted to defend themselves against it -- after their unconditional surrender, Mohammed had 600 men, helpless, submissive and bound in chains, beheaded and buried in a mass grave.

Now, what was it you were saying about the example of Mohammed and his armies, and what we should be assuming?

R. Craigen - 11/13/2009

Winston Churchill once said "A fanatic is someone who can't change their mind, and won't change the subject".

Though their antics can be mildly amusing, one-dimensional antireligious polemics like Corey, who can't seem to enter any conversation without abruptly changing the subject and launching into an attack on religion in general -- and especially, if possible, Christianity -- are finally beginning to get under my skin.

"Lovely weather we're having today!" "Yeah, well, it sure isn't because of the intervention of some divine being! If it were up to you Christians nice weather would be illegal anyway, everyone knows you guys are just legalistic, puritan killjoys at heart." "Erm, uh, okay, have a nice day?"

Mr. Levy nails the point this way:

Yet there is always someone who, after a devasting "Jihad" based attack, needs to remind us that other religions have also produced violent extremists...Christianity came of age, even though the memo hasn't reached all floors yet. Islam has yet to do so, and may even be backsliding, as its adherents find a measure of self-justification in their socially acceptable outrage.

Well said. I would add that if Islam, in general, is backsliding it is abetted by those who refuse to hear a word of criticism against its excesses and, like Corey just respond by changing the subject and pulling out one of their favourite whipping boys. While criticism of Islam is forbidden -- often a capital crime -- within the world of Islam, in Christendom and Judaism there have evolved well-developed cultures of self-critique. The west is the only place where open criticism of these elements of Islam is possible and safe, but it is becoming less so; we'd best exercise this liberty while we have it.

Let us assume that Corey lives in the U.S., literally surrounded by Christians all his life, yet he finds it necessary to go the opposite end of the world to find stories of somebody getting beat up. Where are your personal anecdotes about the fear you have of going out at night because of marauding bands of Christians? Of the Baptist extremists who blew up your cousin's wedding party because they were heathens? Of the Episcopalian fanatics who shot up the 7-11 down the street with no provocation, pinning bible verses to the proprieter's forehead with a knife? Of the secret Catholic death squads who strap bombs to their children to blow up their protestant playmates for ... well, for not being catholic?

The story Corey pulled from an website promoting atheism speaks of "Christian believers in Witchcraft" beating up someone speaking against witchcraft at a conference in. Really? If you propose this as a parallel to Hasan's violence, you've got an uphill battle. First, there is the degree of violence. Let's just ignore that. Second, there is the violence itself -- not motivated by any new testament teachings (try to find one). Third, there's the supposed motivating grievance against criticism of witchcraft, hard to sell as motivated by mainstream Christian doctrine -- it's ... ah ... quite the other way around. Indeed, I note that the charismatic "christian" "prophetess" who incited these fanatics is roundly and publicly criticized by mainstream christian leaders in Nigeria as a "false prophet". Indeed, she is merely a cult leader; hardly a postergirl for "Christian" violence.

Dr. Furnish' main thesis -- that Hasan was acting purely on the basis of orthodox, mainstream Sunni beliefs -- does not provide a parallel. Perhaps Corey would like to elucidate for us precisely which mainstream Christian denomination would (a) actively support and promote belief in witchcraft in the manner of Helen Ukpabio; (b) agitate for violence against verbal opponents of witchcraft?

Corey, nobody is saying people of other religions never act violently, or that adherents do not use religious motifs from within their tradition to support that violence. Furnish is simply raising the obvious point that there is a clear and present danger posed by those who choose to act out these particular orthodox Sunni beliefs in the context of our society. But since you raise the point I have to remark that your own examples make a pretty good argument that contemporary parallels in other religions are relatively hard to come by.

Peter Kovachev - 11/13/2009

Thank you for the excellent link, Mr Harper! There a few minor points I'd dispute or add to, but on the whole, it must be one of the few, if not the only, pieces that effectively ...and given the times, bravely... challenges the relativistic, post-Modernist mantra on this topic.

Bob Harper - 11/12/2009

See for a further elucidation of Mr. Kovachev's point. Until and unless Islam leaves the 7th century and joins the 21st, it will rightly be regarded as the enemy of mankind.

Peter Kovachev - 11/11/2009

Ms Reyes, which precise verses have been taken out of what specific context? Since we have no independent evidence of who Muhammad's armies slaughtered or did not slaughter "as a rule," and since we are not talking about the 7th century but the 21st, what is your point? That the US resembles, for some inexplicable reason, Jannissaries, but surely not Crusaders?

Good grief, does no one in the high schools teach our precious future citizens how to organize their thoughts and sentences so that we may distinguish them from the swill at the bottom of their lockers?

Nancy REYES - 11/11/2009

Verses taken out of context are useless.

The verses seem to be discussing war, not your neighbors. Indeed, since Mohammed's armies did not massacre civilian Christians and Jews as a rule, why should we assume that here?

Finally, despite all the propaganda on the left and on jihadi sites that the US is fighting Muslims, what is needed is someone to point out that Saddam was a secular ruler who killed Sunni Kurds and Shiite Muslims, and the US was more similar to Janissary soldiers than to "crusaders". Ditto for the Taliban, who represent a minority of the Pashtun, and the US is backing the majority of the tribes.

Peter Kovachev - 11/11/2009

Professor Furnish has made a good case which you obviously can't refute with anything but huffing and expletives. Since you missed the obvious point,let me try to help. Most religions, as you rightly point out contain examples of calls for or cases of violence and other unsavoury actions. However, most of the adherents of these religions have, over time, found ways to reinterpret these seeming orders calls to either as symbolic or no longer applicable in our times.

Not so with Islam, and especially Sunni Islam. The Koran is explicit in its call for the domination of all non-Muslims in the world and the humiliating subjugation or destruction of unbelievers and specifically singles out Jews and Pagans.

Muslims can (have and many still do) take these orders literally. They don't really have to, though, they can do what others have done; seek other explanations or, as Prof Furnish points out, they can just be "non-observant," as many in fact are. Christians decided that the Hebrew Bible was superceded by their scriptures, while as long ago as three thousand years before the present, Jews interpreted many harsh passages and commandments as either poetic, symbolic or no longer binding.

Islam can do the same thing; like Judaism, it can declare that scriptural paganism no longer exists, or that the death penalties for biblical prohibitions call for spiritual, rather than temporal death. Muslim theologians can very reasonably conclude that the Jews Mohammed frothed at the mouth about were a specific tribe which is no longer around. They can also line up with the rest of th world by declaring that the nine year-old Aisha Mohammed married and raped was not really nine years old, or that in those "days of miracles" people became adults much earlier. As for commandments to wage wars against non-Muslims, these can be interpreted as poetic utterings and calls for a spiritual struggle.

Alas, such a reforms have not happened in Islam in a meaningful ways; millions of Pagans (see history of India and South East Asia) have been slaughtered, antisemitism is as wildly popular and virulent in Muslim countries as it was in Nazi Germany, and many Islamic nations, including Iran, allow marriages and consumation of these "marriages" to children even younger than nine, specifically because of a literal interpretation of the Koran. Are you starting to get the distinctions here, Jason, or is your worldview so addled by relaivism and bad education that you can no longer distinguish between anything out there?

As for your first question, is the Sunni sect a violent one; no s**t Sherlock, as they say. Is it evil? That's an ethical/religious judgement. Most of us I think would call it evil, although I hear that growing number of liberal arts-lobotomized victims would let the whole world burn first before saying something so "diversity-negating."

Jason Bradley - 11/11/2009

What purpose does this article serve? Is it stating that the Sunni sect of Islam is a violent and evil religion? Is it justifying the actions of this one man as being within the bounds of his religion? Either of these reasons would be both ridiculous and false. Just as Corey wrote above, one can find examples supporting any rash/vile act in either the Bible or Quran. They were both written in violent times, so should we call everyone on death row or in Guantanamo fundamentalists? So I ask again, what was your reasoning when you wrote this piece of garbage?

rob h adams - 11/11/2009

Why is the term "fundamentalist" not used? It is a term most Americans instantly understand from the Ameircan socio-Christian origins. Also, is the Quran so clear that fundamentalists need no interpreter? It appears Hasan needed one who is now in Yemen because he was clearly on the list after 9/11. If interpretation is necessary even for them, then why do some fundmentalist Muslims choose some parts of the book to live by, while others place greater emphasis on others, such as the parts about killing infidels and having virgins in the afterlife - also what part does the sexual repression of Muslims have to do with the fact that they can't see past the virgins losing their virginity, living with that many women for eternity and eventually having to kill themselves all over again just to get away from them?

ben levy - 11/11/2009

The gist of the discussion, Corey, is that this was not an extremist at Fort Hood, merely someone acting within the bounds of "mainstream".

Yet there is always someone who, after a devasting "Jihad" based attack, needs to remind us that other religions have also produced violent extremists.

This is the same sort of person, I am certain, who would witness a savage attack by a pit bull, and rather than intervene, pontificate on the fact that under certain circumstances, any dog of any breed might bite.

Christianity came of age, even though the memo hasn't reached all floors yet. Islam has yet to do so, and may even be backsliding, as its adherents find a measure of self-justification in their socially acceptable outrage.

Elizabeth Cregan - 11/11/2009

Religious freedom or not, I personally consider anyone who would cut off my head and pour boiling oil down my neck becuase I am not of their religion, a threat. If they have any inclination to act on such belief, they are a terorist. I understnad religious freedom and praise it, but I have no tolerance for religious beliefs that would allow justification for such horrible acts.

Corey Mondello - 11/11/2009

You offer the three following examples to support your story, three that can be found in the Bible, with similar words.

I agree that there needs to me a non-literal interpretation of the Quran, but this also goes for all religious text, the bible for example.

Ask many of the Congress people in our government, (and Americans who want to make or say that the USA was built on the Bible and the Constitution and our laws should be based on) about the Bible, and they will quote it word for word, as the word of their "god" and to them; it is to be taken literally.

It is known that religious texts, (along with old notes found and “updated” and re-distributed, and text books for public schools for example) change over time, depending on who controls the money, has the power and owns the printing press.

The intent of the original writers will be a mystery to even the most esteemed scholars, and the modern, enlightened, educated civilization we are a part of, should have the ability to respect the fact that many “mistakes” made in the past, that were motivated by religion, would not be accepted today as appropriate behavior, like burning people alive for being supposedly “witches” who control the crops of your neighbor.

For an example of a horrific, current example of religion based insanity, I offer a few links of interest:

Five people suspected of witchcraft burnt alive in Kenya

Youth and Witchcraft Violence in Africa, September 29, 2009

Nigerian Atheist Beaten Up By Witchcraft Believers at Conference, August 1st, 2009

Christianity, Child Witches, And Homophobia, October 18, 2009