Maj. Nidal Hassan’s vicious and deliberate shooting of unarmed soldiers and civilians at Ft. Hood was a terrorist attack. Hassan’s assault was religiously motivated and it targeted a population which he regarded as the enemy, therefore, his actions must be regarded as “terrorist”. Unlike a criminal who targets an individual or a group of individuals, Hassan’s terrorist target was a group of people who represented a political doctrine to which he fiercely objected and resented.
Hassan’s role as an officer and psychiatrist in the U.S. Army about to be deployed could not coexist with his beliefs and his religious identity as a devout Muslim. The policies taken by the U.S. government and put into action by the U.S military abroad go against some of the most fundamental doctrines in Islam. One such doctrine is that Muslims should never be ruled or conquered by an army that represents a faith other than Islam (like it or not, the U.S military is regarded by most Muslims around the world as a Christian army and not as we might see it; an army representing a democratic and free nation.) In fact, a conquest of Muslims by non-Muslims such as the one taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan justifies Jihad according to prevalent Muslim thought.
As a soldier in the U.S. Army Hassan had to make a decision and choose his allegiance between his role as an American soldier about to be deployed to a Muslim country and his role as a Muslim believer. The dilemma, this conflict of allegiance most likely grew deeper and deeper as the date for deployment drew near.
There are those who naively reject the fact that such a choice between loyalties even exists. They probably never had to choose allegiances between two conflicting ideals or personal identities – it’s very personal and very difficult. Moreover, those who don’t understand the allegiance conflict are probably not Muslim. Because if you were to discuss this dilemma with an American Muslim believer in a frank, one-on-one and open discussion, he would most likely tell you that this dilemma does indeed exist and it presents a difficult personal choice.
Given that the U.S military is probably the most open, democratic and politically correct armed force in the world, can’t we expect the military to allow soldiers to have equal allegiances to both Islam and to the country they serve? The answer is NO! Given the deep contrast between Muslim doctrine and the mission of the U.S. military, it is up to the military to make sure the allegiance is to the commander and his fellow soldiers first and then to Allah and Islam
The U.S military had to contend with this issue in WW2 when it recruited soldiers from Japanese or German backgrounds. Likewise in the Cold War soldiers who had family ties to Communist countries would be looked at with more scrutiny. However, the issue becomes more complex now when the conflict of allegiance lies with the choice of country over religion rather than one country or nationality over another.
A devout evangelical Christian, a Hindu, Zoroastrian or Jew, is unlikely to experience a major conflict between the military’s main mission and the religious identity and belief systems that he/she holds as sacred.
In recent years, the Israeli military faced a similar problem. It has been struggling to cope with its right wing, religious Jewish soldiers. These highly motivated soldiers who would willingly go to war against an enemy of Israel at the same time openly oppose the IDF’s role in taking down and vacating Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Many of these soldiers choose to follow the instructions of religiously and politically driven Rabbis and not the directives of their military commanders. This non-violent resistance by soldiers against the IDF’s mission may very well evolve into a violent and dangerous opposition within the ranks.
Military personnel must be alert and aware of the fact that certain soldier populations are more likely to face a dangerous dilemma between two or more conflicting allegiances. Fellow soldiers and commanders need to be able to cue on indicators that point to potential hostile intent. In the case of Maj. Hassan, the most obvious indicators were his comments both casual and in formal connects, and his reluctance to be deployed. When these indicators are detected they must be immediately reported and followed up on. The follow up should involve engaging the soldier directly, communicating with him/her to determine the intent behind the indicators. A comment about infidels could have been a sarcastic joke. Not wanting to be deployed could have been a result of fear. In the case of Hassan, the indicators reflect pure hostile intent towards the U.S. Military.