When a Muslim in the West for no apparent reason violently attacks non-Muslims, a predictable argument ensues about motives.
The establishment - law enforcement, politicians, the media and academia - stands on one side of this debate, insisting that some kind of oppression caused Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, 39, to kill 13 and wound 38 at Fort Hood on November 5.
It disagrees on the specifics, however, presenting Hasan as the victim alternatively of "racism," "harassment he had received as a Muslim," "a sense of not belonging," "pre-traumatic stress disorder," "mental problems," "emotional problems," "an inordinate amount of stress" or describing being deployed to Afghanistan as his "worst nightmare." Accordingly, a typical newspaper headline reads "Mindset of rogue major a mystery."
Instances of Muslim-on-unbeliever violence inspire this victim school to dig up new and imaginative excuses. Colorful examples (drawing on my article and Weblog entry about denying Islamist terrorism) include:
1990: "A prescription drug for... depression" (to explain the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane)
1991: "A robbery gone wrong" (the murder of Makin Morcos in Sydney)
1994: "Road rage" (the killing of a random Jew on the Brooklyn Bridge)
1997: "Many, many enemies in his mind" (a shooting murder atop the Empire State Building)
2000: A traffic incident (the attack on a bus full of Jewish schoolchildren near Paris)
2002: "A work dispute" (the double murder at LAX)
2002: A "stormy [family] relationship" (the Beltway snipers)
2003: An "attitude problem" (Hasan Karim Akbar's attack on fellow soldiers, killing two)
2003: Mental illness (the mutilation murder of Sebastian Sellam)
2004: "Loneliness and depression" (an explosion in Brescia, Italy outside a McDonald's restaurant)
2005: "A disagreement between the suspect and another staff member" (a rampage at a retirement center in Virginia)
2006: "An animus toward women" (a murderous rampage at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle in 2006)
2006: "His recent, arranged marriage may have made him stressed" (killing with an SUV in northern California in 2006)
ADDITIONALLY, WHEN an Osama bin Laden-admiring Arab-American crashed his plane into a Tampa high-rise, blame fell on the acne drug Accutane.
I reject these explanations as weak, obfuscatory and apologetic. The jihadi school, still in the minority, perceives Hasan's attack as one of many Muslim efforts to vanquish infidels and impose Islamic law. We recall a prior episode of sudden jihad syndrome in the US military, as well as the numerous cases of non-lethal Pentagon jihadis and the history of Muslim violence on American soil.
We are not mystified by Hasan, but see overwhelming evidence of his jihadi intentions. He handed out Korans to neighbors just before going on his rampage, and yelled "Allahu akbar," the jihadi's cry, as he fired more than 100 rounds from two pistols. His superiors had reportedly put him on probation for inappropriately proselytizing about Islam.
We note what former associates say about him: one, Val Finnell, quotes Hasan saying: "I'm a Muslim first and an American second" and recalls Hasan justifying suicide terrorism; another, Col. Terry Lee, recalls that Hasan "claimed Muslims had the right to rise up and attack Americans"; the third, a fellow psychiatrist who worked closely with Hasan, described him as "almost belligerent about being Muslim."
Finally, the jihad school of thought attributes importance to the Islamic authorities' urging American Muslim soldiers to refuse to fight their coreligionists, thereby providing a basis for sudden jihad.
In 2001, for example, responding to the US attack on the Taliban, the mufti of Egypt, Ali Gum'a, issued a fatwa stating that "the Muslim soldier in the American army must refrain [from participating] in this war." Hasan himself, echoing that message, advised a young Muslim disciple, Duane Reasoner Jr., not to join the US army because "Muslims shouldn't kill Muslims."
If the jihad explanation is overwhelmingly more persuasive than the victim one, it's also far more awkward to articulate. Everyone finds blaming road rage, Accutane or an arranged marriage easier than discussing Islamic doctrines.
And so, a prediction: What Ralph Peters calls the army's "unforgivable political correctness" will officially ascribe Hasan's assault to his victimization, and will leave jihad unmentioned.
And thus will the army blind itself and not prepare for its next jihadi attack.
The writer (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.