As has been noted, too much of the commentary on the Fort Hood shooting has avoided the fairly obvious, albeit very politically incorrect, explanation. Clearly Hasan, who yelled ‘Allah akhbar’ during the killings, was murdering out of jihadist-fundamentalist intent. These were the same last words heard from Flight 93 over Pennsylvania. Given that the US has a Muslim population of at least 2 million (the data are hotly contested), it is hardly unlikely that all US Muslims remain untempted by the binladenist call. In fact, given Europe’s thorny problems with jihadism, it is remarkable how little of this has happened in the US.
This does not mean, of course, that all Muslims are radicals or that some sort of ‘green scare’ is necessary or whatever. But that is a straw man used to deflect serious discussion. We should also not use ‘islamophobia’ as a racist slur to prevent a serious investigation of Hasan’s motives and a national discussion about the integration process that so spectacularly failed in his case. If anything, the initial US reaction was so adamantly worried about this possibility, that the analysis, for all its good intentions, has obviously missed the real reason. It is politically correct to suggest stress and syndromes and such, but it is also rather dishonest.
Hasan actually fits a fairly well-known profile of Muslim bombers and fanatics who have emerged from the West. They feel deeply alienated by the GWoT. They worry that it targets Muslims, not terrorists, and that the GWoT is really a Judeo-Christian crusade against Islam. They feel deep conflict between their ties of citizenship and religion. Frequently they are socially isolated, and their vague discontent is catalyzed and metastasized by some radical cleric or website. Olivier Roy has done a lot of good work on the alienation Muslims living in the West feel, and how that alienation can drive extreme cases into terrorism. Try here and here. This profile fits the 9/11 hijackers, the Scottish airport assailants, and the London bombers.
The issue we seem to loathe finger for multicultural PC reasons is the ‘dual loyalty’ problem, but it so clearly obvious here that it cries out for discussion. It should be blindingly obvious that most people hold multiple identities or roles and that these will conflict. They do so in our lives everyday. Our roles as professionals at work collide with our responsibilities to our families. But if we apply this strikingly obvious logic to race/religion/nationality questions, it simply becomes taboo in US.
Because the US is an immigrant country, this logic creates terrible tensions. So we have admirably tried to ignore it, but turning away doesn’t mean it goes away. Indeed, what softens that dual loyalty problem is integration over time – the Americanization that comes from living in the US for several generations. Just about everyone’s grandmother gets off the boat with deep ties to the Old Country. The parents straddle the Old and New Country with proficiency in both languages. The grandkids don’t speak the old language at all, indulging only silly multicultural fantasies of ‘finding their roots,’ even though anyone from the Old Country would immediately tag them as an American. By the great-grandkid’s generations, the Old Country is a misty myth, and the great-grandkid’s spouse is likely to be of another ethnicity anyway. Hence, Americanization.
As Samuel Huntington notes, the requirements of US citizenship are comparatively light. This means just about anyone can join the US national community. It also ensures a certain level of cultural frisson that simply would not be tolerated in many other countries. Clearly simply handing someone a flag or a driver’s license does not insure Americanization, nor, does even the military uniform of Hasan (a great surprise, that, actually). Far more likely is time and sociality. Mixing, learning, speaking the language, interaction, slowly wears away the sharp conflict of identities and helps each individual informally reconcile possibly competing loyalties.
Islam however does raise particular issues of integration, as Islam frequently defines itself as a ‘way of life,’ rather than simply a ‘go-to-service-on-the-weekend’ religion that most Americans profess. Insofar as Islam indulges totalist visions of religion as an all-encompassing lifestyle, the pluralism and tolerance necessary for living in the West may not come easy. (For a similar problem, consider the unique status of the Amish.) This seems to be Europe’s great problem. America’s Muslims seem to have made their peace with pluralism better. That needs to be explained; there is a good dissertation there.