Saturday, November 07, 2009

Fort Hood: Obama urges caution amid fears of backlash against Muslims.

I have deliberately avoided commenting on events at Fort Hood because the reports coming out of the place have so far been so open to loose interpretation that I think it is best to wait until all the facts are known before one comments.

I note this morning that President Obama is urging the same kind of caution.

Barack Obama today joined calls from across America for calm amid fears of a backlash in the wake of the shooting spree by a Muslim soldier at the Fort Hood that left 13 dead and 28 wounded.

Obama, speaking in the White House Rose Garden after being briefed by the FBI, sought to dampen tensions, as did politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties, the military, Muslim associations and the family of the alleged shooter, Major Nadil Malik Hasan.

I watched yesterday as Fox News questioned whether or not the army were being too "politically correct" around Muslims and found myself shaking my head. I know 24 hour news has a difficult job filling in stories like this when the facts are as yet unknown, but do we always have to go so quickly to these contentious talking points?

The truth is that we have no idea of why Major Nadil Malik Hasan did what he did. In time we will get the whole story, but the speculation which is swirling around right wing websites is unhelpful in the extreme. And much of it is proving to be factually incorrect.
Perhaps most irresponsible of all is the unverified claim that Hasan had written on the Internet in defense of suicide attacks by Muslims, even though the origins of those writings are entirely unverified. Similarly, certain news organizations -- like NPR -- used anonymous sources to disseminate inflammatory claims about Hasan's prior troubles allegedly grounded in activism on behalf of Islam. Much of this may turn out to be true once verified, or it may not be, but all of the conflicting, unverified claims flying around last night enabled many people to exploit the "facts" they selected in order to create whatever storyline that suited them and their political preconceptions -- and many, of course, took vigorous advantage of that opportunity.
Lots of people are taking this opportunity to fit these events into a narrative which suits their own political bias, but I think it's best to stand back and let the story fully reveal itself before one comes to any conclusions.

Obama's call for patience, saying there were still too many unanswered questions, was echoed by Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, and by the Pentagon.

In a statement, Hasan's family said his actions were "despicable and deplorable". "His actions did not reflect how they were raised in the US," they said.

Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, joined the calls for patience. "That investigation is under way by law enforcement authorities, and let's let that be the number one priory in terms of ascertaining what motivations he had," she said in a television interview.

The simple fact of the matter is that none of us can, with any certainty, state what his motivations were. We simply don't know.

Fox News and other right wing sites are quite happily reporting on things which they admit they have "heard secondhand", but I think such rumour mongering should be ignored until the facts have been established.

So Obama, and I am pleased to note that he is joined in this by the Republicans, is quite right to ask that this reckless speculation be halted.

There are some aspects of the story which can be verified, such as the heroism of Kimberly Munley, but we can't get inside the shooters head, and we shouldn't even be attempting to until more facts are established.

Click here for full article.

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