Ft. Hood: A Test of Tolerance

In the wake of a tragedy like the Ft.Hood shootings Thursday, anger, fear and the need to know why is normal. Regaining a sense of safety and a feeling of control is part of the healing process. Unfortunately, for some the emotions of the day are going to lead them to believe that because the shooter in Texas was Muslim, his motives are widely held and that other Americans who are Muslim feel the same way or might behave in a similar manner.

After 9/11 Muslims in the United States were unfairly tainted with the same ideological brush as the terrorists who wrought so much death and destruction. It was wrong to have done this, and it would be wrong to make that mistake again in the wake of Ft. Hood.

It’s easy to generalize. We do it all the time. All Democrats are bleeding heart liberals who long for a semi-socialized nanny state. All Republicans are money-grubbing religious right pawns who would sell their own children if it meant saving privatized health care and the Dow closing up an extra 500 points. But some Democrats are fiscal hawks, like my late father, and some Republicans are like my mommy blogging buddy, Jessica, who believes in health care for everyone and civil marriage for all. No one is a stereotype. When the world is sorted down to the individual, the views change and it becomes more personal.

During the uproar that followed the Danish newspapers printing of cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammad, I was teaching an English as a Second Language (ESL) class to a room full of immigrant high school students in Des Moines, Iowa. Probably not a place best known for ethnic diversity, Des Moines does have sizable communities of Hispanics, Bosnians, Sudanese and Southeast Asians. My class was boy-heavy that year, and most of these young men were Muslim.

I was new to the school. The students didn’t know me well enough to guess at my reactions yet. It was the last few minutes before the bell, and there was a heated discussion about the cartoons going on between two of the Muslim students and another young man who was using his lunch hour to catch up on the computers that lined the classroom. It was his belief that the depiction of The Prophet was not a big deal. Jesus was depicted after all. God was sometimes imagined in all forms of visual media.

“I read in the newspaper that in movies, this Muhammad has been pictured too, “ he said, finishing his argument.

“That’s not true,” a young man named Ravi countered and he turned to me. “They say that but it’s not true.”

Ravi was an interesting kid. Pakistani and so wanting to fit in, yet not always able to mesh the culture of his birth with the American life he found himself living. We’d had a difficult semester, he and I. The ESL teacher the previous year had been a man, and my male students were having a tough time adjusting to my female version of authority. I’d been teaching for 17 years and had never been challenged as much as I was in the few months I worked with these kids.

“The Prophet is never shown in movies,” Ravi explained to me. “His voice can be heard or it’s like that movie where God speaks from the burning bush. You know that one?”

I did and I nodded. Ravi and I rarely connected, and I wanted to hear what he had to say because I had a feeling he was going somewhere important with it.

“Are you a Christian?” he asked.

I was a cradle Catholic. Until I’d moved to Des Moines, a city that is more evangelical Christian than it looks, I’ never been asked about being Christian. Like most Catholics, I assumed that Christianity and Catholicism were the same thing.

“I was raised Catholic,” I said.

“So you know Jesus?”

“Yes, I do,” I assured him.

And he smiled. He could be such a sullen kid, but this smile lit him as though he’d discovered something wonderful. We both knew Jesus.

“Jesus was a great prophet too,” he told me. “We know about him.”

I nodded, the bell rang and Ravi left my room beaming at the connection we’d just made. I was no longer this white Christian woman who harped about punctuality and missing homework. I was someone who knew that Jesus was a prophet, just like he did.

It’s too easy to focus on the differences between cultures and religions. It’s not so easy to take a few moments, really listen, and discover the common ground.

US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan is a Muslim. He is also an American, a soldier, a doctor and a whole lot of other things that his actions yesterday will likely overshadow forever. But he is the sum of parts, just like we all are. No one thing makes us who we are, and some of those things are shared by others and some are not.

Today, when the temptation to paint with wide brush strokes threatens to overwhelm better sense and the golden rule of do unto others that we are all taught as children, remember that there are common touchstones at the intersections where we all will find ourselves as we journey through life that matter more than the differences we too often allow center stage.

Ann Bibby


Adrian Davis
Adrian Davis8 years ago

Thanks for the post

Lilith Graves
Lilith Graves8 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Carol H.
Past Member 8 years ago

Everybody is not same he had a problem and nobody noticed it until it was to late afraid of saying something because of his believes and that is something we have to get past in order to protect people from harm and that is a fact.

Bethany H.
Bethany H8 years ago

Great article.

Sandy V.
Sandy v8 years ago

I believe in the Constitution and freedom of religion. This man was NOT a muslim, no matter how often he claims that. He is insane. Don't blame a religion because of rumors you hear or believe. My own uncle believed that when a girl turns 13 she had to sleep with a priest. Come on, this is the same kind of crap of the illiterate. I don't care who is muslim, they have that right in this country. Even muslims claim this man did not understand the religion and didn't practice it. Praying several times a day just doesn't cut it as a muslim. For crying out loud, this is American, not some 3rd world country. The man is nuts but sane enough for capitol punishment, which he deserves. Stop condeming so many people for the actions of one nut.

Patricia B.
Patricia B8 years ago

We can't go back and start profiling individuals simply because they are Muslim. I know very nice Muslims and there is very radical ones too. There are good and bad of any faith, race, creed and gender. This guy just flipped and the FBI refused to catch it quick enough. All the red flags were up but nobody did anything now you have soldiers dead and some recovering. We need to be grateful this man didn't injure more soldiers. I believe the FBI needs to be addressed because they waited to long. Otherwise, some soldiers would not have died in vain.

Lionel Mann
Lionel Mann8 years ago

A plea for reconciliation and understanding. For nearly a thousand years it has been the ‘received wisdom’ of every little Moslem that Christians are murderous infidels, dating from 1099 when the Crusaders captured Jerusalem and massacred forty-thousand Moslems and Jews in a horrific two-day bloodbath. Throughout the ages, up to and including the unprovoked aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq, plenty of support has been provided for that belief, resulting in reactionary violence, currently called “terrorism”.
In 711 the Moors invaded and quickly conquered Spain. For a time Moslems and Christians lived side by side in peace while learning, brought by the Moors from Alexandria, flourished in all its facets at a time when the Dark Ages persisted elsewhere. Some architectural wonders of that period still exist. Then Christians, urged by the Church, set about persecuting and driving out Moslems. By 1492 the “Reconquista” was complete, the dark ages of ignorance and the Inquisition descended upon Spain; another barrier of religious malice had been erected.
Neither side is faultless; if we allow this conflict to continue both sides will suffer. Neither must seek to impose its beliefs on the other. Neither may like what they see of the other, but we must live and let live. The insane Fort Hood slaughter must not become another cause of hatred, rather let understanding help towards reconciliation.

Debra Holliday
Debra Holliday8 years ago

Muslims scare me too! They plan to infiltrate all areas of our society until our liberties are taken away -- remember they hate infidels! Who are infidels to them? All who are not Muslim like they are.

btw -- they may believe Jesus is a prophet, but they deny He was crucified, buried and rose on the 3rd day proving He was deity and One with the Father God Creator! this is the foundation of our Christian belief AND one of the reasons the Muslims are slaughtering Christians in everyother part of the world..... http://www.persecution.org Just wait, they're trying to get their chance here too.

Burtram C.
Burtram C.8 years ago

Everyone seems to be missing the FACT that Terrorist Nidal Malik Hasan had NOT BEEN TO WAR ANYWHERE!!! The army had not sent him anywhere there was a war, so if he had PTSD it must have been from sitting in DC area traffic jams! (Poor baby!).

I think there is WAAAY too much overanalysis of this guy. He shot and killed a bunch of decent kids who had just gotten out of high school & joined up to serve their country. He specifically chose a VERY fast-firing gun that would do the most damage and one that allowed him to carry the most ammo on himself. While shooting these teenagers he RELOADED MANY TIMES! He made sure he did it somewhere they were TOTALLY unarmed. And they would have trusted him because he was ONE OF THEIR OWN OFFICERS! (Ah, such a brave jihadist!)

WHEN they find him guilty I hereby volunteer to jon the firing squad that executes him. Anybody else with me? I suggest we use very small caliber weapons, start with his toes and slowly fire upwards over a few hours. Wouldn't want to rush it! Why" "It's for the kids". The ones he killed, like shooting ducks in a pond, that's why.

Junior W.
Junior Walker8 years ago

I do hope this event will put to bed the warped ideology that if America kills potential terrorist in foreign countries this will guarantee a safe homeland, remember "evil begets evil", time to start thinking about "doing to others as you would have them do unto you" Blacks,Muslims, Mexicans etc.