Yesterday, Nidal Malik Hasan, a psychiatrist, opens fire at Ft. Hood in an enclosed area on unarmed men and women, killing 12 and wounding over 30 people before being brought down by a police officer. Throughout the day, we were given numerous news reports, most in error, but the name of the shooter was released early along with the reports of his death. I find it interesting that although they were not sure until hours later that he was solely responsible, and that we were not told until hours later that he was alive, we were given his name almost immediately.
Could it be because it is a Muslim name? If so, what were we supposed to make of it?
I know what the conservative media is making of it. On the furthest fringes of the right, World Net Daily claims that Nidal Malik Hasan advised President Obama. That lasted less than an hour as the headlines didn't even match the story they wrote. Evidently, he attended - as did hundreds of others - a conference. His name was listed in the program because he had sent in his RSVP. See how easy and what little it takes to set off the right wing fringies?
The news shows - even my favorites - were full of experts commenting on the state of Nidal Malik Hasan's mental health, while others suggested that this was a terrorist attack, a jihad because he is a secret Muslim extremist. Still others discussed PTSD, either pro or con - one 'expert' claimed that a psychiatrist could not possible suffer from PTSD because 1) he had never been in combat, and 2) he was a psychiatrist who treated PTSD so therefore could not get it. sigh. This one, offers the theory that even though Nidal Malik Hasan must be mentally ill to behave in this manner (although not PTSD), it must be an act of terrorism because he has a Muslim name.
Unfortunately, what I am seeing most often all over the net today is the latter. This is scary and very dangerous. Today, we had a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. That gunman was also caught. I don't recall, during the approximately three hours it took before he was in custody, any media source discussing the suspected shooters religion or organizational affiliations. No one wondered - since he is white - if he might not be a Tea Bagger, or a right-wing extremist, even though they're the ones exhibiting the most violent behavior in this country lately.
Regarding Nidal Malik Hasan, all or none of the theories set forward may be true. We just don't know yet. At last report, he is in a coma. It is reported that he is a Muslim, that he was born in this country and raised as a Muslim. I don't know if that is true, but it has been consistently reported from several sources, so it sounds credible. It is possible that he had a kind of secondary PTSD. I know that people, especially young people and people who are first responders elsewhere, who spent a lot of time watching the towers fall over and over again on television, experienced, if already vulnerable, a form of secondary PTSD. As a counselor, I know that I am vulnerable from the stories that I hear if I do not ensure that I guard against it. Every responsible counselor knows that they need counseling when they are in the kind of job that Nidal Malik Hasan was in.
As far as his Muslim name? I have family who have Muslim names and are Christian (there are Christians in the middle-east). And even if they weren't, we do still have freedom of religion in this country. I find it incredible that Muslims can be attacked and harassed in America, but in Iraq and Afghanistan, we send our children to give their lives to build their countries. When our soldiers are there, they understand that not everyone with a Muslim name is their enemy. Does no one see the disconnect?
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