When <i>Muslims</i> Commit Violence?

Writing in The Atlantic Jeffrey Goldberg has an unremarkable post about the Fort Hood shootings with the quite remarkable headline "When Muslims Commit Violence." Goldberg takes issue with colleagues Megan McArdle, James Fallows and the Atlantic Wire, for ignoring the religion of the alleged shooter, Nidal Hasan, as relevant to any inquiry into motivation. He believes that it is.

"It seems, though, that when an American military officer who is a practicing Muslim allegedly shoots forty of his fellow soldiers who are about to deploy to the two wars the United States is currently fighting in Muslim countries, some broader meaning might, over time, be discerned, especially if the officer did, in fact, yell "Allahu Akbar" while murdering his fellow soldiers, as some soldiers say he did," he writes.

I have no idea what would motivate someone to carry out this heinous crime. Maybe religion was involved. But only days after the shootings how can anyone be sure? On NBC's Meet the Press, the U.S. Army's Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey urged the public not to rush to conclusions and referred to reports about so-called early warning signs about Hasan's behavior as "speculation" based on anecdotes. But what does he know?

Connecticut's Sen. Joe Lieberman went on Fox News Sunday to press for an investigation because, he said, Hasan reportedly "showed signs of being a "self-radicalized, homegrown terrorist." Lieberman may have missed delivery of his Sunday New York Times, which carried word that investigators have tentatively concluded that Hasan, an army Major, was not part of a terrorist plot.

Lieberman did allow that it was premature to get into the question of motivation. No such hesitation, though, from the usual crowd of gasbags and grandstanders who have already settled on a pot boiler narrative.

The predictable Michelle Malkin describes Hasan, who was born in the United States, as a "Muslim soldier." Of course, we're all being kept in the dark because of the "whitewashing of jihad by the (mainstream media.") She goes on: "I've said it many times over the years and it bears repeating again as cable TV talking heads ask in bewilderment how all the red flags Hasan raised could have been ignored: Political correctness is the handmaiden of terror."

Malkin also uses the occasion to remind her readers that as far back as 2003 she had been writing about "Muslim soldiers with attitude." (Muslim soliders with attitude?) That's quite a statement. But scroll through the archives to read how she reacted after James von Brunn, an 88-year-old white supremacist, was arrested in the shooting at the National Holocaust Museum. The shooter `wasn't "left" or "right," she wrote at the time - he was "just plain loony." Fair enough, but if Hasan is a "Muslim soldier," would that make the shooter arrested for murdering abortion doctor George Tiller a "Christian terrorist." After all, there were suspicions that he was involved with a radical Christian movement. No need to email, Michelle, I have a pretty good idea how you'd answer that one.

Meanwhile, Malkin's ideological fellow traveler at Allahpundit cites chapter and verse from a Guardian piece to conclude Hasan was a "typical fundamentalist Muslim. That's quite a statement considering there are more than 1.2 billion Muslims around the world. How many are "fundamentalist" and what does mean - especially in an American context?I don't expect an answer to that question either. Of course, this crowd isn't interested in nuance. They are lucky enough to be endowed with the rare capacity of performing long-range psychoanalyses to offer declarative conclusions long before investigators render their final verdicts.

We should all be so fortunate.

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.