I've been monitoring the coverage of the murderous rampage at Fort Hood (I steadfastly refuse to call it a "Tragedy."). I am as struck by the eagerness on the Right to declare it an unalloyed act of Islamist terrorism, as I am by the refusal on the Left to speak aloud the idea that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's religion played any role at all. In the former case, Hasan's contacts with known Islamist radicals are correctly highlighted, In the latter, his obvious signs of mental illness are emphasized. Both sides commit the error of allowing ideological bias to corrupt their perception (let alone their interpretation) of the available evidence.
It may well prove that Hassan was gripped by a delusional system which took the form of murderous religious grandiosity (clearly there were indications of thought disorder of increasing severity over time, and religious themes are common in delusional processes). It may be that a kind of vicarious traumatization did in fact take place in the course of his work with combat veterans, resulting in such a pronounced decompensation even in the absence of first-hand trauma in battle (i.e., exacerbating a pre-existing mental instability). These may prove to be legitimately mitigating circumstances in the eventual outcome of the case (vs. the steely-eyed, clear-thinking fanatic scenario, for example).
However, even granting these possibilities, the willful exclusion of the role which Hasan’s Islamopathy (as in “Osama bin Laden is not so much a Muslim as an Islamopath,” It’s a term I coined the other day, of which I’m growing increasingly fond) is itself a kind of madness. If ever there was a glaring example of how political correctness paralyzes the processes of rational thought, it is this. Whether Hasan was shouting “Allahu Akhbar” as a battle cry, or as a prayer to preserve his soul in what even he must have seen as a probably fatal act, the fact remains that his religion (and his demented interpretation thereof) was somewhere in the mix. To insist otherwise is willfully to exclude the evidence of one’s senses.
The latter is by no means an exclusive proclivity of ideologues on the Right or the Left, to be sure. But I have noted with dismay that the comments I have read on the Right do factor in his mental illness (even if they discount any exculpatory value it may have to the matter at hand), while their counterparts on the Left have widely been characterized by a deafening silence on the matter of Hasan's religion...except to note that it may spur the widespread anti-Muslim backlash which even 9/11 conspicuously failed to bring about.
Events such as these serve to underscore that we live in times in which bias and bigotry and willful blindness can both speed the bullets with more or less equally devastating effect.