Did the Ft. Hood Killer Go Postal or Go Terrorist?

If the alleged shooter acted out of personal anger, the tragedy may be more Columbine than jihad. No one should make any assumptions until all the facts are out.

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On Thursday afternoon, Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly drew his handgun inside a processing center at Ft. Hood, Texas, cried “Allahu Akhbar” and began firing. By the time the rampage was ended by a civilian police officer named Sgt. Kimberly D. Munley, Hasan allegedly killed 13 people and injured dozens of others.

Since the shooting, a number of Hasan’s acquaintances have come forward with stories about how the major reportedly had expressed opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and gave a presentation in an environmental health seminar titled “Why the War on Terror Is a War on Islam.” Hasan reportedly logged onto a radical Islamist Web sites to express sympathy with suicide bombers and may have attended the same mosque as several of the 9/11 hijackers when a radical Imam, Anwar al Awlaki, was preaching there. Awlaki has since praised Hasan on his personal Web site, saying, “How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done?”

Given all these factors, who could possibly question whether the Ft. Hood shootings were an act of religious terrorism?

Investigators, apparently. The New York Times reported on Sunday that officials looking into the case believed “Hasan acted out under a welter of emotional, ideological and religious pressures.” Whether Hasan acted on his own, or at the behest of outside terrorist groups or figures has yet to be determined.

It is too early then, to come to a definitive conclusion about whether or not the Ft. Hood shootings were an act of terrorism—which is why investigators haven’t. Ultimately, that determination will hinge on whether Hasan was acting with a political or religious objective in mind—or whether he used Islam as a pretext to justify the murders he allegedly committed because he was a lonely, deranged outsider who wanted to avoid deployment to Afghanistan. According to the New York Times, Hasan was called a “camel jockey” and felt persecuted by other servicemen for being of Arab descent.

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