MENTALLY STABLE MURDERERS
From the Cyber Rav-- Rabbi Rafi Rank
Watching the media make excuses for the heinous actions of Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the army psychiatrist accused of murdering 13 fellow soldiers in Fort Hood, Texas, is reason enough to ask—what is going on? He has, for example, been called “a nut case,” thus exonerating him for crimes committed. Talk of the tremendous pressures combat soldiers presently endure would turn Hasan into a victim, not a perpetrator. And my favorite, Time magazine’s Joe Klein blamed Jewish extremists for suggesting that Hasan’s actions were connected to Islam. And there you have it—when all else fails, blame a Jew. It’s fast, it’s inexpensive, and sadly, for far too many, it’s plausible.
Now let’s think about this intelligently. Hasan’s e-mail exchanges with a radical imam have been confirmed. Multiple testimonies from Fort Hood describe his repeated shouts of Allahu Akbar—God is Great!—the preferred chilling cry of the faithful, at least those about to commit a suicide bombing or murder. And Daniel Zwerdling of National Public Radio reports on a particularly bizarre event. At Walter Read Hospital, Hasan apparently conducted a Grand Round—an academic lecture for medical students on some case history or new therapy—in which he discussed the Koran’s view of jihad or holy war. Hasan outlined the punishments for non-believers, including the horrors of hell, decapitation, and the ever popular pouring of hot oil down the throat. It apparently was not received well, and gave rise to suspicions: is this a psychiatrist or a terrorist?
A couple dynamics have crossed currents, moving America to its muddled judgment of Hasan. The first is the curse of political correctness. Because no one wants to offend Moslems, no one dare say that Hasan’s actions were connected to Islam. And yet, talk of jihad, the evils of America, the corruption of the western world, and the superiority of Islam is rife throughout the mosques internationally, including those in America. True—not every mosque or imam promote radicalized ideas. Sweeping generalizations are almost always false. But documented tendencies, proclivities, or biases are not. They are to be taken seriously, which leads me to the second pathetic dynamic, our understanding of religion itself, and whether a secularized media can in fact even understand a religion that is passionate beyond reason, and therefore dangerous in its ideology. To dismiss religious zealots as nut cases is to misunderstand the passion of a medieval religious phenomenon. Both Judaism and Christianity have undergone reformation in which ideologies of long standing have been subject to critical analysis and review, and therefore tempered if not totally altered. Islam has yet to undergo such reformation. No one helps Islam in the evolution it must endure by making excuses for it or its adherents who perpetrate criminal acts.
This week’s parashah, Toledot, ends with Jacob’s flight from home because his brother, Esau, wants to kill him. Esau is no nut case. Sane people commit crimes, and sometimes they commit them in the name of religion. We had better come to grips with this truth, before this truth has its grip on us.
This is Rafi Rank, the CyberRav, wishing you a Shabbat Shalom, and encouraging you to spread a little aural Torah around your Cyber community!