Army Pvt. Naser Jason Abdo faced his mother during a visit in a Texas jail last July.
Abdo had been arrested for plotting an attack on a restaurant in Killeen popular with soldiers from nearby Fort Hood. He would set off a bomb inside the restaurant, then shoot and kill as many survivors as possible as they scrambled out to safety.
His mother asked the obvious question. Why?
Jurors convicted Abdo for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder after hearing and seeing the answer on video.
“The reason is religion, Mom.”
He had to act in response to American military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. As a Muslim, he considered those affected by such actions to be family. “When bad things are happening,” he said, “you have to do something about it.”
His mother couldn’t comprehend her son’s logic, to which he explained, “it may seem crazy from the outside, but it’s not.”
Abdo’s reasoning echoes the justification offered by a series of attempted homegrown jihadists. If America is killing Muslims, the logic goes, Muslims must do whatever they can to stop it.
Abdo chose Fort Hood as a target because that’s where Army psychologist Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire a year earlier, killing 13 people. Hasan reportedly shouted “Allahu Akhbar” as he opened fire, and had built a disturbing record of justifying suicide bombings and endorsing other radical ideas during his time in the service.
Hasan had been in direct contact with American-born al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki before the attack. Abdo carried copies of al-Qaida’s English-language magazine, Inspire, which included articles from Awlaki invoking theology in urging Muslims in America to wage attacks at home.
“We as Muslims should seek the wealth of the disbelievers as a form of jihad in the path of Allah,” Awlaki wrote in one issue. “That would necessitate that we spend the money on the cause of jihad and not on ourselves.”
Despite the self-professed motives, Islamist advocates argue that radical religious interpretations should not be discussed in assessing terrorist plots by Muslims. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) even conspired with a political scientist in 2010 to gin up sales of the professor’s book, which claimed that religious extremism was a minimal factor in suicide bombings.
The group tries to pressure people out of discussing Islamic radicalism in general.
In the wake of Hasan’s Fort Hood shooting spree, CAIR national spokesman Ibrahim Hooper told a radio interviewer that Hasan’s religious beliefs shouldn’t be considered as a factor. “He could have just snapped from some kind of stress. The thing is when these things happen and the guy’s name is John Smith nobody says well what about his religious beliefs? But when it is a Muslim sounding name that automatically comes into it.”
A week after the massacre, when Hasan’s beliefs and contacts with Awlaki were well established, CAIR issued a press release arguing that those who did discuss religion were exploiting the tragedy to “promote hatred and intolerance.”
And military leaders have shied away from the issue, omitting any reference to it in a report on Hasan’s Fort Hood attack. That drew a strong rebuke last year in a report by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
“We are concerned that [Defense Department’s] failure to address violent Islamist extremism by its name signals to the bureaucracy as a whole that the subject is taboo,” the report said, “and raises the potential that DoD’s actions to confront radicalization to violent Islamist extremism will be inefficient and ineffective.”
It is just as odd to see the Obama administration take pains to avoid even uttering the phrase “radical Islam,” opting instead for a generic “violent extremism.” Continue reading