She saw them coming, but told herself the fear was an irrational one. As she and her husband stepped into the SUV, the two black men rushed the vehicle, pulling handguns from their pockets, and stole the vehicle. Later that night, her husband tried to calm her, but to no avail.
“- And it’s my fault, because I knew it was going to happen,” she screamed. “But if a white person sees two black men walking toward her and she turns and walks the other way, she’s a racist, right? Well, I got scared, and I didn’t say anything, and 10 seconds later, I had a gun in my face.”
This scene from the 2004 film Crash illustrates a cultural tension that surfaced most recently in reactions to the Fort Hood shooting. This tension can easily stifle discussion in an environment where political correctness is in vogue.
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, licensed psychiatrist, was practicing at Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood on Thursday when he went on a shooting rampage, killing 13 and wounding at least 30, according to www.cnn.com. On Friday, President Barack Obama cautioned the nation against “jumping to conclusions.” Caution, however, should not preempt honest questioning.
Government agencies and military leaders have only begun to piece together a profile of Hasan, and even a thorough profile might not conclusively reveal a motive. But Hasan, according to widespread reports, was vocal about his allegiance to the Muslim faith and strongly opposed U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If Islam continues to grow in popularity and influence, not just in the U.S. but across the world, non-Muslim Americans will face the difficult task of protecting themselves from extremists like Hasan, while upholding the right of all citizens to impartial freedom.
The U.S. has declared a war on terror. Former President George W. Bush and President Obama have stated the war is not against Islam but against extremism that promotes acts of terror and destruction.
It is not the fault of peaceful Muslims that violent radicals have killed thousands in the name of Allah. We must resist the impulse to fear an individual simply because he practices Islam. If other signs point to danger or abnormality, take one more objective look at the situation before taking action or making accusations.
Nevertheless, a red flag is a red flag. We cannot function as though extremists will broadcast their deadly intentions before following through on them. Fear of the unknown is powerful, and seemingly arbitrary attacks are scary. Authorities should be free to address security threats without facing accusations of racism or ethnocentrism.
To say Hasan acted violently because of his beliefs is not an inherently bigoted statement. To say all Muslims will act in the same way because of their religion, is. It is the responsibility of every citizen to recognize the difference.
In moments of conflict, we cannot act as though violence is never religiously motivated. We should, however, be slow to judge – after all, that’s our religion.