Intellectuals are just as capable of error as anyone else but are adept at couching their arguments in the appropriate form, with such requisite qualifiers as "perhaps" and "may" and "might," so as to avoid staking out any controversial point too starkly. All of this I say by way of introducing Vanderbilt University senior Katherine Miller, who pensively ponders whether we are being unfair about the Fort Hood massacre:
How important is it that Nidal Malik Hasan is Muslim?Yadda, yadda, yadda. Does the quest for Final Wisdom really have to be so exhaustive? Hasan was a Muslim, who had defended suicide bombing and did not want to be deployed to Afghanistan in a war against fellow Muslims. He is reported to have shouted "Allahu Akbar!" during his rampage. And then there's this business about cutting the throats of infidels.
[Vanderbilt colleague] Mike [Warren] and I got into it a little bit . . . on the topic of labeling Hasan a Muslim terrorist. The latter noun requires motive, but since it was and is still unclear, we both agree terrorist is a dangerous description at this point in the case.
The term taken on the whole, Muslim terrorist, also evokes and prompted speculation about Muslim extremist terror cells and al-Qaeda. This is also problematic.
But back to the word Muslim: How critical is it?
Well, it depends on the motive for the shooting. A hypothetical: If Hasan were Jewish or Christian, would the religion have been notable? Well, no, unless he were a radical Zionist or a fundamentalist Christian. Even these distinctions, however, still hinge on some related or external motive (Iran, abortion, whatever). . . .
However much weight we give to other motivating factors, it doesn't seem a long-shot gamble to say that Hasan's religion was a major factor in his crime which, by its very nature, constituted an act of terrorism.
This does not mean that every Muslim shares Hasan's murderous rage. Obviously, most do not, or else such events would be commonplace. Given the more general problem of Islamic terror, however, the hunt for some other explanation here is one of those quests that run afoul of Occam's Razor. Sometimes the simple, obvious explanation is also the true explanation.
Do not succumb, Miss Miller, to the politically correct fear that identifying a Muslim terrorist as a Muslim terrorist will produce a "backlash" of bigotry.
Such backlashes do happen, of course. I recall a particularly obnoxious incident after 9/11 in which some dimwit attacked a Sikh. But dimwits are responsible for their own crimes, and I rather doubt they require prompting from political blogs to commit them. (Question: Do people that stupid actually read blogs?)
Also, Miss Miller, resist the temptation to strike a pose of earnest thoughtfulness: "On the one hand this, on the other hand that," as if the business of pondering alternatives were an end to itself. Be decisive, even if decisiveness occasionally means being wrong.