The horrific and tragic event of yesterday, Thursday, November 5, carried out by Major Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood in Texas - the largest base on American soil - brings to light questions concerning the possible rise of domestic terrorism in America. This I consider to be the major issue facing us regarding our future cultural, social, and political prosperity.
Allow me to preface my thoughts by stating that I am not concluding that Major Hasan is connected to a terrorist network; nor am I assuming or identifying the Mental Health Counselor as a terrorist. Doing such would not only harm my perspective and arguement but also jolt the understanding of the state of Muslims in America (i.e. False logic concludes that every Muslim is a terrorist). Simply stated, Major Hasan is a deeply troubled man - to say the least - who we now know is motivated by religious beliefs that are connected simultaneously to a) personal religious apprehensions and b) professional political objectives.
Major Hasan's religious solidarity with his Muslim brothers and sisters, which became increasingly apparent as his deployment neared, caused him to believe that he could not fight against his religious kin. Furthermore, and most indicative of his struggle, was his inability to differenciate between Muslim brothers and sisters who are fair-minded citiznes as opposed to ideological-minded terrorists. Major Hasan's actions raise the main question we must now ask ourselves: How do intelligence/counter-terrorism professionals, whether they be analysts or operatives, identify progressive religious practices in order to target potential or actual domestic terrorists? In order words, as I present in the title: How do we quantify religious practices which are thought to be justified by quality so that we can prevent or counter terrorist activity on American soil?
This is a daunting question that me and my academic colleagues have continued to ask, and it is one that is not welcomed in many circles. I offer this practical response: The Prophet Muhammad, in following the voice of Allah, wore his garb in a particular fashion, styled his hair in a specified manner and carried a comb, trimmed his beard to a certain length, wore sandals and often walked with a stick. All of this we know or are aware of in experiencing Muslim culture - and regional Arabs for that matter - while conducting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan (although each is different in its own right).
Most important to our discussion here is the information the case of Major Hasan presents. It has yet to be confirmed whether or not he was born and raised a Muslim or whether he converted to Islam, but what is apparent now is that at some point he broke with the traditional and actual meaning of Islam itself. It is this, I believe, that we can procedurally begin to identify when analyzing the religious and social practices of persons; i.e. Hasan spoke of progressive issues facing American combat operations and Muslims.
Of course, these do not conclude terrorist intention or activity nor do they connect him to a network by default. What these initial clues do conclude is that his behavior, and therefore his motivation(s), became more progressive in time. It is a fact, as stated previously, that his failure to differentiate Muslims and their philosophies and activities shows to a certain extent the state of his mind and break from actuality. This is often the case with fundamentalist Muslims, whether they be Taliban, AQ, etc. Also, it is a fact that professionals missed the cues of Hasan's behavior.
I do not want intelligence/counter-terrorism professionals to continue to miss/overlook progressive tendencies which showcase the forthcoming of destructive activity. The initial steps I propose, then, include consistent surveillence of growing progressive Muslims in America and also the same type of surveillance of growing progressive religious persons in general in America (i.e. Leaders such as Jim Jones who proclaim to be the Second Coming of Christ). Furthermore, it includes building a dynamic and trusting relationship with small communities who can identify on a ground-level such behavior. This can be maintained by organizational communication strategies between local, state, and federal agencies (i.e. COMPSTAT instituted by then-NYPD Commissioner Bratton).
Lastly, it relies on knowledge of religious practices. This is not easy, and is the most unstable but also most promising aspect of the plan drafting. In order for it to be successful, a system of education must be implemented to keep persons informed about the practices of Muslims as well as religious groups. This would enable citizens and leaders alike to identify and differentiate common and progressive practices and prepare them to measure religious activities in quantifiable terms. This is a task which we must engage in both personally and professionally.
The social implications of this plan need to be addressed in order for it to proceed to a second phase. Firstly, the common presumption that Muslims or religious persons and their practices will be profiled must be overcome. I offer this as one point of commentary, but welcome any questions and clarifications in discussion.