Here is a very brief roundup of what people on the forums are saying about the Ft Hood massacre.
- Compared to the English-language jihadi forums, there is little discussion of the Ft. Hood attacks on the top-tier Arabic jihadi forums. When there is comment, it is driven by U.S. press reports.
- On Faloja, no one believes there are direct ties between the attacker and al-Qaida. It was either an individual act of conscience brought on by Muslim suffering or someone who had been ideologically influenced by AQ.
- Posters on Shumukh agree. If AQ were behind the attack, it would have been more spectacular. Other posters posit more individual attacks as American troops tire of the war.
- Anwar al-Awlaki, the cleric with whom Hasan had some contact, is not well known on the Arabic forums. For example, this reference to him relies on U.S. reporting and his English-language sermons. However, he is a very big deal in the English-language jihadisphere. Awlaki’s blog is part of the same cluster of blogs that includes Ignored Puzzle Pieces of Knowledge and Iskandari, whose author, Tarek Mehanna, was arrested by U.S. authorities several weeks ago.
While there may be no direct links between Hasan and Al-Qaida, the episode at Fort Hood does not negate the threat AQ poses. Hasan’s act of terrorism is a reflection of how Islamic fundamentalism propagated by AQ and the like can take root in individuals who have no direct contact with it. If anything, it is the small scale outbreaks like Hasan’s that are potentially most dangerous because they are so easy to go undetected.
Hasan might be an isolated case but there are small sects of Muslims within America and Britain that sympathize with Osama Bin Laden and demand that Shariah law be enacted. Are these cases symptomatic of a resilient AQ, not in terms of organizational reach, but in terms of ideology?
I’m not confusing religious piety with extremism. Look at Anjem Chaudary for instance, do you consider him pious? He inspires a sizable following in the UK, all it takes is for some or even one of his followers to plan an attack for it to go undetected. I’m not arguing that every fundamentalist has concrete links to AQ; I’m saying that we should not downplay such influences.
And believe it or not, I’m hardly an Islamophobe. I grew up in Singapore, a tiny island country right smack in the middle of two Muslim countries, Malaysia and Indonesia. I grew up with Muslim friends and I know some people who study in Madrassahs. I’ve spoken with many of them about their faith, and trust me, I can differentiate religious piety from extremism. Piety is when my friends follow the Ramadan, abstains from alcohol and pork, and go on the Haj BECAUSE he believes the Qu’ran and wants to consecrate himself for God. I respect that totally. Extremism is when a group of people calling themselves Muslims tries to blow up a train station near an army base just two blocks from where I live. (This really happened, but the terrorist cell was caught).
All I can say is WELL SAID!