I was speaking yesterday in St. Louis on tensions between Muslims and the West, and I argued that Muslims in the U.S. tend to assimilate much more fully than in Europe. A short while later I heard about Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan at Ft. Hood. I felt horrified, angered and embarrassed.
Although I come from a Muslim background, I don't pretend to represent Islam, but I care deeply about Muslim family and friends who seek to balance their faith and their love for America. Ft. Hood mocks such attempts at balance.
Like with Columbine, it could take years to unpack the dynamics behind Ft. Hood. I won't even pretend to make sense of it yet.
But I have a suggestion for the Muslim-American community. Go beyond the routine condemnations. A few years back, my brother and I penned a piece criticizing xenophobia directed at Muslim-Americans, but we still made it a point to argue that Muslim advocacy organizations such as CAIR "should go further [than just condemning violence], perhaps by establishing philanthropies for communities and families hurt by extremists who have hijacked Islam."
Okay, Hasan may not be an extremist who has hijacked Islam. But hair-splitting distinctions are lost on grieving Americans right now. I wrote a positive piece years ago about CAIR's attempts to champion moderate Islam, and I do roll my eyes at the right-wing propaganda that claim groups such as CAIR are fronts for extremists--but I wish these groups were more interested in productive engagement than in getting jumpy about every possible sign of profiling against burqa-clad Muslims on airplanes.
Deeds, not words. Maybe these groups can begin to put their money where their mouth is, by offering tangible support to families of the shooting victims. Some of those families may angrily reject such aid, because Hasan's act will aggravate latent xenophobia. But still, a steadfast and long-term commitment to such a healing approach represents the generous model of Muhammad at the height of his powers.
UPDATE: See http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,573285,00.html