In a debate on Al-Jazeera TV, Georgetown University law professor Daoud Khairallah, American Family Institute director of issues analysis and radio program host Bryan Fisher, London-based Islamic researcher Kamal Al-Hilbawi, and former U.S. Marine Corps legal advisor Haytham Faraj discussed the November 5, 2009 Fort Hood shootings perpetrated by Maj. Nidal Hasan.
The following are excerpts from the debate, which aired December 1, 2009.
To view this dispatch on MEMRI TV, visit http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/2284.
Khairallah: "When White or Asian Americans Kill Other Citizens, It Is Described as a Tragedy – But When Americans Are Killed By U.S. Citizens of Middle Eastern Origin... It Is Described as Terrorism"
Interviewer: "With regard to the Fort Hood incident and how it relates to the Muslim Arabs – what is the extent of the problem, in your view?"
Daoud Khairallah: "I recall the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Michael [sic] Evans Hughes, who said: "You may think that the constitution is your security – it is nothing but a piece of paper. You may think that the statutes are your security – they are nothing but words in a book. You may think that the U.S. mechanism of government is your security – it is nothing at all, unless you have sound and uncorrupted U.S. public opinion." In my view, U.S. public opinion is mobilized against the Muslims and Arabs, due to a distortion process."
Interviewer: "When white or Asian Americans kill other citizens, it is described as a tragedy, but when Americans are killed by U.S. citizens of Middle Eastern origin, for example, it is described as terrorism. It can be argued that killing is killing, regardless of what Major Nidal Hasan said before he allegedly began his killing spree." [...]
Fisher: Hasan "Was Trying to Be a Good Muslim When He Climbed on the Table and Shouted 'Allah Akbar'; When Christians Do Something Similar, They Are Considered Bad Christians"
Bryan Fisher: "Killing is killing. The problem is that Major Hasan was motivated by strong Islamic beliefs. Allah asked him, through His Messenger, to kill the infidels, which applies to his colleagues in the U.S. Army. He was trying to be a good Muslim when he climbed on the table and shouted 'Allah Akbar.' When Christians do something similar, they are considered bad Christians, because Jesus commanded his followers to love their enemies. Allah commanded the followers of the Prophet Muhammad to kill the infidels, wherever they were to be found, and to chop off their heads. This is exactly what is said in the Koran."
Interviewer: "With regard to what Bryan Fisher just said about the difference between Christianity and Islam – among us Arabs there are, of course, Muslims and Christians, who share a very long history of brotherhood in the Middle East, despite all the problems we have seen recently, between Muslims and Christians in some parts of the Middle East.
"But with regard to what Bryan Fisher said... When the Apartheid regime of racial segregation – which was, by any standard, an evil regime – perpetrated [crimes] in the name of the Church, this did not cause the Christian faith to be considered an evil faith. When slaves were brought from Africa, and hundreds of thousands of them were killed in the name of Christianity, nobody said that Christianity was an evil faith. Why is it being said today, based on what Nidal Hasan did and what some other Muslims are doing, that the problem lies in Islam? How do you, in Europe, confront this problem?" [...]
Al-Hilbawi: "Bryan Must Understand That What Nidal Hasan Did Was An Individual Act, Out Of a Bad Understanding of Islam"
Kamal Al-Hilbawi: "Bryan should realize that Christianity came from the East, and is not an American or European product. Christianity comes from Palestine, from the Middle East, just like Islam. The other thing is that he said that Captain Major Nidal Hasan was commanded by Allah, via His Messenger, to do this. This is an erroneous understanding, because if this really had been commanded by Allah, through His Prophet Muhammad, all Muslims would be doing this.
"Bryan must understand that what Nidal Hasan did was an individual act, out of a bad understanding of Islam – if it really had anything to do with Islam – because Islam forbids the killing of any person, Muslim or non-Muslim. Therefore, it is said: 'Whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for spreading corruption in the land, it is as though he slayed all of mankind.'
"The West cannot boast to the Middle East about its Christianity, because Christianity came [from the East] with the prophet Jesus, and we believe in Jesus more than Christians do, and we believe in Moses as well."
Interviewer: "After what happened at Ford Hood, there is a real problem – the question of American citizens going to fight Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. How do you view the solution to this problem?"
Kamal Al-Hilbawi: "I view this problem as it was viewed by the U.S. citizen and sports champion, Muhammad Ali, who was called [Cassius] Clay. He was ordered to go to Vietnam, which is not [even] an Islamic state, but he considered the American war against Vietnam to be unjust, so he preferred going to prison over going to Vietnam. He did not act like Nidal Hasan, who killed his friends and colleagues in the military base where he served. This was pure individual behavior.
"Secondly, in Europe, perspectives change from one country to another, due to cultural differences, pluralism, and diversity. The situation in France differs from the situation in the U.S. In the U.S., [people] may have a complex about Islam and the Muslims, as a result of 9/11, and they did not place the New York September problem in its correct context." [...]
Faraj: "A White Christian American Carried Out the Same Act as Major Hasan"
Haytham Faraj: "I’d like to remind Bryan Fisher of an incident that happened this May. Sergeant Russell killed five or six members of the unit to which he belonged. A white Christian American carried out the same act as Major Hasan, although Major Hasan may have been more successful, because he was better armed. Sergeant Russell killed five or six [soldiers], yet nobody suggested that it was because of his Christian beliefs."
Interviewer: "You can find anything you want in the Koran, in the New Testament, or in any other holy book, according to your thinking. In the American South, when blacks were being murdered or hung from trees, in the name of Christianity, many Christians used to say they found justification for this in the New Testament."
Bryan Fisher: "And that made them bad Christians."
Al-Hilbawi: Bryan's "Interpretation is Full of Contradictions"
Interviewer: "Mr. Al-Hilbawi, what do you have to say about this reasoning?"
Kamal Al-Hilbawi (in English): "Also he’s a bad Muslim. He’s a bad Muslim. He's not a good Muslim."
Interviewer: "Say it in Arabic, please, Mr. Al-Hilbawi."
Kamal Al-Hilbawi: "I am telling Bryan that his interpretation is full of contradictions. If he goes to the New Testament, he will find that a Christian who kills his brother is considered a bad Christian. Why, then, when he goes to the Koran... The Koran is clear about this. It says: 'Fight in the cause of Allah against those who fight you, but transgress not. Surely, Allah loves not the transgressors.'"
Interviewer: "Bryan Fisher, you are selecting what you want from the Koran. It also says: 'Destroy not the life that Allah has made sacred, except by way of justice.' What do you think, Prof. Daoud Khairallah?"
Khairallah: "U.S. Public Opinion Has Been Subject to a Process of Distortion"Daoud Khairallah: "I started off by drawing attention to the fact that U.S. public opinion has been subject to a process of distortion. It is regrettable that Mr. Fisher is also involved in distortion. First of all, his knowledge of Islam is, at best, fragmentary. He considers himself qualified to interpret, but he does not take into consideration the hundreds of millions of Muslims, or the thousands of Muslims living in the U.S. and their conduct, or the thousands serving in the [U.S.] army. He took a single case, and presented it as an act inspired by the Prophet Muhammad, condoned by all the Muslims, and commanded by Islam."