Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tunku Varadarajan

Did I Write That?

Judith Miller and David Samuels write in the Los Angeles Times:

While no one explicitly suggested that Hasan’s alleged response was commensurate with the insults he suffered, the subtext of the coverage was that he was simply another traumatized victim of America’s wars — and that his alleged actions should prompt us to offer a collective mea culpa.

That’s absolutely ridiculous. But in taking aim at the evasive psycho-babble that dominated early news accounts, the right has engaged in an equally dangerous bias that conflates Hasan’s radicalism with the religious beliefs of mainstream Muslims. In their narrative, any Muslim might suddenly “snap,” as Hasan apparently did, and reveal himself to be the enemy within.

Attacking what she called “head-scratching and obfuscation,” Jennifer Rubin argued on Commentary’s website that the fear of appearing “anti-Muslim” had led the Army and the American media to ignore “the role of Maj. Hasan’s Muslim beliefs” in the Ft. Hood massacre.

Even the sophisticated analyst Tunku Varadarajan of Forbes.com observed that “Muslims may be more extreme because their religion is founded on bellicose conquest, a contempt for infidels and an obligation for piety that is more extensive than in other schemes.” He also coined the phrase “going Muslim” — a play on “going postal” that even he found disconcerting — to describe the orgy of violence in which Hasan allegedly engaged. Adding sensibly that not all Muslims might be so inclined, Rubin and Varadarajan left it to more primitive commentators to draw the inevitable conclusion that all Muslims in the U.S. military should be viewed as potential traitors.

I contacted Ms. Miller to point out that the column distorts — badly so — what I have written. Am I really among those who contend that “any Muslim might suddenly ‘snap,’ as Hasan apparently did, and reveal himself to be the enemy within”? Why no. In fact, as I pointed out to the authors of that line that my posts say the very opposite. In fact, I wrote here:

To be clear: it is the ultimate red herring, a straw man of gargantuan proportions, to suggest that those pointing to Hasan’s motives and announced intentions (“I am going to do good work for God“) are suggesting that Muslim soldiers as a group are untrustworthy or suspect. No, there is no “backlash” in the works. What there is, and what elite opinion makers should recognize before the public’s fury builds, is that ignoring signs of  Islamic-fundamentalist-inspired animus toward America will get people killed. It has. And it will again unless and until we stop tip-toeing around the obvious link between a murderous ideology and murder.

And here I wrote:

It is the diversity obsession and the give-no-offense mentality that, we fear, allowed Hasan to avoid a stringent inquiry. I suppose Robinson can satisfy himself and those like-minded, squeamish souls who can’t bear to think they’re trampling on the sensibilities of anyone. But let’s be clear: the Army didn’t fail the “Muslim community”; it failed 43 wounded or slain people and their families. And to prevent it from happening again, we need to get over the diversity fetish (which imagines that Americans are too dumb to distinguish between nonviolent Muslims and those who’ve adopted a murderous ideology) and get on with the business of fighting a war against those who want many, many more Fort Hoods.

In short, I did not “leave it to more primitive commentators to draw the inevitable conclusion that all Muslims in the U.S. military should be viewed as potential traitors.” I have written to dispute that conclusion and have criticized those who would deploy the red-herring argument.

The irony is not lost on me: if you are going to criticize others for employing imprecise or inflammatory analysis, it is best to be accurate yourself. The authors were unmoved by actual citations from my work — why let what I’ve actually written get in the way of a good LA Times column? — and appear disinclined to correct or amend their distortions. So be it.

Judith Miller and David Samuels write in the Los Angeles Times:

While no one explicitly suggested that Hasan’s alleged response was commensurate with the insults he suffered, the subtext of the coverage was that he was simply another traumatized victim of America’s wars — and that his alleged actions should prompt us to offer a collective mea culpa.

That’s absolutely ridiculous. But in taking aim at the evasive psycho-babble that dominated early news accounts, the right has engaged in an equally dangerous bias that conflates Hasan’s radicalism with the religious beliefs of mainstream Muslims. In their narrative, any Muslim might suddenly “snap,” as Hasan apparently did, and reveal himself to be the enemy within.

Attacking what she called “head-scratching and obfuscation,” Jennifer Rubin argued on Commentary’s website that the fear of appearing “anti-Muslim” had led the Army and the American media to ignore “the role of Maj. Hasan’s Muslim beliefs” in the Ft. Hood massacre.

Even the sophisticated analyst Tunku Varadarajan of Forbes.com observed that “Muslims may be more extreme because their religion is founded on bellicose conquest, a contempt for infidels and an obligation for piety that is more extensive than in other schemes.” He also coined the phrase “going Muslim” — a play on “going postal” that even he found disconcerting — to describe the orgy of violence in which Hasan allegedly engaged. Adding sensibly that not all Muslims might be so inclined, Rubin and Varadarajan left it to more primitive commentators to draw the inevitable conclusion that all Muslims in the U.S. military should be viewed as potential traitors.

I contacted Ms. Miller to point out that the column distorts — badly so — what I have written. Am I really among those who contend that “any Muslim might suddenly ‘snap,’ as Hasan apparently did, and reveal himself to be the enemy within”? Why no. In fact, as I pointed out to the authors of that line that my posts say the very opposite. In fact, I wrote here:

To be clear: it is the ultimate red herring, a straw man of gargantuan proportions, to suggest that those pointing to Hasan’s motives and announced intentions (“I am going to do good work for God“) are suggesting that Muslim soldiers as a group are untrustworthy or suspect. No, there is no “backlash” in the works. What there is, and what elite opinion makers should recognize before the public’s fury builds, is that ignoring signs of  Islamic-fundamentalist-inspired animus toward America will get people killed. It has. And it will again unless and until we stop tip-toeing around the obvious link between a murderous ideology and murder.

And here I wrote:

It is the diversity obsession and the give-no-offense mentality that, we fear, allowed Hasan to avoid a stringent inquiry. I suppose Robinson can satisfy himself and those like-minded, squeamish souls who can’t bear to think they’re trampling on the sensibilities of anyone. But let’s be clear: the Army didn’t fail the “Muslim community”; it failed 43 wounded or slain people and their families. And to prevent it from happening again, we need to get over the diversity fetish (which imagines that Americans are too dumb to distinguish between nonviolent Muslims and those who’ve adopted a murderous ideology) and get on with the business of fighting a war against those who want many, many more Fort Hoods.

In short, I did not “leave it to more primitive commentators to draw the inevitable conclusion that all Muslims in the U.S. military should be viewed as potential traitors.” I have written to dispute that conclusion and have criticized those who would deploy the red-herring argument.

The irony is not lost on me: if you are going to criticize others for employing imprecise or inflammatory analysis, it is best to be accurate yourself. The authors were unmoved by actual citations from my work — why let what I’ve actually written get in the way of a good LA Times column? — and appear disinclined to correct or amend their distortions. So be it.

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