Despite reports that Hasan had shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he opened fire, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews insisted that “we may never know if religion was a factor at Ft. Hood.” Thursday night, NBC and CBS refrained from even reporting the man’s name. Meanwhile, ABC’s Martha Raddatz’s reporting on the subject reflected a yearning for denial: “As for the suspect, Nadal Hasan, as one officer’s wife told me, ‘I wish his name was Smith.’ ”
We have a real problem when much of the political and journalistic establishment is eager to jump to the conclusion that peaceful political opponents are in league with violent extremists, but is terrified to consider the possibility that violent extremists really are violent extremists if doing so means calling attention to the fact that they are Muslims.
I am more sympathetic toward this reluctance to state the truth of the matter than some of my colleagues on the right. There is a powerful case to be made that Islamic extremism is not some fringe phenomena but part of the mainstream of Islamic life around the world. And yet, to work from that assumption might make the assumption all the more self-fulfilling. If we act as if “Islam is the problem,” as some say, we will guarantee that Islam will become the problem. But outright denial, like we are seeing today, is surely not the beginning of wisdom either.