A picture making the news rounds of Major Hasan on the day of the shootings.

[Note: I have just published a commentary on a commentary in Forbes Magazine in which Major Nidal Hasan is said to have “gone postal” in his frenzy. This is published on Religion Dispatches. I excerpt the first couple of paragraphs here, but please go to the Religion Dispatches site, where you can post comments as well.]

If the media frenzy over the Fort Hood killings is any gauge, the ugly specter of 9/11 has again taken its psychological toll. This time, instead of the “bad Muslim” being a bearded terrorist called bin Laden, there is a US Army psychologist who was trained to be a healer of military personnel. He happens to have an Arabic ancestry and is Muslim.

Prominent American Muslim organizations issued statements right away condemning the murders. Debate in the media is now focused on his motivation. Was he a fifth-columnist wolf in military dress? Did his sympathies for innocent victims in our ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan overwhelm his common sense of decency? Should the FBI and security arms of the US military have pounced on him when they uncovered his initial links to a radical imam?

One result that I have noticed among those who study Islam, especially my Muslim colleagues, is a growing fault line over the dubious “good Muslim/bad Muslim” binary. As Mahmood Mamdani has eloquently argued, the choice is not between good and bad individuals or citizens, but about being Muslim. Major Hasan is a man who looked very much like a “good Muslim”: a military officer providing therapy to returning veterans. But, now, it seems that at some tipping point he became the “bad Muslim,” the kind who places mosque above state.

For the rest of this commentary, click here.

Daniel Martin Varisco