Ever since Major Nidal Malik Hasan killed over a dozen people two weeks ago, a lot of people have spent time investigating what prior evidence existed that would have pointed to Hasan’s status as a radical. Some of it, like the revelation of an FBI investigation into some postings he made on an Internet forum six months ago, his presentation of religious material at a seminar meant for medical lessons, his apparent attempted contact of Al-Qaeda, are all great and valid evidence.
Then there are some things passed as evidence but are really just scrapings from the bottom of the barrel. Things that are mentioned in order to make an ideological point, and perhaps to scare people.
The first one I noticed was on the day after the shootings. The AP had an article on the events leading up to the massacre, including Hasan shouting “Allahu Akbar!” (God is great) just before firing his gun. Scary, huh? Guess we better watch out for anybody saying that. They might pull a gun on..
Hey, wait a minute. Haven’t I seen that phrase somewhere before? Yes, I’m sure I have.
Oh, that’s right. The protesters of the Green Revolution in Iran have been shouting it night after night since the theocracy over there rigged the election last June. But that’s okay, because Iran is many thousands of miles away. Besides, it’s not like anybody of another religion would ever say anything like that, right? Of course, 250,000 results on Google says otherwise, but what do I know? Caveat: If someone actually is shouting the phrase, then you might cast a wary eye. I’m not going to deny history, and even a Christian shouting “God is great” might get some weird looks. But, if they’re just using it in normal conversation, or during a service, then you’re probably good.
The latest being pushed is that Hasan apparently signed his emails with “Praise Be to Allah.” Lets of course forget that “Praise God” and “Praise the Lord” are fairly ubiquitous among Christians. Is an email signature (presumably these reports are about his professional email signature) the right place for it? Maybe not. It is being passed off as a jihadist calling card by some, though a quick search shows it to be relatively common among the saner of Muslims. Besides the fact that the phrase’s grammar sucks, I see little to fear of the phrase in of itself.
Which of course means that we need to apply context to situations where these phrases are being used. If they are among other pieces of evidence that show a history of radicalism, then yeah, there’s probably something to worry about. Otherwise, get on with your day.