NPR logo What Does It Means To Be Politically Correct?

Crime & Punishment

What Does It Means To Be Politically Correct?

Obviously that term is a moving target ... it's often used as an epithet ... something we say to people who we think are suppressing necessary truth for fear of offending. That would mean OUR truth, whatever OUR truth is. Often, let's face it, it's another way of bullying by people who resent having to watch their P's and Q's in a way they did not have to in the past. "Oh, you mean I don't get to call you the N word, the B word, the W word, or the F word? You're being politically correct."

Having said that...let's assume there are times when truth is being shut down and suppressed, when necessary truths are unspoken, because of fear of giving offense. The question we want to ask is: was the Fort Hood shooting one of those times? Did fear of causing offense keep Maj. Nidal Hasan's colleagues and associates—in the military and at the mosque—from telling the truth about him out loud?

We wanted to know, so we talked to two reporters who cover the military closely for their take on these important issues. AND we talked about the converse in the Muslim community. Did people there not discuss Hasan's growing anti American radicalism —and perhaps his growing mental instability— for fear of causing offense within that community? We asked Asra Nomani, who has written widely about gender and other contemporary issues in Islam, for her take. And we called Imam Johari Abdul Malik, who is director of outreach at a mosque formerly visited by Maj. Hasan. He has denounced the shootings, but what about BEFORE? Would he call out elements in the mosque who express bigotry toward others?

The conversation was so intense, our guests literally took it out outside. Asra and the Imam are right now —as I am writing this— talking in our cafeteria upstairs. I hope they blog about it

Separately...there's the issue of the name. If you are a very careful listener — and many of you are — you may have noticed that we changed the pronunciation of Maj. Hasan's last name. Initially we were pronouncing it as HAH-sahn. That's because Nidal Hasan's counsin, Nader, pronounced it that way in a TV interview. Then, a PR person working for the family pronounced it HASS-ahn, like HASSLE, so we went that way.

It later emerged that there's an interesting story behind this; we were informed that some members of the family thought that second version was a more "Americanized" pronunciation.

Now word comes from NPR's Daniel Zwerdling, who has been reporting about Hasan's time at Walter Reed Army Hospital, that Hasan made it clear to his colleagues that hah-SAHN was the preferred pronunciation, and —as Danny's source told him— "he wasn't the kind of guy to let you mispronounce his name." So that is how we are proceeding now.

For those of you who wonder why we care? Well, it's our job. As for the names of those whom Hasan allegedly murdered, sadly, somberly, we heard them all spoken during the memorial service Tuesday.

Our thoughts are with them and their families.