Identity Of Alleged Ft. Hood Gunman Brings Muslim-Americans Anxiety

Host Michel Martin continues the conversation about the Ft. Hood shootings with Shahed Amanullah, who has been designated as the unofficial spokesperson for the Muslim community in the nearby Austin-Killeen area. Amanullah explains his initial reaction upon learning the alleged shooter, Maj. Nidal Hassan, is Muslim.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHEL MARTIN, Host:

And we continue our conversation about the events yesterday at Fort Hood. We're joined by Shahed Amanullah. He lives in Austin, Texas. That's about 60 miles south of Fort Hood, and he's the founder of the Muslim news and cultural Web site altmuslim.com. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

SHAHED AMANULLAH: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: How did you hear about what happened?

AMANULLAH: Well, I heard like a lot of people. I was just monitoring the news over the Internet yesterday and it was really, you know, quite a shock at first just, you know, the scale of what had happened. And then, of course, as every level of information started coming in, I just had this knot in my stomach. I mean, it's a betrayal on so many levels for myself and for the Muslim community at large. I mean it's a betrayal of America. It's a betrayal of duty to the armed services that had educated this person and taken him in. And quite frankly, it's an affront to God because when you take an oath to serve the country and to serve people, it's a religiously binding oath. And I think every Imam in the country would agree with that. And so, at every single level, it's such a betrayal and at some point you just have to kind of crumple to the ground and just, you know, say why.

MARTIN: When you heard that the alleged shooter was Nidal Hasan, first you heard his name, and then you heard that he is a Muslim-American, what was your reaction?

AMANULLAH: Well, you know, we've been through this many times as Muslims. And I'm kind of the same generation as him and, you know, also born and raised here. And so, you know, you try to distance yourself from the perpetrator and from the act. You wonder maybe they're a recent convert or maybe they're an immigrant who's been traumatized by something overseas.

But as details emerge, and they become more and more like you, you know, I mean, I can only say that the biggest feeling I have is simply anger. You know, so many of us are trying to do the right thing and fit in and to serve when we're called on but, you know, for someone to do this is - it just ruins things for everybody.

MARTIN: Have you been hearing from - obviously, as you're kind of at the center of things as the founder and editor of this Web site, so you're a conduit kind of for information for the Muslim community in the area. What are people saying about this?

AMANULLAH: Oh, the overwhelming feeling I'm hearing is anger. I mean, the Muslim community of Central Texas has many connections to both Fort Hood and the military. There are many members of the services who are in the community, who are feeling this personally, veterans and active duty personnel. And, you know, there's relationships, real relationships with that base and with people at that base.

And so, you know, the primary feeling I'm hearing is anger, not even fear for kind of what might happen to us as any sort of backlash. I'm hearing none of that now the way I did, say, after 9/11. Right now, it's primarily anger that this happened and really searching for ways that the Muslim community can help.

MARTIN: Have you heard, though - that was going to be my question and I wasn't sure what you're saying is, have you heard of any angry sentiments being directed at Muslims just sort of generally as kind of a response, as a kind of a knee-jerk response to this?

AMANULLAH: I have not yet. I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if there are any. But, you know, Central Texas is a great place for Muslims to live, and it's been a great community and very integrated into the surroundings. So, I haven't heard anything like that yet. I think most people will realize that, you know, the military is a very stressful environment, that incidents like this have happened in the past. This happens to have a different color and flavor based on the perpetrator. But I think people will realize that, take all the factors into consideration and hopefully we can all of kind of circle around it.

MARTIN: But does it make you fear that that there are those who will question the loyalty of Muslims in general after this? I mean, I'm reminded, you know, Timothy McVeigh, who perpetuated one of the worst mass killings in U.S. history is a former Army officer. And I don't, you know, recall Christians on the whole feeling that they needed to apologize for his behavior.

AMANULLAH: Right.

MARTIN: And yet this is, as you know, a different situation and I just wonder do you fear now - or do you feel that perhaps people are over this now that they've realized that individuals can act as individuals?

AMANULLAH: I hope so. But, you know, the people who are really feeling this the most are the Muslims who are in the military. And there's about 20,000 of them who are serving in the military and, you know, by my count, several dozen have already given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan and have given the ultimate sacrifice. And so, it's the people who I'm talking to who are either veterans or active duty personnel are really feeling this.

I mean, they don't want to feel like they're fighting on two fronts, you know, when they're performing their services in the military. And so, they are - if there is one thing I have to want to say to people that, you know, the members of the military deserve our support and particularly I think Muslim members of the military need us to circle back say, you know something, we've got your back and we know that you're with us.

MARTIN: And finally, what you are going to do in the next days ahead? I mean obviously, you know, you take these things minute by minute. Obviously, you're just reacting to things as they unfold. But what you envision your role in the next couple of sort of days and weeks as this situation sort of resolves or goes forward?

AMANULLAH: Well, we're going to be continuing to tell the story of how Muslims here in Texas are reacting. And right now, actually, we're coordinating with other leaders in Houston and Dallas as well to really find the best way that Muslims can help and offer our services in this time to the families of the victims. So, we're searching actively for ways that we can help.

MARTIN: Shahed Amanullah is a Muslim-American. He's living about 60 miles south of Fort Hood, where 13 are now reported dead after a shooting rampage there yesterday. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of altmuslim.com. It's a cultural Web site for the Muslims in the area and he's considered a local Muslim leader. Shahed, thank you so much for speaking with us.

AMANULLAH: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: Coming up, David Plouffe, he's a key campaign manager for Barack Obama. He joins us to tell us what happened behind the scenes on the campaign trail and we'll also hear about what's going to be the largest gathering of tribal leaders in the country's history that happened yesterday at the White House. We'll hear all about that.

Please stay with us in TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.