Fort Hood Shooting Stuns Hasan's West Bank Family

In the West Bank, Palestinian relatives of the alleged Fort Hood shooter are shocked and saddened by the mass killings in Texas. Born in Virginia, Nidal Malik Hasan made his first visit to the Palestinian territories a dozen years ago, and had been in touch with relatives in the town of El Bireh on numerous occasions since then.

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Palestinian relatives of the alleged Fort Hood shooter were shocked and saddened by the mass killings in Texas. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro tracked down relatives of the man, Major Nidal Hasan, in the Palestinian town, West Bank town of El-Bireh, and filed this report.

(Soundbite of TV broadcast)

Unidentified Man: (Unintelligible)

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mohammed Hasan(ph) watches, where pictures of his cousin Nidal flash by repeatedly on the screen. Mohammed first met his cousin in 1997, when Nidal made his only visit to the Palestinian territories. Mohammed remembers him as curious and excited to find out about his Palestinian roots.

Mr. MOHAMMED HASAN: (Through translator) He sat with us here in this house. He expressed how happy he was that he had graduated, that he was going to be joining the Army as a doctor. He spoke very fondly of his life in the United States.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mohammed's home in the suburb of El-Bireh is modest, middle class. A picture of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat hangs in one of the bedrooms. Mohammed says that Nidal was interested in Palestinian society but didn't talk about the more contentious issues.

Mr. HASAN: (Through translator) We never discussed politics. He was a very normal person. We never felt any strange impulses. He's a committed Muslim, he prays, he fasts, he is observant.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mohammed says Nidal's parents left the Palestinian territories for America in the 1950s. There are many other members of the extended family there too. Mohammed says many of them served in the U.S. military, so Nidal's career isn't unusual. Nidal's brother lives nearby in El-Bireh. A lawyer, he moved from America and married a Palestinian woman. Yesterday he was refusing to talk to the press. Mohammed says when he heard from relatives in America what Nidal had done, he immediately turned on the television.

Mr. HASAN: (Through translator) When I first saw the news, I was very sad because I thought my cousin had died. Then I saw the number of casualties and heard the details. I started thinking about the attack and about the victims.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mohammed says he knew Nidal had been anxious lately.

Mr. HASAN: (Through translator) I heard through the family a while back that he was being deployed and that he was unhappy about that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Family members told him that Nidal felt he had been mistreated.

Mr. HASAN: (Through translator) He was being treated as a Muslim by the Army, an Arab, not as an American. He felt he was discriminated against.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mohammed says that doesn't explain his cousin's rampage in Fort Hood.

Mr. HASAN: (Through translator) I fear there will be a backlash against Palestinians. But the thing I'm trying to understand is the motivation - why did he do this? This is totally out of character for Nidal. This is a very calm and quiet person. We are extremely surprised by what he's done. We are bewildered.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mohammed turns to the TV again as President Obama appears at a news conference to talk about the carnage his cousin unleashed.

Mr. HASAN: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mohammed says we as a family are very anxious to know, just like the people of the United States, why he did it.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News.

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