Fort Hood, Tex. There was the classroom presentation that justified suicide bombings. Comments to colleagues about a climate of persecution faced by Muslims in the military. Conversations with a mosque leader that became incoherent.
As a student, some who knew Nidal Malik Hasan said they saw signs the Army psychiatrist — who authorities say went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood that left 13 dead and 29 others wounded — had no place in the military. After arriving at Fort Hood, he was conflicted about what to tell fellow Muslim soldiers about the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, alarming an Islamic community leader from whom he sought counsel.
“I told him, ‘There’s something wrong with you,’” Osman Danquah, co-founder of the Islamic Community of Greater Killeen, said Saturday. “I didn’t get the feeling he was talking for himself, but something just didn’t seem right.”
Danquah assumed the military’s chain of command knew about Hasan’s doubts, which had been known for more than a year to classmates in a graduate military medical program. His fellow students complained to the faculty about Hasan’s “anti-American propaganda,” but said a fear of appearing discriminatory against a Muslim student kept officers from filing a formal written complaint.
“The system is not doing what it’s supposed to do,” said Dr. Val Finnell, who studied with Hasan from 2007 to 2008 in the master’s program in public health at the military’s Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
Military criminal investigators continued Saturday to refer to Hasan as the only suspect in the shootings, declining to say when charges would be filed.
But Hasan’s family described a man incapable of the attack, calling him a devoted doctor and devout Muslim who showed no signs that he might lash out with violence.
“I’ve known my brother Nidal to be a peaceful, loving and compassionate person who has shown great interest in the medical field and in helping others,” said his brother, Eyad Hasan, of Sterling, Va., in a statement. “He has never committed an act of violence and was always known to be a good, law-abiding citizen.”
‘Not surprised he did it’
Still, in the days since authorities believe Hasan fired more than 100 rounds in a soldier processing center at Fort Hood in the worst mass shooting on a military facility in the U.S., a picture has emerged of a man who was forcefully opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was trying to get out of his late November deployment to Afghanistan and had struggled professionally in his work as an Army psychiatrist.
“He told (them) that as a Muslim committed to his prayers he was discriminated against and not treated as is fitting for an officer and American,” said Mohammed Malik Hasan, 24, a cousin, told the AP from his home on the outskirts of the Palestinian city of Ramallah. “He hired a lawyer to get him a discharge.”
Twice this summer, Danquah said, Hasan asked him what to tell soldiers who expressed misgivings about fighting fellow Muslims. The retired Army first sergeant and Gulf War veteran said he reminded Hasan that these soldiers had volunteered to fight, and that Muslims were fighting against one another in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories.
“But what if a person gets in and feels that it’s just not right?” Danquah recalled Hasan asking him.
“I’d give him my response. It didn’t seem settled, you know. It didn’t seem to satisfy,” he said. “It would be like a person playing the devil’s advocate. ... I said, ‘Look. I’m not impressed by you.”’
Danquah said he was so disturbed by Hasan’s persistent questioning that he recommended the mosque reject Hasan’s request to become a lay Muslim leader at Fort Hood. But he never saw a need to tell anyone at the sprawling Army post about the talks, because Hasan never expressed anger toward the Army or indicated any plans for violence.
Finnell said he did just that during a year of study in which Hasan made a presentation “that justified suicide bombing” and spewed “anti-American propaganda” as he argued the war on terror was “a war against Islam.” Finnell said he and at least one other student complained about Hasan, surprised that someone with “this type of vile ideology” would be allowed to wear an officer’s uniform.
But Finnell said no one filed a formal, written complaint about Hasan’s comments out of fear of appearing discriminatory.
“In retrospect, I’m not surprised he did it,” Finnell said. “I had real questions about what his priorities were, what his beliefs were.”