Headline: Rare virus endangers troops.

Another, presumably unrelated headline (my own summary)

Rogue Islamist shrink shoots fifty American soldiers on American Base.

The first story ( ) describes a biological pathogen.

The second story, the Fort Hood massacre, (,0,1269467.story ) describes a moral pathogen.

It seems beyond reasonable dispute that the Fort Hood shooter/murderer (Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan) was (1) a devout follower of Islam, (2) was not in sympathy with the American effort in Afghanistan. Other details are emerging.

Dr. Hasan was an educated man. It is almost axiomatic that most mental health professionals don’t become berserk mass murderers, particularly while serving in sensitive positions in American military facilities.

Karen Armstrong is one of my favorite writer-thinkers. She is a former nun who teaches and writes about religious issues from a profoundly ecumenical perspective. Armstrong wrote a sympathetic account of the Prophet Mohammed’s life (Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet — ) that I read recently. It was written post-911 with the obvious purpose of tamping down some of the hysteria surrounding militant Islam.

If there ever is to be an Islamic Reformation, books like Armstrong’s will be a good starting point.

There are pockets of enlightened, peaceful Islamic scholarship and teaching, most of which are taking place in safe havens in the tolerant West. All those sparks of tolerance acknowledged, there still is no Islamic Reformation.

After the death of Mohammed in the 7th century, there never again was a single Muslim Voice, no Muslim Pope, no Muslim Martin Luther, no one to lead the faith out of its pre-medieval fundamentalism. The religion remains multi-focal and widely distributed – much like software tied to a common operating system, in this case the Qu’ran. The software metaphor is useful because, like all distributed belief systems, Islam is subject to anti-moral viruses.

An anti-moral virus is an actively malevolent set of ideas, capable of being carried by an ideology or other widespread belief system, much as living organisms carry infections.

I believe that the Islamist virus stems from a siege mentality, a deep sense of grievance and of being under attack from a decadent, profoundly immoral culture. We know that the virus is deadly because of its fruits. One cannot look at the carnage of 911 or the recent incident at Fort Hood without horror and revulsion. Surely, we think, this cannot be sanctioned by a truly moral deity, the ruler of the Universe, the Father of the Abrahamic faiths.

An anti-moral virus attaches itself to selected precepts from the Islamist tradition (precepts that post-reformation Muslims will say were taken out of context, but for now stand alone as co-equal injunctions from God’s Prophet). Among these precepts are the classification of Infidels as unclean, the religious approval for their forcible conversion to Islam (with a tradition of beheading the resistant-apostate) and the sanction for glorious, violent martyrdom in the cause. Caution: This is a functional analysis, not a critical theological one. My scholarly friends who are deeply familiar with Islam will quickly point out why a careful and enlightened reading of the Qu’ran does not support terrorism, the slaughter of innocents, and so on. But Dr. Hasan was an intelligent, well educated man and there has, as yet, been no Islamic Reformation. The anti-moral virus is active in the Muslim culture. I believe he was infected.

Who ELSE is infected? Just HOW do you tell? What measures are appropriate to quarantine or identify the possibly infected? Clearly, the US military can never again afford to place itself in the vulnerable position that was so blatantly revealed in Fort Hood. Before we jump on our politically correct, high horses, let’s take a moment to reflect on the practical side of this. We need to be able (especially in sensitive locations, time and situations) to make in-depth religious and ideological inquiries about men and women placed in trusted positions. And we need to be able to accomplish this feat without religious bigotry, but also without opportunistic sniping by the politically correct nannies.

Nothing truly important in this life is easy. Stay tuned…


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