On Good Morning America this am, I watched as they aired a short segment probing an 18 year old friend named Duane Reasoner of Nidal Hasan, the alleged shooter at Fort Hood. There’s a sensational, almost exploitative quality to the coverage of this young man. He apparently was hanging out with Hasan and his Imam over regular dinners, discussing Islam, and was with Hasan the night before the murders.

Duane has said some crazy, extremist sounding stuff to Gavin Lee of the BBC (listen above) that leaving everyone a little concerned including:

Reasoner: “I’m not going to condemn him for what he did. I don’t know why he did it. I will not, absolutely not, condemn him for what he had done though. If he had done it for selfish reasons I still will not condemn him. He’s my brother in the end. I will never condemn him.”

Lee: “There might be a lot of people shocked to hear you say that.”

Reasoner: “Well, that’s the way it is. I don’t speak for the community here but me personally I will not condemn him.”

Lee: “What are your thoughts towards those that were victims in this?”

Reasoner: “They were, in the end, they were troops who were going to Afghanistan and Iraq to kill Muslims. I honestly have no pity for them. It’s just like the majority of the people that will hear this, after five or six minutes they’ll be shocked, after that they’ll forget about them and go on their day.”

Reasoner clearly should be interrogated to better understand what he knew about Hasan’s plans before the shootings occurred. We need to know how extensive Reasoner’s relationships with others who advocate or tolerate violence are. Yet I think it’s important to ensure that African-American Muslims do not generally come under suspicion nor discrimination due to one young man’s troubling, confused & just plain wrong rantings. Conservative bloggers and Muslim bashers including this person here are trying to link this guy to Obama:

Why are these Muslim invaders allowed to carry on freely in this country – protected by outreach, Obama, and PC mental illness.

which is also just completely wack.

Indigenous African-American Muslims comprise about 25% of American Muslims today and, prior to the surge in immigration over the past couple of decades, used to account for a larger percentage. They were often seen as a vocal & act minority within a minority with the most famous being Malcolm X & later Louis Farrakhan — men seen as alternative black leaders. Farrakhan, for example, was invited to the State of the Black World Conference last year in the wake of Obama’s election — it’s a diverse who’s who of African-American scholars, orators, church leaders and organizers including Rev. Al Sharpton; U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and dean of the Congressional Black Caucus; Susan Taylor, former editorial director of Essence magazine; Maulana Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa; economist Julianne Malveaux; hip hop pioneers Grandmaster Mele Mel and Kool Moe Dee; and poets Sonia Sanchez and Haki Madhubuti.

My own experience with Black Muslims has taught me that they are as patriotic as any American while expressing frustration at the inequalities and indignities African-Americans endure in this society. Their response generally speaking has not been violence at all but rather an emphasis on self-reliance with a somewhat self-segregationist bent. They seem willing to withdraw from what they see as a racist society and often endeavor to create safe, independent, economically sound, family-friendly enclaves rather than actively engaging in American society to push for change. Above all, their philosophy is non-violent and anti-crime while preserving the human right to self-defense if attacked.

Farrakhan has said some unwise, uncool things over the years and I disagree vehemently with his support for Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddafi, etc. yet there’s no question that his work on the Million Man March, black community safety and police brutality for example reflect more mainstream African-American viewpoints.

Duane stands apart from those types of Black Muslims that I’ve met and whose communities I’ve passed through. My hope is that the media focuses on this young man rather than extending his words to cover an entire religion and ethnic sub-culture. I’d advise the Nation of Islam and other African-American Muslim leaders to get on the good foot and issue a statement that condemns Reasoner. Now is the time to draw a bright line between Reasoner’s sick statements of support for Hasan’s terrible acts and the views of the majority of African-American Muslims who, I believe,  would not support a American Muslim soldier shooting his fellow unarmed soldiers on base.

I agree with TheGrio.com:

The military has historically been a great vehicle for integration and inclusion of diverse people regardless of religion, race, gender or economic status. Blacks have found a rite of passage in the military and have served honorably. Colin Powell rose to the highest rank there, but Powell was not a Muslim. Being Muslim is a likely barrier to advancement now.

There is no question regarding the competency of many African-American Muslims in the military, but there is a question of loyalty. Muslims in the military will now have to deal with the spillover of the recent massacre and the perceptions that fellow soldiers will have of them.

Robert Salaam served as a Marine in this country and illustrates his concerns at his blog The American Muslim, where he writes, “To have served this country honorably as many other Muslims in uniform have over the years, I don’t think there is a word to describe my heartache, pain, and sheer disgust I have concerning this madman and the actions he carried out. Even as I make extra prayers and give Dua, I know that my fellow non-Muslim Americans would love to see me leave my country. To go where I wonder…”

That is the question: Where would he go and where would others suggest he go? Our country consists of diverse faiths and ethnicities. We have to educate ourselves about radicalization and not think in terms of race or religion.

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