FORT HOOD, TX-
American flags are flying half staff across the nation, as the country mourns the 13 lost lives in the tragic shooting at Fort Hood military base in Texas.
The gunman, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a psychiatrist on the base who was about to be deployed to Afghanistan, opened fired inside a crowded medical processing center Nov. 5, 2009, leaving 13 people dead and another 30 wounded. Hasan is currently in the hospital and investigators are working to piece together what happened.
When military officials announced Hasan's name and identity, Muslim and Arab groups took immediate action, issuing statements strongly condemning the shooting and sending prayers and condolences for the victims' families.
"We condemn this heinous attack on fellow Americans that has taken the lives and injured so many ... and we categorically abhor and reject such senseless violence. [We] stand with fellow Americans in supporting and praying for the victims and their families," declared Islamic Networks Groups in a public statement.
While the details and motive behind the shooting are still unknown, Hasan's background and Muslim faith has become the focus of much of the media coverage. Fox News Host Shepard Smith said about the shooter while interviewing U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, "The name tells us a lot, does it not, senator?" Disturbing comments made by some readers on online news sites also reflected anti-Muslim sentiments and the belief that Hasan's faith led to his actions.
After experiencing the post-9/11 backlash against Muslims, leaders of Muslim organizations and mosques nationwide are stepping up security and warned fellow Muslims to be more alert. National Public Radio reported several Muslim organizations have received hate emails and calls in response to the shooting rampage, and a mosque in Irving, Texas, received a death threat.
President Barack Obama offered his condolences for the shooting victims and their families, and urged caution as the investigation into the shooting unfolds. "We don't know all the answers yet. I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we get all the facts," Obama said, speaking in the White House Rose Garden after being briefed by the FBI. "What we do know is that there are families, friends and an entire nation grieving right now for the valiant men and women who came under attack yesterday."
As the tragic story of Fort Hood consumes the talk at water coolers and dinner tables across the country, how can we refocus the conversation when anti-Muslim sentiments and stereotypes are expressed? What have we learned from the post 9/11 backlash against Muslims to guide us through this tragedy?