What Triggered Major Hasan’s Massacre at Fort Hood?

How could Major Hasan have turned against his own colleagues in the army? Was this terrorism? A hate crime against non-Muslims? The act of a crazy man? All of the preceding? None of them? WHY did he do it?

These questions continue today, analyzed, brainstormed, and debated by a wide variety of people.

Chances are that Major Hasan’s actions were due to a combination of deep motives that enraged him. But the actual trigger for the violence is becoming more clear as the evidence comes out and we are allowed to analyze it for ourselves.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, for example, asks whether Major Hasan was motivated by sexual frustration. They note that he, like some of the 9/11 hijackers, went to strip clubs before his violent rampage. With this question, they begin to approach what triggered his rampage, but they don’t actually get it.

Essentially, Major Hasan has the same motivations as a homophobe who commits a hate crime against a gay person. In 1996, the Journal of Abnormal Psychology published a breakthrough study that showed, for the first time, that homophobic men have some level of homosexual arousal. This has been anecdotal for a long time … that homophobes are often motivated to commit violence against gay men because they, themselves, have same-sex attraction, but social factors repress their ability to express that attraction, so they, like all of us, try to construct a world around them that makes them feel more comfortable. The thinking goes that by eliminating the physical presence of gay people, homophobes A) do not have to be continuously reminded of what they themselves cannot have, and B) will not be tempted to step outside of their social “box” and explore behaviors they crave, but are deemed unacceptable and even sinful. Basically, if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind.

Similar motives likely come into play with Major Hasan. I believe that Major Hasan was frustrated by cultural behaviors allowed in western societies that did not fit in with his strict religious views. He experienced temptation around him, but felt guilty participating in it. (One thing I have come to realize is that some people deal with guilt through hostility. They don’t know how to cope with guilt so they resent whatever causes it rather than work through the issues themselves.)

This explanation also provides insight as to why Major Hasan would be in contact with militant Islamists who hate the USA … not because he was a pawn doing their bidding, but because they reinforced the restrictive socio-religious box in which he felt the need to live, and gave him the internal strength to resist the enticement to participate in what Hasan viewed as sinful, westernized behavior … behavior he nevertheless desired.

Why did Major Hasan go to strip clubs? Because he was horny and wanted to be with women, but since he couldn’t let himself do it, he turned on the society that constantly tempted him and made him feel guilty for exploring those urges. Major Hasan needs to repress and control his internal urges for sex and perhaps other “decadent” behavior more readily allowed in the west by directly confronting the external society that cultivated them (and also to confront the external society that he felt perpetuated these values and behaviors abroad). This is why he turned violent. It’s almost as if he had a temper tantrum on steroids because he couldn’t allow himself to have what he truly wanted — he just couldn’t give himself permission for it. That level of internal conflict between what he wanted to do, and what he felt he was supposed to do, was too much to bear so he snapped.

Undoubtedly there are some other factors that come into play, such as mental capacity, etc., which we will find out as more evidence is brought to light. However, I do feel certain that the immediate trigger for Major Hasan’s rampage was that he no longer could deal with his internal conflict between his strict Islamic values and the behaviors allowed by western society, so he turned against the society that he believed is responsible for creating the confusion and guilt — in this case, the USA.

This article was written by Matthew Rosenthal, PREVENT HATE’s president.


Much Needed Prescription: A Large Dose of Preventative Medicine

Prompted by bias, prejudice and misinformation, hate seems to be in evidence anywhere and everywhere we look; and, its pervasiveness is causing an epidemic of violence that seems to be growing in intensity day-by-day.

People, who disagree with one another, are screaming and yelling at one another; they have forsaken civility and are shouting obscenities while threatening to bodily harm each other.

Extremists – driven by rage – are acting out their anger, fear, frustration and suspicion; they are taking matters into their own hands and are wantonly snuffing out the lives of innocent victims on school campuses, in once quiet neighborhoods and even on supposedly secure military bases.

The by-product of all this is manifold: angst is running rampant; stereotyping is causing individuals and groups to pull away rather than to grow closer together; societal partnerships are in jeopardy; the roots of our democracy are rotting away because of the presence of a torrent of toxic words and actions.

What steps can we take to rid our communities of this hate-infested cancer before it is too late?

During my many years as a social justice activist, I have found that people who know one another – even those who have well defined disagreements – cannot and do not allow hostility to reign supreme; rather, they find ways to resolve those problems, which are soluble, and to live with those issues that have no lasting solutions.

Therefore, especially during these times, which are ripe with stress for a number of obvious reasons, each and all of us must invest time and energy to find the means to become familiar with those who are “strangers among us;” this can only happen when we exit our comfort zones, enter and sustain dialogues with folks with whom we have “differences,” and – together with them – help to build “communities” in which there are not just like-minded stakeholders.

A number of examples come to mind, but – for the sake of brevity – I want to share with you some of the direct benefits derived in the midst of our protracted Muslim-Jewish Dialogue in which a number of Los Angeles clergy and secular leaders have been participated through the years:

A. We have nurtured friendships that are unconditional.
B. We have found effective ways to avoid becoming entangled in Middle East- related crises.
C. We have learned from one another about each people’s belief systems and folk-ways.
D. We have drawn close to one another to offer solace during moments of torment and to celebrate high moments of human achievement.
E. We have focused on responding to local needs – whether or not they affect any or all of us.

In essence, when we are accustomed to talking candidly with someone, it is all but impossible for us to yell at that person – our knowledge about that individual, our shared experiences and our growing mutual respect become a safety net, which is impervious to all of the destructive and negative forces which would love to tear it to shreds.

Rabbi Freehling served for three decades as the Senior Rabbi of University Synagogue here in Los Angeles before serving for seven years as the Executive Director of the now defunct City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission;  his current assignment is Deputy Chief of Staff for Field Operations in the Sixth City Council District.

Human Trafficking Online Training Opportunity

 As a member of Rescue and Restore, PREVENT HATE is pleased to announce the following.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is hosting a series of free, online WebEx training sessions on a variety of topics related to human trafficking.  The training session on Thursday, November 19, will focus on “Leveraging Resources to Serve Victims of Human Trafficking” and address the following:

  • Engaging Non-Traditional Community Partners in Assisting Victims of Trafficking 
  • Leveraging Ethnic and Community Resources
  • Leveraging Federal Resources and Public Benefits to Maximize In-House Programs
  • Fostering Self-Sufficiency Among Clients


♦ Chancee Martorell, Executive Director of Thai Community Development Center, Los Angeles, California

In 1994, Mrs. Martorell founded the Thai Community Development Center in Los Angeles, California, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of Thai immigrants through services that promote cultural adjustment and economic self-sufficiency.  Mrs. Martorell is known most notably for her work on several major human rights cases in the past decade involving over 400 Thai labor trafficking victims in the United States and for her advocacy on behalf of the victims. 

How to Register:

To register for the Thursday, November 19th, 2:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) training session, please click on the link below (or place it into your Internet browser):


Space is limited to 150 participants on a first-come, first-served basis.  Multiple participants from an organization are encouraged to register one individual for the session; participants can view the training through one computer and a speaker phone. 

For those of you not familiar with WebEx trainings, all you need is access to a computer, the Internet, and your phone. 

After you register, the WebEx system will send you a confirmation e-mail with login information for both the web and the teleconference portions.  Please save the confirmation email because it includes the following information:

  • Toll-free phone number and participant passcode for the audio portion of the training session; and
  • Web site link and passcode (same as the phone passcode) so you can view the PowerPoint (ppt) presentation as it is being presented.  The ppt will advance automatically during the training session. 

As part of the WebEx session, you can ask the presenter questions.  Once on the call, the technician will guide you on how to ask questions orally.  The speaker will answer questions during the last 15 minutes of the presentation.