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.