AN AMERICAN, who seems normal but is driven by religious fanaticism, picks up a gun and kills 29 unarmed, innocent people.
This was not U.S. Army Major NidalMalik Hasan, who killed 13. It was Baruch Goldstein, who killed Muslim worshippers in a West Bank mosque in 1994.
I have no trouble calling Goldstein a religious extremist and a Jewish terrorist. He was widely and loudly condemned by almost all American Jews and Israelis.
Why should anyone pause before calling Hasan a religious extremist and an Islamic terrorist? He was apparently animated by religious belief; his business card carried the acronym SOA, for Soldier of Allah.
Not Uncle Sam. Allah.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, America's largest Muslim civil-rights and advocacy group, denounced Hasan's alleged actions, but stopped short of calling him a "terrorist." In a brief interview Thursday, CAIR Executive Director Ibrahim Hooper told me that all the facts are not in.
I had follow-up questions, but Hooper begged off because of a heavy interview schedule.
In an interview Saturday, M. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, had no problem declaring Hasan's act "terrorism," which he called a symptom of the underlying cause, "political Islam."
The government has charged Hasan with 13 counts of premeditated murder, which means the government doesn't think he suddenly "snapped."
Jasser, a physician and U.S. Navy veteran who describes himself as a devout Muslim, believes that "Dr. Hasan slid down a slippery slope that took years."
We now hear there were red flares in Hasan's work history going off like bottle rockets, but were not reported, probably for fear of someone being labeled "Islamophobic."
If so, we've got to ditch the idea that American Muslims are such hothouse orchids that they wilt under cold scrutiny. Muslims must understand that if murderous plots are hatched in a mosque - as was the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center - then that mosque needs to be surveilled and worshippers might be persons of interest to law enforcement.
The government would swoop in like a falcon if white supremacists were meeting in a church to draw up attacks on blacks. We can't let legal astigmatism blind us to PWM - Plotting While Muslim.
At the Fort Hood memorial service, President Obama reminded America that this is a "time of war."
In a time of war, as we ask young men and women to die for America, we are entitled to ask questions of American Muslims without igniting a witch hunt. Questions are not accusations.
America has asked questions, and been answered, before.
In World War II, Japanese-Americans were wrongly rounded up and interned in camps. No one would dream of that for American Muslims.
Italian-Americans were sent to kill Italians, and they did. German-Americans were sent to kill Germans, and they did. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, composed mostly of Japanese-Americans, took horrific casualties and served with extraordinary valor. They were "Americans first."
Can we count on the same from the roughly 3,500 Muslims who serve in our military, not to mention civilians? Some of Hasan's colleagues quoted him as saying he was a "Muslim first and American second," the London Telegraph reported, with Time adding that Hasan held Islamic Shariah law above the Constitution he had sworn to defend.
AIFD's Jasser "absolutely" believes that Muslims must be "Americans first." The AIFD, which numbers only 1,300, believes in Western, secular democracy, the "separation of mosque and state," and opposes turning Islamic beliefs into political ideology.
American Muslims need a "national conversation," said Jasser, "an internal civil war of ideas within Islam."
I believe that the vast majority of American Muslims are loyal citizens, but no person or group should get a free pass.
If Islam, as we hear, has been hijacked by extremists, the logical people to rescue it are Muslims themselves. Muslims in the West, starting in America, have to stand up for democracy and be noisy about it, as Muslim author/activist Irshad Manji urges. We've seen mass rallies - in the West! - of Muslims denouncing democracy. Where are the pro-democracy Muslim rallies?
Author and former CBS correspondent Bernard Goldberg floated the idea of a Million Muslim March on Washington to reclaim their religion from the murderous extremists, here and abroad. The AIFD's Jasser applauds the idea, as do I.
American Muslims could use the march - a secular pilgrimage, really - to visibly wrench their religion from the terrorists' bloodstained hands.
If a loyal American Muslim asks, "Why should I have to do this?" my answer is easy: You don't have to. You should want to.