Nidal Hasan Should Not Have Been Sentenced To Death

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Merciful Beloved Lord

Make no mistake about it: Nidal Hassan, the Army psychiatrist convicted of murdering his fellow soldiers at Ft. Hood, deserves to be put to death.

Justice demands nothing less. Moreover, his verdict is wholly consistent with Islamic law.

Yet, he should have not received the death penalty for his heinous crime. He should have been sentenced to life in prison, so he could rot in a jail cell like the pathetic, lowly criminal that he is.

Being opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is his right as a human being and a citizen. Whatever his reasoning - agree or disagree - if he is morally opposed to serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, he has that right. Yet, unlike Muhammad Ali, who was courageous enough to go to jail for his conscientious objection to the Vietnam War, Hasan took the coward's way out: he killed fellow unarmed soldiers in cold blood.

Nidal Hasan could have conscientiously objected; he could have chosen not to enlist in the Army in the first place; he could have made many other choices. But, he didn't. Thinking he was somehow serving his faith, which he was not, he opened fire on unarmed fellow countrymen.


Now, he wants to die a martyr, or so he thinks, and the jury gave him this hope by sentencing him to death. Indeed, his sentence is under appeal (which could take years), and the military has not executed an active duty solider since 1961. Still, it was clear that he wanted the death penalty, and I had wished that the jury did not give him his wish.

This is completely leaving aside Hendrik Hertzberg's cogent argument that Nidal Hasan's death penalty further sends a stark message:

One member of the U.S. Army is an apple-pie American (white, Catholic, high-school football captain, Ohio State student, married father of two) with a slightly shady past (he was implicated in a financial-fraud case when he worked as a broker, before joining the Army, in 2001). He kills sixteen unarmed Afghani Muslim civilians, including four women and nine children. He gets life.

The other member of the U.S. Army is a Muslim, the eldest son of Palestinian immigrants, a medical doctor, an Army officer, unmarried. He kills thirteen uniformed American soldiers, unarmed. He gets death.

Still, even though I do not believe - if he is eventually executed - that he would be a martyr for his faith, the jury should not even have given him the inkling of a possibility that this could happen to him. No. They should have let him sit and contemplate over what he did for the rest of his natural life in a prison cell, which is where he belongs.

American citizens of the Muslim faith - just like any other citizen - have every right to oppose the policies of their government. They have every right to object to military action in any part of the world. But they neither have the right, nor the religious justification, to kill fellow human beings to express this opposition. If he is executed, Nidal Hasan will not die a martyr. He will die a ruthless, cold-blooded murderer. No more, no less.

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