Cousin of Fort Hood Shooter Speaks Out Against Violent Extremism

PHOTO: ABCs Bob Woodruff interviews Nader Hasan, cousin of the Fort Hood shooter.
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Nearly two years after the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, Nader Hasan still does not know what drove his cousin, former Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, to commit the mass shooting at Fort Hood in Nov. 2009.

That day forever changed the families of the 13 killed, as well as his own.

"We lost our cousin to terrorists. Or at least terrorist rhetoric," Nader Hasan said. "We really don't know what happened. We're still trying to figure that out. It's still a process."

"I mean from the beginning, I think the shock, the pause -- you're just unable to believe," Nader Hasan said. "You still have to keep asking yourself and pinching yourself, is this really what happened?"

On a sunny afternoon on Nov. 5, 2009, Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist based at Fort Hood, opened fired on colleagues who were preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, with more than 100 shots fired in 10 minutes.

Nader Hasan said when he first heard of the shooting, he thought his cousin was a victim, only to learn later that he was the lone gunman.

"We had no idea he was the shooter until getting home and the news just started to play out," Nader Hasan said. "As I'm on the phone I'm staring at the TV and now seeing some of these images come up."

He said the man accused of killing 12 soldiers and one civilian that day does not resemble the cousin he grew up with in suburban Virginia, where they were born and raised in a close-knit extended family. Nader and Nidal's mothers were sisters, who both immigrated to the U.S. from the Middle East.

"I think more than anything, I was just talking to myself saying, wait, this can't be him," Hasan said. "He is the last person any of us would have thought. He was never violent ever. He wouldn't kill a bug in the house."

The rampage has left Hasan's family with questions about what changed Nidal Hasan into a killer.

"It's almost two years now since my cousin, I believe, was … stolen by some psychotic combination of whatever might have happened, but we lost him," Nader Hasan said. "The Nidal that we knew before Fort Hood is not the Nidal from Fort Hood forward."

"People would like to say it's terrorism. People would like to say it's just this Muslim," Nader Hasan said. "And I tell you, the worst thing he did was relate Islam to his act, his horrific act. I mean it's unthinkable."

Hasan's family has remained virtually silent since the days immediately following the shooting.

But now, Nader Hasan is coming forward to launch the Nawal Foundation, an organization named for his mother that he hopes can give voice to moderate Muslims, and be a force for greater action to oppose "any violence in the name of Islam," and to ensure a "patriotic commitment to the protection of America."

A new Pew Research Center poll released last week showed that nearly half of Muslim Americans do not believe Muslim leaders in the U.S. have done enough to speak out against Islamic extremists.

That sentiment, in part, is why Hasan's family has chosen to come forward to speak directly against violence and extremism, saying "the silence is deafening from the moderate voice."

"Our moderate voice needs to speak now," Hasan says. "No violence in the name of our religion ever."

'Perfect American Dream'

Nader Hasan said he and his cousin Nidal had a typical American upbringing in suburban Virginia, from birthday parties to playing sports to Santa at Christmas.

Nader and Nidal did not speak Arabic, and were not very religious growing up.

"Perfect American dream, growing up, being American, being a kid," Nader Hasan said.

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