American Islamic groups braced themselves for a public backlash against the faith on Thursday after it was revealed that the alleged shooter in the Fort Hood massacre has a Muslim name.
Soon after Pentagon officials named one of the shooters at the Fort Hood facility as Nidal Malik Hasan, groups rallied to condemn an act President Barack Obama had earlier described as a “horrific outburst of violence.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim group in the country, appealed for calm in the wake of the killing spree that left 12 people dead and 31 wounded.
“We ask for calm in this situation, and we fear for a backlash against American Muslims in light of previous unfortunate incidents that were linked to Muslims,” Nihad Awad, the group’s executive director, told the Associated Press.
“Although the attacker has a Muslim name, that does not mean there is any religious justification for” his actions, Awad continued, adding that “any faith, any ideology is vulnerable to claims by some deranged individuals … for their irrational and criminal behavior.”
Awad said CAIR condemned the Thursday shooting “in the strongest possible terms,” and “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this attack, and our sincere condolences to the families of those who were killed.”
The debate over whether the alleged shooter was motivated by religion or ideology has already begun.
On Fox News Thursday evening, host Shepard Smith said that the alleged shooter’s name “tells us a lot” about the incident, though he did not elaborate. Notably, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) agreed with Smith’s assertion.
CAIR released a statement Thursday evening, in which it urged “American Muslims, and those who may be perceived to be Muslim, to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves, their families and their religious institutions from possible backlash.”
Qaseem Ali Uqdah, who was a Marine for 21 years before becoming the executive director at the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council, now fears a “witch hunt” like that which followed September 11, 2001.
“This is a criminal act and we have to treat it like a criminal act, not something to do with religion” he told Agence France-Presse.
For the estimated 3,500 Muslims in the US armed forces, Uqdah said there could be some fallout from the attack.
“What we don’t need is people downrange sitting in foxholes (in Afghanistan or Iraq) questioning if you are a Christian, if you are a Muslim or if you are a Jew … that is not what we need as a nation.
“We need to fight the war on terror together,” he added.
In a Pew survey published last September, 38 percent of respondents said that Islam encouraged violence more than other religions.
Fifty-eight percent said there was a lot of discrimination against Muslims in the United States.
— With Agence France-Presse
New Zealand tightens gun laws again after mosque attack
New Zealand announced plans for a national firearms register Monday in its second round of gun law reforms following the Christchurch mosque attacks which killed 51 Muslim worshippers.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said regulations around who could hold firearm licences would also be tightened to "stop weapons falling into the wrong hands".
Ardern said the March 15 killings, when a gunman opened fire at two Christchurch mosques as worshippers gathered for Friday prayers, had changed attitudes towards gun ownership in New Zealand.
"There is a new normal around firearms, it is a change of mindset," she told reporters.
Mascots and javelin carriers: Tokyo adds robots to Olympic roster
A roster of Olympic robots that will do everything from welcoming visitors to transporting javelins has been unveiled as Tokyo works to showcase Japanese technology at next year's Summer Games.
Japan hopes the 2020 Olympics will be a chance to put its tech sector back on the map after years in which the country's reputation as an industry leader has flagged.
Auto giant Toyota has a roster of five robots with different roles to play, from cutesy renditions of the Olympic mascots to a staid transport bot.
Final hours of voting in race to become British PM
The voting closes Monday in the contest to become Britain's next prime minister, with Boris Johnson expected to be confirmed as the winner charged with delivering Brexit.
After a month-long contest between former London mayor Johnson and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the postal votes of up to 160,000 grassroots Conservatives will decide the governing party's next leader.
The voting window slams shut at 5:00pm (1600 GMT).
The result will be announced on Tuesday, with the winner immediately becoming the new Conservative leader, the victor taking office as prime minister on Wednesday.