When I came across this Associated Press story about the trial of a Muslim U.S. soldier accused of planning to bomb Fort Hood troops, I had to go back and check out our analysis of stories from when then the news first broke last year. It's instructive. In the breaking news, we looked at how the soldier, Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, was identified as well as how his religion was put in context with other aspects. For instance, he'd recently had his efforts to be given conscientious objector status held up because he'd been caught with child pornography.
Tmatt pointed out that while Abdo's allegiance to Islam was well known, we were given very little information about how that was practiced. Was he part of a particular strain of Islam? Did he have any religious guides? Where, if anywhere, did he worship? What were his personal pieties? Was he just a loner following his own brand of faith?
The Associated Press filed an update from his trial. And it's just an update from a wire service but caught my eye with the headline "GI says Muslim faith motive for Ft Hood bomb plot." Maybe we'll get some more answers to the questions from last year.
WACO, Texas — A Muslim U.S. soldier accused of planning to bomb Fort Hood troops says he wasn’t seeking vengeance but justice for people in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a recording played at his federal trial Wednesday.
Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo is heard telling his mother during a recorded jail visit that “their suffering is my suffering.” ...
Abdo is heard telling his mother that “it’s all true” and “the reason is religion. There is no other reason.” He says what he did was selfless because he was trying to avenge the United States’ wrongful treatment of people he considers his family, and that he used every resource he had “to make things as right as possible.”
“I’ll be all right,” he is heard saying. “I made this decision.”
From there it goes on to explain the case against Abdo, which includes a magazine article about making bombs that tells "my Muslim brother" that anyone can make a bomb without arousing suspicion. We learn how suspicion arose and more details about the allegations against Abdo.
But I must admit I'm disappointed to not learn more about Abdo, his religion or otherwise. This Telegraph story provides a few more details. Headlined "HIV positive soldier accused of military base plot wears surgical mask in trial," we're told that in a previous appearance, he bit his lip and spat at federal officers. We're told:
One witness said Abdo told him that the assault was intended to show support for Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim psychiatrist accused of killing 12 soldiers and a civilian in the 2009 shooting, which also wounded 32 others.
The FBI alleges Hasan had contacts with the charismatic US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi, a leading member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who was killed in a September 2011 drone strike.
FBI agent Charles Owens said that Abdo told him in an interrogation session that "he wanted to do it for the sake of the men and women of Afghanistan, that they had been wronged."
OK, so the relationship to the deceased American cleric gives us some indication, but I'm still curious about what role religion played in the day-to-day life of Abdo. The Telegraph does provide, however, a crazy story involving a body bag, a stun gun, a cattle prong and three handcuff boxes.
I couldn't really find anything contemporary with more details, although this Associated Press story from last year gave us some information. He made outburts in support of Nidal Hasan. Which is weird since when he was appealing to anti-war groups to help him obtain conscientious objector status, he condemned Hasan's attack.
Abdo's father in Fuhais, Jordan, insisted all the allegations against his son were lies, from the child porn to the attempted attack. He says his son couldn't kill anyone and couldn't have done any bad thing. The father was deported from the United States the previous year after being convicted of soliciting a minor, however.
Abdo didn't stand when the judge entered his pre-trial hearing. U.S. marshals pulled him from his seat. But he answered the judge's questions politely. He shouted out the name of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was raped in 2006 before she and her family were killed. Five soldiers were sent to prison, including one for life, for their roles in that attack:
The allegations and Abdo's defiance in court contrast with the words he used as he was petitioning for conscientious objector status. In an essay he sent to The Associated Press last year he said acts like the Fort Hood shootings "run counter to what I believe in as a Muslim."
He was born in Texas to a non-denominational Christian mother and a Muslim father. Jamal Abdo said they divorced in 1993.
Naser Abdo said he became a Muslim when he was 17. He said he enlisted thinking that Army service would not conflict with his religious beliefs, but reconsidered as he explored Islam further.
"I realized through further reflection that god did not give legitimacy to the war in Afghanistan, Iraq or any war the U.S. Army could conceivably participate in," he wrote in his conscientious objector application.
I'm not sure why "god" is lowercased in the quote. The father is quoted, again, as saying that his son was mocked as he prayed when he was in the Army. We're also told that Abdo claimed soldiers often associated terror with Islam during routine training exercises:
"Only when the military and America can disassociate Muslims from terror can we move onto a brighter future of religious collaboration and dialogue that defines America and makes me proud to be an American," Abdo wrote.
So that was all helpful information, obviously, but I'm still left confused. And I understand that confusion is not unexpected when dealing with terror suspects. But it would be nice to know more, if possible. What changed, if anything, between the time Abdo was saying Americans need to disassociate Muslims from terror and when he admits he was seeking to terrorize Americans? That part of the story still needs to be told.