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Major Nidal Hasan's Palestinian Relatives Try to Clear His Name


Mohamed Hasan, first cousin of Nidal Hasan, U.S. Army psychiatrist who allegedly opened fire on soldiers at Fort Hood in the U.S. state of Texas, 23 Nov 2009

Cousin in family's hometown says Hasan recently became closer to Islam

New information continues to emerge on the background of Major Nidal Hasan, the U.S. Army psychiatrist who allegedly opened fire on soldiers at Fort Hood in the U.S. state of Texas. A 2007 U.S. Army memo speaks of his poor performance treating soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC. His Palestinian relatives in the occupied West Bank, meanwhile, speak of his sudden turn to a strict adherence to Islam.

For Mohamed Hasan, the most tangible connection he has today to his first cousin Nidal Hasan is a photo of Nidal's father, who immigrated to the United States several decades ago.

But Mohamed says throughout his life, he has kept in close touch with Nidal. He says he noticed a change shortly before the rampage at Fort Hood.

"After the death of his mother and father, he became very religious. He started praying and fasting," Mohamed Hasan said.

He prays regularly, but does not consider himself or the family to hold fundamentalist views.

For Mohamed, the shock of hearing that his cousin killed 13 people, almost all of them soldiers, is huge.

"Frankly, when we heard the news, we were so surprised, especially because the history of this family is of non-violence. Also, we have never been fanatic Muslims. We were very surprised. The whole family would expect that something was wrong with him," Mohamed Hasan said.

Warning signs that Major Hasan was either mentally unstable or politically motivated have been emerging in news media reports.

A memo from Dr. Hasan's superior in 2007 listed serious performance issues with his treatment of soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

Media reports have quoted the memo, which said Dr. Hasan proselytized to his patients.

Mohamed and his relatives have been speaking to the media, hoping to clear Nidal's name and that of their clan.

Here in his ancestral village of El-Bireh, few on the street want to talk about the alleged actions of someone the elders consider a son of the community.

Some point to U.S. media reports that Nidal Hasan's army colleagues offended his Muslim sensibilities.

"This should not affect the name of El-Bireh. Maybe they harassed him. Nobody does something like this without a reason. Sometimes, people kill their own brothers for a reason. Nothing happens without a reason," al-Ayan said.

Nidal Hasan's Palestinian relatives say they are pained by allegations that their cousin is an Islamic terrorist. Like much of the rest of the world, they wait for investigations to reveal the truth.