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ABC Frets: Plight of Muslim Soldiers Toughest Since Japanese-Americans in WWII

ABC doubled the length of its evening newscast on Friday night and World News used its second half hour to suggest an exculpatory reason behind Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan's mass killing at Fort Hood - as anchor Charles Gibson reasoned "treating the mentally wounded can be stressful" - then to devote a story to the plight of Muslim soldiers: "It's not easy for anyone serving in the armed forces these days, but with America fighting Islamic enemies overseas, Muslim troops face a unique burden." Reporter Bill Weir despaired:

The Pentagon has made a real concerted effort to create a military that is culturally sensitive and religiously tolerant, but Muslims in uniform today face a challenge not seen since Japanese-Americans fought in World War II. They taste suspicion from some fellow soldiers who question their loyalty and resentment from fellow Muslims opposed to both American wars.

Weir featured a Muslim soldier who lamented "our religion teaches better," before Weir painted Muslim soldiers as victims of intolerance, highlighting the experience of one Muslim soldier who "began his overseas deployment on 9/11, and taunts followed him throughout his four-year enlistment."

Weir acknowledged that "Major Hasan's motives are still unclear," but he, nonetheless, recalled how "back in 2003 prosecutors alleged it was repeated taunting and religious ideology that led Sergeant Hasan Akbar to kill two of his commanding officers with a grenade."

With "Stress Factor" as the on-screen heading, Gibson had set up the previous story from Martha Raddatz:

Many troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan bare the psychological scars of war, everything from anxiety to post-traumatic stress. The alleged Fort Hood gunman was a psychiatrist trained to help these soldiers. And while it's way too early to know why this rampage occurred, we do know that treating the mentally wounded can be stressful as well.

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the Muslim soldier story aired during the second half hour of the Friday, November 6 World News on ABC:

CHARLES GIBSON: Muslim groups here in the United States have moved quickly to condemn the rampage at Fort Hood after learning the alleged gunman was a practicing Muslim, born in the U.S. to Palestinian parents. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said no political or religious ideology could ever justify or excuse such wanton and indiscriminate violence. Organizations representing Muslims in the U.S. military also are denouncing the attack. It's not easy for anyone serving in the armed forces these days, but with America fighting Islamic enemies overseas, Muslim troops face a unique burden. Bill Weir joins us now. Bill?

BILL WEIR: Charlie, the Pentagon has made a real concerted effort to create a military that is culturally sensitive and religiously tolerant, but Muslims in uniform today face a challenge not seen since Japanese-Americans fought in World War II. They taste suspicion from some fellow soldiers who question their loyalty and resentment from fellow Muslims opposed to both American wars. At the Islamic community center in Killeen today, Friday prayers took place under a cloud of despair. This is where Major Nidal Hasan worshiped, alongside Fort Hood's small Muslim community, including Sergeant Fahad Kamal, just back from a 15-month tour of Afghanistan.

SERGEANT FAHAD KAMAL, U.S. MILITARY: I feel let down because we're better than this. Our religion teaches better, and it just makes me feel hurt and just, I just feel like we're much better individuals.

WEIR: Of the 1.4 million active service members around the world, just over 3,500 call themselves Muslims - one-quarter of one percent. But members of their community say there are tens of thousands more who keep their faith to themselves, bowing to Mecca five times a day in private to avoid potential conflict with fellow troops.

SERGEANT MCCALL ABDULLAH: My last name's Abdullah, so it's really hard to run from it. It's right there on your BDUs, it says Abdullah.

WEIR: Sergeant McCall Abdullah began his overseas deployment on 9/11, and taunts followed him throughout his four-year enlistment.

ABDULLAH: You get called a camel jockey or a sand nigger or, you know, Haji or something like that.

WEIR: While Major Hasan's motives are still unclear, back in 2003, prosecutors alleged it was repeated taunting and religious ideology that led Sergeant Hasan Akbar to kill two of his commanding officers with a grenade. He was sentenced to death for that crime, and he became a symbol for those who want to believe a true Muslim could never choose America over Allah in a war against fellow Muslims. Former Gunnery Sergeant Jamal Gadani could not disagree more.

FORMER GUNNERY SERGEANT JAMAL GADANI, U.S. MILITARY: What some of these individuals do, is they try to take the Koran, the Muslim Koran, out of context and say, well, we can't kill other Muslims. Well, our mission is not to go kill other Muslims. We're there to find the bad guys, al-Qaeda.

ABDULLAH: We are all Americans, and we are all contributing, quite a few of us. And it would do best to remember that before putting people in a box.

GADANI: I feel embarrassed for the Muslim community. The feeling is that, I want to believe that it was the individual, not the religion, that made him do what he did.

WEIR: I asked Sergeant Abdullah how he managed to answer the call to prayer or march while fasting during Ramadan, he said, you just have to want it more than the rest of your guys in your platoon.

ABCNews.com video of Weir's story.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center